What do the Eagles do on the Defensive Line?
The Philadelphia Eagles are going to have some decisions to make with respect to their defensive line in the very near future. This is a group that was relatively successful in 2011, especially considering they were thrust into the midst of an entirely new defensive scheme. However, the defensive line certainly has room for improvement and can take advantage of the offseason to learn to play more cohesively as a unit.
They currently have 4 defensive ends under contract: Trent Cole until 2013, Jason Babin until 2015, Brandon Graham until 2014 and Darryl Tapp through 2012. In addition, at the beginning of January the team signed Maurice Fountain to a reserve / futures contract.
The defensive tackle position is even thinner for Philadelphia, with 3 players under contract, and only 2 of whom made any impact in 2011. Cullen Jenkins, the highly touted free agent acquisition who has had trade / release rumors surrounding him as of late is under contract until 2015 and Eagles veteran Mike Patterson is signed through 2016. Derek Landri and Trevor Laws are the free agent d-linemen.
For a team that ranked 10th in total points allowed at 20.5 per game and 8th in total yards allowed with 324.9 per game, this Eagles defense has a number of questions going into the 2012 season. Do they sign a veteran linebacker or draft one early (which, unfortunately is doubtful given their penchant to undervalue the position)? Do they do both? Who do they keep on the defensive line and with whom do they part ways? Do they keep all 3 big-name safeties, or do they release Asante Samuel and let DRC move to the outside where he is exponentially more skilled? Also, do they add some veteran leadership and experience at the safety position?
Whatever the Eagles decide to do on the defensive side of the ball, they have to ensure that they have players on the line that are capable of getting up field in the wide 9 scheme. Getting pressure when only rushing 4 will take a lot of heat off of a young linebacking corps as well as their safeties. The beauty of the early part of the offseason is thinking about and discussing what moves a team can make in order to put them in a better position to win a championship. Fans just have to hope that the organization recognizes their weaknesses and does everything in their power to strengthen those areas.