It’s no secret that improving the Philadelphia Eagles defense will be a key to having any type of success in 2013. A large portion of the onus will fall on the second year players who have some experience under their belt but also have the talent to take over and truly impact a young defense. Last year’s draft class was a strong one on the defensive side of the ball as far as the Eagles were concerned. Adding depth at both the defensive tackle and end positions and beginning a new crop of Philadelphia linebackers were the highlights. Now, looking ahead at improving the defense and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs, those players will be the key to making it all happen.
The Eagles first selection, 12th overall in 2012, Fletcher Cox was immediately inserted into the starting lineup at defensive tackle. He lived up to the billing, leading the defensive line in tackles as a rookie with 65. However, more will be expected of him going forward with the new 3-4 defense in Philadelphia and a team seeking leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Look for Cox to pick up where he left off last season and create more havoc for the opposition’s quarterback week in and week out.
Mychal Kendricks was another rookie for the Eagles in 2012 that left a lasting impression. Kendricks finished third on the team in tackles with 88 after being posted as a starter from the get-go. He showed improvement as the year progressed and brought some fight back to the linebacker position in Philadelphia which had been lacking for the past few seasons. His speed and range leave a lot of upside to what can still be accomplished. He will excel moving inside in the new 3-4 defense and should be impactful from the beginning.
Defensive end, Vinny Curry, is another second year player who could impact the success of the Eagles in 2013. Curry didn’t have quite the influence of his counterparts, joining the defensive line rotation only for the second half of last season. The Eagles will look for him to continue to improve and make a larger contribution than last season to a new defensive system.
Finally, cornerback Brandon Boykin, who played a large role in the nickel package that the Eagles utilized in 2012, will be expected to continue and upgrade his play finding more time in early down coverage. Boykin has had a strong training camp, impressing with his coverage, but his size continues to be a question. Boykin’s contributions will be important to a young group, especially coming off the loss of two starting corners from last season.
There are many keys to the Eagles turning things around in 2013 and improving from their lackluster 4-12 last place finish in the NFC East. The number of second year players making improvements in their play and becoming significant contributors will go a long way in making Chip Kelly’s first season in Philadelphia a memorable one.