2012 Eagles Defense/Special Teams: Position-by-Position Grades and Analysis

With this two-part series on the Philadelphia Eagles roster, I’m going through position-by-position and grading each on talent and depth. The talent is basically the starter and sometimes the 2nd-string player, and how they grade up against the rest of the league. The depth is the whole position as a unit; so the phrase “You’re only as good as your worst player” may be applicable here. A ‘B or B-’ grade here basically indicates that the area of the position is about average for the NFL.

*Note: Editor Manav Khandelwal was responsible for some of the content in this article.

Click here to read the offensive edition.

Defensive End:

1. Jason Babin

2. Trent Cole

3. Brandon Graham

4. Vinny Curry

5. Darryl Tapp

Image

Trent Cole and Jason Babin admire their work.

The article starts off with what is probably the best position on the entire team. Two Pro Bowl quality starter, Jason Babin and Trent Cole, both of whom can get to the opposing quarterback early and often.

And then there are the young backups in Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry who provide great reinforcement for the defensive line, and have the future potential to be Pro Bowl players in their own right.

In terms of talent, there is no question here; Philadelphia has two of the best defensive ends in the league.

In terms of depth, the backups in Graham, Curry and Tapp could all be sack machines when given the opportunity. The injury-prone Graham will look to truly prove his first-round pick status this season, and if he can, he will be a starting quality defensive end very soon.

Defensive End Talent: A+

Defensive End Depth: A+

Defensive Tackle:

1. Cullen Jenkins (Under Tackle)

2. Fletcher Cox

3. Mike Patterson (Nose Tackle)

4. Antonio Dixon

5. Derek Landri

Before we get into it, let’s first understand the Eagles defensive scheme. They play the wide-nine, which means one tackle (nose tackle) lines up between the center and left guard while the other (under tackle) lines up in front of the right guard.

This year’s draft saw the Eagles take DT Fletcher Cox with their 1st-round selection. Looking at his OTA performances and hearing the words of Coach Reid and Jim Washburn, Cox is looking every bit like an NFL starter. He may only be a rookie, but a pairing of Jenkins and Cox is still shaping out to be a sensational mix between young and old, flair and experience. Not only can they contribute to the sack count (already bolstered by Babin and Cole), but they can both stop the run when called upon at the under tackle position.

Last year’s starting nose tackle, Mike Patterson, has the quality to be starter and his backup, Antonio Dixon, has shown great ability when it comes to stopping the run.

Defensive Tackle Talent: A

Defensive Tackle Depth: A+

Outside Linebackers:

1. Mychal Kendricks

2. Brian Rolle

3. Jamar Chaney

4. Moise Fokou

5. Keenan Clayton

6. Akeem Jordan

Image

Kendricks will look to make an impact in his rookie year.

This is a very, very young unit. They can only be graded to a certain point, because many of these players have not been around long enough to be fully proven.

However, with some of the play of Brian Rolle last season, Jamar Chaney’s above-average performance, and the potential that Mychal Kendricks has showed, I am starting to like the development of this outside linebacker group.

The depth looks to be good, with Matthews, Jordan and Fokou all having starting stints in the NFL before. This, regardless of their performances, gives them the experience and time that is crucial to being a backup in the league.

I am eager to see how these players perform this season. One of the more hit-or-miss positions on the team, with the 2nd-round rookie Kendricks the probable starter on one side and the late-round picks Chaney or Rolle on the other. The talent is still unproven, however promising it may be.

Outside Linebacker Talent: B-

Outside Linebacker Depth: B+

Middle Linebacker

1. DeMeco Ryans

2. Casey Matthews

3. Greg Lloyd

I am not sure how the rest of the Eagles’ fans felt about the DeMeco Ryans trade, but I was absolutely thrilled. The one thing that the team really needs at the middle linebacker position is a proven, experienced leader. That encapsulates DeMeco Ryans. He can stop the run very well, he reads offenses, and has been to the Pro Bowl. The talent is there for him to guide this star-studded Eagles defense to their true potential.

I liked Matthews last season. He showed great improvement last season and he will definitely improve under the tutelage of Ryans. Greg Lloyd is a reserve player, drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 Draft. He hasn’t made an appearance for the Eagles yet, and if both Ryans and Matthews were injured, a free agent signing would almost definitely start ahead of him.

Middle Linebacker Talent: B+

Middle Linebacker Depth: B

Cornerback

1. Nnamdi Asomugha

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

3. Brandon Boykin (#1 Slot)

4. Joselio Hanson (#2 Slot)

5. Curtis Marsh

6. Brandon Hughes

Image

Asomugha and DRC at 2011 training camp.

Much like at the defensive end position, the Eagles have two Pro Bowlers at the starting outside cornerback spots. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are both different styles of players, and they complement each other well. Asomugha is a cover corner, one of the best ever, and makes his name as being able to blanket his receiver and take them out of the game. DRC, however, is a playmaking, athletic corner. He covers his man well, but he has the speed, agility and hands that Asomugha isn’t known for; he’s pulled down 13 interceptions in four seasons as a pro.

Both Asomugha and DRC are new additions to the franchise, both signing on last season. They both took time to accustom to the team’s defense, particularly Rodgers-Cromartie who played out of position at Nickel corner. Now, however, they’re playing in a scheme that fits them and they’ll both excel.

I also like the drafting of Georgia product Brandon Boykin, who is likely to be the new starting slot corner for the Eagles as a rookie. Hanson has done a great job at the slot in previous seasons, and will likely move back to being the second slot behind Boykin, while giving the unit some great depth down the ranks. Because this is a passing league, however, the Eagles will see more and more four wide receiver sets which will give Hanson much more playing time than he would’ve had otherwise.

Marsh and Hughes round out the depth chart at CB, and both have limited experience on the field, with Marsh still young and very much a project player.

Cornerback Talent: A

Cornerback Depth: B+

Safety

FS: Nate Allen

SS: Kurt Coleman

3. O.J Atogwe

4. Jaiquawn Jarrett

5. Colt Anderson*

The latest addition to the Eagles team is that of veteran safety O.J. Atogwe. I like this signing as Atogwe boosts the depth of the safety position that has two young starters in Allen and Coleman. Atogwe provides a solid, experienced leader at the safety position, and will be able to step in if there is an injury while mentoring Allen throughout the season

However, both Allen and Coleman have already impressed me in their short careers. Coleman’s three-interception game against Washington last season and Nate Allen’s promising performances have shown that these players can really be great in the NFL. They’ve also been noted to be developing chemistry this offseason as they work against Michael Vick and the star-studded receiving corps.

Jaiquawn Jarrett is a hard-hitting, ruthless safety with a great tackling ability. His awareness and coverage work, but still he has been knocking on the metaphorical door of the starters since his rookie year. Unfortunately, the signing of Atogwe means that when special teams star Colt Anderson returns from injury, Jarrett might not be able to keep his roster spot.

Safety Talent: B+

Safety Depth: A-

Special Teams:

Kicker: Alex Henery

Punter: Chas Henry

Kick Returner: Brandon Boykin

Punt Returner: DeSean Jackson

Long Snapper: Jon Dorenbos

Backup Punter: Ryan Tydlacka

Backup Returner: Dion Lewis

On the talent side, this unit is pretty-well sorted. Alex Henery had one bad game last season against the 49ers, but apart from that he was consistent and very, very accurate. He set the record for field goal by a rookie kicker!

Image

DeSean Jackson returns a New York punt to win the game.

Chas Henry was poor last season, but his college career shows that he has the potential to be a great punter in the NFL. Not being too quick to judge, he has talent there regardless of the blunder he had here-or-there in 2011. Let’s just hope he shows it sooner rather than later.

The returners are fantastic. Jackson . . . do I really need to explain? He lights up games and wins games with his punt returns. Just ask the New York Giants.

Brandon Boykin was an outstanding kick-returner at college, and could very easily be up there with the best of ‘em in terms of kick return touchdowns for 2012. Senior analyst Manav Khandelwal thinks so!

Charismatic long snapper Jon Dorenbos has been to the Pro Bowl. And he’s a long snapper. That should be self-explanatory. Anyway, he’s one of, if notthe, best in NFL history.

Special Teams Talent: A-

Special Teams Depth: N/A 

________________________________

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial, NFL

Author:Will Eddowes

I'm 17 years old, from Auckland, New Zealand. I am a huge sports enthuasiast, particularly the various codes of football, basketball, and cricket. I also like travel and music :D.

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