Mailbag: Better Eagles defense, 2022 or 2023?

Earlier this week, we asked for questions about an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thanks as always for doing half the work for me. Let’s just get right to it.

Question from @JAY_AKA_PHILLY: How concerned should we be with this year’s Eagles defense compared to last year’s defense?

We can probably expect some decline from Graham in the sack column, but that could be offset by the addition of Smith to the rotation. We even call it.

There might be an argument that Slay’s game could drop off for some at age 32. (I think he’ll be fine.)

Otherwise, the Eagles have better depth at corner this year, and McPhearson’s added responsibility at the slot should be an upgrade over Scott.

p 2022 2023 Warehouse
S1 CJ Gardner-Johnson Terrell Edmunds 📉
S2 Marcus Epps Reed Blankenship
S3 Reed Blankenship Sydney Brown 📈
S4 K’Von Wallace K’Von Wallace / Justin Evans

CJGJ led the NFL in interceptions and his production will be hard to replace, although I think Edmunds is a perfectly cromulent starting NFL safety. Otherwise, I like 2023’s combo of Blankenship/Brown more than 2022’s combo of Epps/Blankenship. The 2023 version has much greater upside. But we’ll get to more about security in a moment.

Overall, I would score it like this:

• Edge: As good as 2022.
• Interior DL: Worse, but with some upside.
• Linebacker: Worse.
• Cornerback: Same at the starting spots, better depth.
• Security: Probably a little worse, but still not bad at all.

Personnel-wise, it’s hard to argue that the Eagles’ defense looks better on paper than it did a year ago, though it’s still very good. I also think there was addition by subtraction when the Cardinals took Jonathan Gannon off the hands of the Eagles.

Question from @StokesTheWriter: What is the most overblown concern about the Eagles’ upcoming season?

I like what the Eagles have at safety.

  1. Terrell Edmunds is an experienced vet with good size/athletic measurables.
  2. Reed Blankenship was ready when his number was called last season and he played well.
  3. Sydney Brown may take some time to adjust to the NFL, but his athleticism and passion for the game are both exciting.

And then you’ve got guys like Justin Evans, who played a role for the Bucs last season, and K’Von Wallace, who I know some people here have been buzzing about for a long time, but really wasn’t. to bad last season and could be a perfectly fine fourth or fifth safety.

I have seen some calls for the Eagles to sign or trade for a veteran safety. If they can add a difference and the cost isn’t too high, then yes, of course I think you do in any position. But I don’t think they do need to add a starting safety because there is some perceived gap there. That group is fine.

Question from @astorer5: With the Eagles’ defensive line depth and linebacker weakness, does it make sense to use Nolan Smith in more of a SAM, Parsons-like role instead of lining up on the Edge? Can he drop into cover?

Smith will play the SAM spot, as will Haason Reddick, and yes, part of the responsibility of the SAM linebacker is occasionally dropping into coverage. The Eagles didn’t ask Reddick to drop much in coverage because it would have been insane not to have the guy who rushed the quarterback on most passing downs.

But, yes, Smith dropped into coverage at Georgia and showed he can be effective.

I think the question is probably whether Smith can play one of the off-ball linebacker spots, such as at WILLEN. My guess is that yes, if the Eagles asked Smith to play off-ball linebacker, he is gifted enough physically and mentally that he could probably figure it out, but it might take some time. I don’t think they will go that route as he is more valuable to the defense long term as a guy who can get after the quarterback.

Question from @JonStinnett: I’m optimistic about Jordan Davis’ upside, but I’m curious how you think we’ll measure his impact because I doubt QB hits, pressures, or sacks will fill his statistical sheets. Is it just an eye test?

There are a lot of people who cover the team in this city, and if Davis plays remarkably well or remarkably poorly, it doesn’t matter if he plays a position where stats don’t tell the whole story. Someone will see it and show it. E.g. 😉

Question from FeisterJoe: Do you believe the combination of the Eagles’ talent, the vets who can hang it up after this year and Jalen Hurts’ ridiculous work ethic is enough to overcome the Super Bowl losing jinx?

The last time the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl, their season had a bad vibe from the start with all the Terrell Owens nonsense, and then it went completely sideways after they had a lot of injuries and had to play Mike McMahon at quarterback. I don’t believe this team has a TO and I like their chances to stay competitive for another Super Bowl trip even with significant injuries because the roster has good depth for the most part.

I also kind of feel like the “Super Bowl loser jinx” might not be as jinxy as it used to be. The last 15 years:

Year Super Bowl Loser Next season
2007 Patriots 11-5, no playoffs
2008 Cardinals 10-6, lost in the divisional round
2009 Colts 10-6, lost in wild card round
2010 Steelers 12-4, lost in wildcard round
2011 Patriots 12-4, lost in AFCCG
2012 49ers 12-4, lost in NFCCG
2013 Broncos 12-4, lost in the divisional round
2014 Seahawks 10-6, lost in the divisional round
2015 Panthers 6-10, no playoffs
2016 Falcon 10-6, lost in the divisional round
2017 Patriots 11-5, won the Super Bowl
2018 Aries 9-7, no playoffs
2019 49ers 6-10, no playoffs
2020 chiefs 12-5, lost in AFCCG
2021 The Bengals 12-4, lost in AFCCG
2022 Eagles ???

In the last 15 seasons, only four teams that lost the Super Bowl the previous year did not make the playoffs, and only two had losing records. Two of the four teams that did not make the playoffs would have entered as the 7 seed under the new playoff format.

Five teams made it back to the conference championship game, and one won a Super Bowl. I think the 2023 Eagles will be fine.

Question from @PhillyPMC: I’ve heard pros say you can tell pretty quickly if a rookie has it or not. I know it’s early, but any newbies that have stood out to you, either good or bad?

I once heard a story that Andy Reid quickly identified that Danny Watkins was going to be a bust. But yes, I think that exists in every subject. I remember in my sales career way back when I knew immediately if the bosses had hired some terrible salesperson/salesperson. It’s really not that hard. We could watch Clayton Thorson spray the ball all over the practice field and know he wasn’t going to make it, or watch DeVonta Smith stand open all day and diagnose that he was going to be good.

Comment from @turncoat4ever: It would make sense for Jack Driscoll to win the RG job, be a decent starter and let him go for a comp pick. Driscoll is probably an average NFL OG or RT. Better pro tape than Andre Dillard.

As much as I welcome you fine folks who care about comp picks, I don’t think the Eagles are awarding starting jobs to guys to increase their value in free agency, potentially leading to a slightly higher comp pick.

Question from @TheAndrewRush: If you eat a burger and it comes with two grilled cheese sandwiches, did you just eat three sandwiches or one great one?

So basically this?

What would the three sandwiches be here?

  1. Grilled Cheese No. 1.
  2. Grilled Cheese No. 2.
  3. Just the burger and other fixin’s (lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.), but that part doesn’t have its own bun.

We can’t really call the third part a sandwich alone, can we? It’s a sandwich. Jimmy has spoken.

Question from Jimmy to the Readership: I was thinking of visiting various Jersey Shore towns over the summer, cycling them, and then rating each place, much in the same way I rate press box food spreads. Would this be of interest to you as a reader?

Jersey shore bike reviews?

I should note that “No” will have to win by one wide margin for me not to do this.

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