The 2023 Philadelphia Eagles appear to be a top-two team in the NFC on paper, but there’s no debate that the roster is in worse shape than last season.
After several key defenders departed in free agency, the question remains whether the losses are severe enough to prevent another trip to the Super Bowl. ESPN staff writer Bill Barnwell thinks this could be the case.
On Tuesday, Barnwell published an article highlighting each contender’s biggest flaw heading into the regular season and discussed why the overhaul of Philadelphia’s defense up the middle is problematic.
“If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve heard the old adage about how hard it is to win if you’re not strong up the middle,” Barnwell wrote. “It’s not as essential in football, but it’s a perfect way to capture what’s concerning about the 2023 Eagles.”
“The NFC champs lost five defensive starters, all of whom play in the middle of the field: defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, and safeties Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson,” Barnwell continued. “Throw in the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph and there are loads of snaps missing from the middle of this defense.”
Last season, Philadelphia’s defense was one of the more dominant units in recent memory, allowing the third-fewest yards by a team (5,125) while also recording the third-most sacks of all time (70). As Barnwell mentioned, the team lost five starters, and even if most of those players stayed with Philadelphia, it would be a difficult task to replicate that kind of success.
While there are concerns about replacing former impact players, as several starting roles haven’t been decided, the emergence of linebacker Nakobe Dean, along with defensive tackles Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, will be vital to Philadelphia’s success.
Second-year defenders Dean and Davis didn’t flash as rookies, but injuries and a deep roster limited their opportunities. Dean will replace Edwards at middle linebacker, while Davis is in the midst of a heated competition with Carter, the ninth overall pick in April’s draft, to assume Hargrave’s position.
Hargrave, now in San Francisco, was the most significant loss during free agency, and it’ll be challenging just to come close to replacing his production. He was tied for second on the team in sacks last season (11) and earned the third-highest Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade among qualified interior defenders.
Considering the 6-foot-6, 336-pound Davis is more of a run-stopper, Carter might see the majority of snaps this season. Carter, PFF’s seventh-highest-rated collegiate interior defender based on pass rushing in 2022, recorded only six sacks at Georgia but has shown massive improvements during training camp and Philadelphia’s first preseason game.
The 22-year-old Carter was considered the top prospect in his draft class before his stock fell because of off-field questions. Yet, if his talent is as advertised, it would soften the blow of this offseason’s roster turnover.
Even so, with quarterback Jalen Hurts still developing and strengthening his rapport with wideouts A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia has the talent to be a true contender this season. However, the lack of pass-rushing in Super Bowl LVII (zero sacks) already cost the city one championship, and with a weaker cast, it’s impossible to ignore the possibility of another disappointment.
The post Revamped defense named Eagles’ biggest flaw entering the season appeared first on WorldNewsEra.