brandongraham

Fewer offensive turnovers will automatically make the Eagles a better defensive team in 2012…

The good news— a pretty decent rookie camp just concluded.

The sobering spin— it’s the veteran players on the roster who will need to step up on Defense.

DE Brandon Graham has got to perk up and smile less, according to our resident GateKeeper Brizer…

It’s not enough that the Eagles added so many high-end defensive players in this year’s NFL Draft, after acquiring accomplished middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans in a trade…

Nick Fierro’s pointing the finger at four guys specifically— his take from the Allentown Morning Call—The only way for the team to be truly better and have a championship-level defense is for some of the returning veterans to play better, specifically cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Brandon Graham and safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Kurt Coleman.

Fierro’s negative take on Nnamdi is something I’m hearing more and more around the village, and it goes like this: “Asomugha did little during the 2011 season to confirm the notion that he still is an elite player. While it is true he was thrust into unfamiliar zone coverages by then-new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, he failed just as often in his more familiar bump-and-run role in single coverage. If he has a bounce-back year, the signing is justified. If not, don’t look for him to be starting very much longer.”

UPDATE— Our astute observer Brozer-8 got an early comment in on that rather harsh judgement vs. Asomugha prior to my final edit this morning… and he correctly pointed out the situation was actually way more complicated than the average flamethrower could know— that Nnamdi played pretty well at doing what he does if you grade the tape… and that Fierro’s harsh judgement on Asomugha should really be directed at DRC…which is a valid point from several coaching and playing perspectives. Seeing as Fierro and Broz both played the game at at least a secondary school or college level, I decided to present both views…But I’m leaning to the probability that Broz has watched way more game film than Fierro.

I can’t argue too much with the balance of Fierro’s take on the other three guys he’s targeted:

“Graham is a player coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman have done nothing but rave about in this offseason, saying how much better he looks compared to last season, when he was still supposedly feeling the effects of a knee injury the year before. As Reid likes to say, we’ll see. Graham insisted right up to the end last season that his knee was not an issue, but the Eagles rarely threw him into the rotation. We’ll know this year what was really up.”

“Jarrett was a rookie who really seemed lost without the benefit of minicamps because of the lockout and could not come close to taking a job that was open for him. Reid admitted earlier this month that Jarrett was “thinking too much.” That, or not enough. Again, we’ll know a lot better by the end of this summer.”

“Coleman had tremendous production at times but too often whiffed on tackles. The good news is that it wasn’t because of fear. The bad news is that it might have been due to limited ability.” No, Nick did not just say that!

 Leo Pizzini likes Coleman… so I am biting my tongue…But I do agree with the general “perk up” spirit of Fierro’s defensive conclusion, if not his metrics of judgement.

With all the question marks about some of the returning players as well as two possible new starters (Ryans and Mychal Kendricks) at linebacker, there is plenty this unit has to prove.

But in the interest of journalistic balance, I must point out: the Eagles Defense in 2011 was not as horrible as you may remember…

While the Eagles’ defense wasn’t perfect, it should have been good enough with the way the Eagles were able to move the ball on offense. But the tragic amount of offensive turnovers they suffered last year single-handedly ruined their season. The offense ended up sending mixed signals to the defense, moving the ball like a team that scores a ton of points but then failing to produce results. The defense became a team that would be good for a team that could score—- and ended up becoming the scapegoat when the offense faltered.

This is not to say the defense was elite. It was far from it, and with all of the moves the front office has done in 2012, the defense should show marked improvement next season. But the idea that it was the defense that ruined the Eagles’ 2011 season is just flat-out not true. It was the offense’s propensity to commit turnovers that not only hindered their scoring but also put the defense between a rock and a hard place…many times.

According to Matt Harkenreader of Bleeding Green Nation, it boils down to this:

“On paper, the Eagles additions in defensive personnel most definitely put them in a position to improve next season. Of course, ‘on paper’ does not always translate perfectly into reality, so we’ll have to wait like we do with everything else. The offensive side of the ball is a little more difficult to put a finger on. Turnovers aren’t really quantifiable in the NFL; you can’t get a new coach or new players and call the problem ‘fixed’. A problem like that rests solely on the mentality of the players. It’s up to people like Michael Vick, responsible for around twenty of the Eagles thirty-eight turnovers, to take a hard look in the mirror and notes on film to improve their play.”

“The good news is that the Law of Averages suggests the Eagles should commit fewer turnovers next season. But that alone may not be good enough; it will probably take individual effort on the part of the players to really solve the problem. With an improving defense that was already ‘good enough’ last season, a commitment by the players to become great and improve upon their faults may be sufficient to field a team in September that could be fighting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February.”

Well, I won’t argue with that. That’s the kind of spirit we need around here. It’s the perfect “perk up!” moment on a dreary Wednesday in May…

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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