Tuesday represented a new phase in Eagles training camp with the first day of full sanitary pads, a huge crowd with full throats and temperatures at the NovaCare Complex topping 90 degrees. The pacing was fast, the action was sharp and physical, and again we got a taste, just a taste, of what this revamped defense could look like in the 2022 season.
Up front, the defense has depth and interchangeable parts and versatility in how it lines up. As a linebacker, the Eagles have speed and depth and some options to pick personnel. In high school, there is experience and attention to detail and a “hit me if you can” mentality across the board.
It’s still very, very early, and projections right now don’t mean much, especially for a defense that added a cast of talented veterans in free agency: linebackers Haason Reddick and Kyzir White, cornerback James Bradberry, safety Jaquiski Tartt . – and retained players like end Derek Barnett and tackle Fletcher Cox, welcomed back end Brandon Graham back from injury and drafted tackle Jordan Davis and linebackers Nakobe Dean and Kyron Johnson. Those names represent a lot of pieces to fit into this puzzle, and it will really take a few games in the regular season after a few games of chess with offensive coordinators before we really get a sense of this ’22 defense.
But the coaches are excited. How, you might ask, did they possibly know so much with only a week’s training camp and no “live” periods to observe?
“Year 2 is phenomenal to see how comfortable guys are on defense, not only knowing their assignment within a call, but understanding what the rest of the defense looks like, where the stress points are on this call and how we can combat that point stress,” linebackers coach Nick Rallis said Monday. “I’ve seen it from all the guys in the group and then the two guys I’ve got new are extremely smart players so it’s almost like they’re in Year 2 as well, so there’s a big difference in Year 2.
“It has me excited, for sure.”
Everyone is excited because if they’ve been through this a few times, they might have an idea of what’s here. A defense that did a good job last year of limiting points (10 games with 18 or fewer points) and stifling big plays from offense (the Eagles allowed the fewest big plays in the NFC) showed promise for the scheme. by Jonathan Gannon and the available staff. Now, the scheme is going to remain largely the same (there will be some refinements, sure, and a few added wrinkles, in all likelihood) and the staff has been vastly improved.
“Man, honestly, we can be really good. We just have to make sure we do that job,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We’ve got some friends back there. I’m excited. The youngsters, too. Hungry. And I’m excited to see how they put that together, because right now, man, defensively, we’re looking good. I like what’s going on. As you know, we’ve got to make sure we stay healthy and make sure we know what to do. That’s the number one thing.
“So far so good. I think this is the best group I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
While the identity of this defense will form over the next few weeks, it’s not too early to assign some buzzwords to what he’s showing on the practice field: relentless, competitive, fast, deep. Gannon and the position coaches consider it “a work in progress” and explore the best ways to use Reddick and his pass-chasing abilities, White and his ball-chasing abilities, Dean and his speed, Bradberry and Tartt in schemes. of coverage. What is obvious on a daily basis is how cornerbacks are challenging the excellent wide receiving corps led by A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and how the speed and chase on the front seven has challenged the offense’s ability to stretch the field in the running game.
The first results are promising. But the caveat here is that it’s all early days. The groundhog days of training camp are here until the Eagles open the preseason against the New York Jets and then travel to Cleveland and Miami for joint practices followed by preseason tilts. We’ll know a lot more about the defense at that point, and then it will all start over for the regular season.
It’s safe to say this, though, even from a cautiously optimistic perspective: The Eagles have a lot to work with on defense and are taking it one step at a time, day by day, building for the season ahead, confident that the promising signs they see now. it will manifest in a defense that makes a full leap forward in Year 2 of a scheme that did a lot of things right in 2021.
Special Teams QA Coach Tyler Brown
Fans posing with quarterback Jalen Hurts
Safety Jaquiski Tartt and Wide Receiver Britain Covey
Head coach Nick Sirianni and A.J. Brown