NFL Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Most Impactful Defensive Players in 2013

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5 Most Impactful Philadelphia Eagles' Defensive Players in 2013

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2013 season, there was not much expected of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense. The offense garnered much of the headlines and the defense became the preseason scapegoat for any wrongs that the Eagles would encounter.

New defensive coordinator Billy Davis was given the large task of converting Philadelphia to a 3-4 defense and finding positions for players that would work. In addition, he would need to find ways to scheme to get players pressuring the quarterback and use a young inexperienced group to accomplish it all.

Pleasantly surprised could surely describe the year that Philadelphia had on the defensive side of the ball. Davis, after hitting a few bumps in the road at the beginning of the season, simply turned the Eagles’ defense into a viable option in support of an offense that could carry them.

The Philadelphia defense turned in ten performances holding the opponent under 25 points, a huge upgrade, doubling their total from a year earlier. In just two seasons, they’ve seen their linebacking group go from the weakest aspect of the defense, to the strongest. Young players stepped into larger roles, and the majority of free agents signed to help along the way were, for the most part, great fits for the system.

Although they finished last in the league in yards allowed per game, they gave the team a chance to win more often than not, in great part due to the 31 turnovers they created. They took a last place finish in 2012 and turned it around in just one season under the new coaching staff to win the NFC East in 2013. They are clearly headed in the right direction as a team and the defense has plenty to do with the success they’re having and the future they’re building.

Bob Francis is a Philadelphia Eagles contributor for Follow him on Twitter @rfrancisjr, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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#5 Cedric Thornton

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In just his second season, Cedric Thornton became a reliable and intricate part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line rotation. His production at the position helped the Eagles post a top-10 run defense and he provided some much-needed stability. Thornton will be counted on in coming years to continue to improve and solidify the Philadelphia line helping to upgrade and improve the 3-4 defensive system. The huge strides he made in 2013 only provide reason for higher expectations for the future.

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#4 DeMeco Ryans

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The captain and quarterback of the defense, DeMeco Ryans continues to produce and be the leader of an up and coming Philadelphia defense. After begin traded to the Eagles in the off-season of 2012, Ryans has been the backbone of the defensive resurgence for the Eagles. 2013 proved to be the best of his eight year career, reaching his highest totals in tackles, sacks and interceptions. His veteran presence on a young defense is invaluable, as he has helped greatly with the transition to the 3-4 system. His consistency, recording double-digit tackles in 11 of Philadelphia’s 17 games, has really provided the stability and reliability that helped the Eagles return to success in the NFC East.

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#3 Connor Barwin

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An exceptional addition in free agency, Connor Barwin brought a much-needed veteran presence to the outside linebacker position. The Eagles got exactly what they were banking on from Barwin in 2013. He provided a great deal of pressure up front sacking the quarterback five times, second to only Trent Cole on the Philadelphia roster, and was distinguished for his ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage, empowered by his notable vertical. Barwin provided the stability on the outside that helped the linebacker core improve from one of the worst units on the defense to the best in 2013.

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#2 Brandon Boykin

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A surprise impact performer for the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense, Brandon Boykin really became the playmaker they needed on the defensive side of the ball. Ending the season with six interceptions, second in the league trailing only Richard Sherman, Boykin produced what the Eagles had been lacking in previous years. He made big plays when the defense was in need and really stepped into an integral role in just his second season, adding to his resume his first career touchdown.

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#1 Mychal Kendricks

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Becoming the multi-faceted linebacker the Eagles hoped he would be when they selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft, Mychal Kendricks quickly stepped into becoming a reliable asset of the new 3-4 defense. He was counted on to pressure the quarterback in blitz packages, where he tallied four sacks on the season and finished second on the team in tackles. In addition, his ability to cover sideline to sideline in pass coverage made him that much more important. Kendricks earned three interceptions demonstrating a playmaking ability, while also recovering an NFL-best four fumbles, that Philadelphia has not seen at the position in some time. Completing only his second season, Kendricks has plenty of good years in front of him, which the Eagles will gladly look forward to.