With the hire of Chip Kelly, most people immediately thought, good we have an offensive guy, but who will our defensive coordinator be? According to CSN sources, UGA DC Todd Grantham will be Eagles next defensive coordinator. Grantham led a spectacular Georgia defense to the SEC championship game this year. But Eagles fans are most excited about the 3-4 potentially being in Philadelphia. Finally, the Eagles may have what is inevitably the better defensive scheme in today’s game. Think of all the better teams in the last 5 years, nearly all of them run a 3-4. Packers, 49ers, Steelers, Patriots, Ravens all run a 3-4. (although the Pats is hybrid, they still use the same philosophy)
For the Eagles, the 3-4 makes a lot of sense, but we are only one piece away, and it is a critical piece, but luckily for the Eagles, not too difficult to get this offseason. The Eagles 3 down linemen will consist of Cullen Jenkins (assuming he is back, which I believe he will) Fletcher Cox and a nose tackle. There are quite a few guys in the draft from rounds 1-4 that could fit this bill. My pick would be UGA NT John Jenkins. At 6″3 351 lbs, he is a PERFECT nose tackle, and having played for Todd Grantham at UGA, he is a perfect fit. Jenkins will go in the 3rd round most likely, but after the combine, anything can happen. Also in the draft is a sure top-5 pick in Star Lotulelei from UCLA. At 6″4 320 lbs, he is a perfect fit for an 4-3, but he is easily good enough to play in a 3-4. If the Eagles choose not to address a NT in the draft, there are a few options in free agency. Randy Starks, from the Dolphins is a good fit in my mind, as he can also play on third down as a nickel guy. But some say he lacks the size to be a nose tackle at “only” 305 lbs. Other names that could be considered are Desmond Bryant from OAK, or a guy I was a HUGE fan of coming out of Michigan: Alan Branch from SEA.
One guy I think a lot of people are sleeping on, and I may be biased here, but I believe Antonio Dixon can be a good NT in a 3-4. Each time I have seen him play, I have been impressed by his ability to single-handedly fill the A gap. And as a NT, that is a primary goal. You can not look at the numbers on a guy and determine if he is a good NT or not, because their job is to, for lack of better terms, to take up space. If the Eagles do not draft Jenkins or sign Alan Branch, I would be perfectly fine with using Antonio Dixon as our 3-4 NT. Remember, the Eagles brought him back from the Colts this year, maybe they knew they were destined for a 3-4.
Assuming Dixon stays, because it is too difficult to project the mid rounds of the draft, the Eagles 3-4 defense looks like this. Jenkins, Dixon, Cox, with Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry as rotation guys. Then a pass rushing rotation of Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Philip Hunt, and Everette Brown. The middle backers would be Mychal Kendricks (who I believe would thrive in a 3-4) and DeMeco Ryans, with Jamar Chaney likely playing on 3rd downs for Ryans. Personally, I think just the switch in schemes would help this defense tremendously. But, and this will be addressed, the Eagles need safeties. Luckily, there are 3 very good safety prospects coming out this year. The Eagles MUST get one of the three: Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, or Matt Elam.Tags: 3-4 defense, Alan Branch, Antonio Dixon, Chip Kelly, Cullen Jenkins, defensive coordinator, Desmond Bryant, Fletcher Cox, John Jenkins, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Randy Starks, Star Lotulelei, Todd Grantham