May 25, 2022   6 MINUTE READ

“There Were No Turnovers”

Q&A: Despite Personnel Upgrades, Birds D Needs More Takeaways To Thrive

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The Philadelphia Eagles continued to add to their new-look defense over the past week with the signing of cornerbacks James Bradberry and Jimmy Moreland.

On the latest episode of “Q&A” on Inside The Birds, former Eagles standouts Jason Avant and Quintin Mikell talked about new additions to the secondary and how the defense is shaping up entering OTAs.

James Bradberry

Jason Avant: “Big, long, rangy corner and he’s physical. The thing that you love about him is that, if Jonathan Gannon is going to play a certain way, which he played earlier in the season where there was Cover 2, Cover 4, those types of things, this guy is an excellent player when it comes to keeping his eyes in the backfield and pattern reading, so that bodes well. He’s not a bad man coverage player at all, but he’s better in zone.”

Quintin Mikell: “I think he’s more of a system-type of cornerback, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s better fit for zone, get up there and get physical, Cover 2-type corner. I have a feeling it’s going to be more of a zone-type of scheme. I think the corners will play more press and [get] some help overtop. I think it’s a good fit.”

Jimmy Moreland

Avant: “He’s a nickel corner. Not overly big, a feisty fighter. Sort of like Steven Nelson, but slighter and built.”

Mikell: “It kind of makes me think: Is he more of an insurance policy for Avonte [Maddox] inside? I wouldn’t say I’m not excited, because we’re adding depth, it’s just hard to know where he’s going to fit right now.”

Avant: “To me, it’s like Nickell Robey-Coleman. You get an older guy that’s usually playing nickel. I don’t think you can take Avonte out of the lineup for Jimmy Moreland, because you want a guy in that spot for a while. Bringing a guy in like Moreland is good for veteran leadership but at the same time, I don’t want him to mess up Avonte Maddox’s development. I do know a lot about Jimmy Moreland because when I was coaching with the Eagles, he was with the Washington Football Team. I know that he’s a feisty player. I know that he shows up around the ball, so I know why they like him. But to me, he goes for a lot of moves. He’s not a guy that’s a lockdown, but he’s a solid player.”

Marcus Epps

Marcus Epps, about to be a starter for the first time, is part of a new-look Eagles secondary

Safeties

Mikell: “If you’re going to be running a 50 front or a 30 front, you’re going to have to have safeties that know what they’re doing. Can he tackle well? Can he communicate well? Is he in the right spot at the right time? And what happens to him when things break down? To me, those things are what I look for in safety. What I don’t see out of this safety group is that guy that I’m confident in that if something goes bad that he can make a play to help out.”

Avant: “This is one area of criticism that I have. Why would you sign Derek Barnett with the season he had and let Rodney McLeod walk? That decision is looking like that may haunt us a bit.”

Mikell: “On any given play, on any given call, a safety can end up being a blitzer, he can be playing man, he can be playing the deep middle, he can be playing Quarters technique over top, he can be playing Cover 2. There are so many different techniques that a safety has to be able to do. Yes, it’s tough being a cornerback, tough being a slot nickel. I think next to those positions, the safety position is probably the toughest because of all you’re asked to do. For so many years, it just feels like that position’s been neglected.”

Defensive Front

Mikell: “I’m thinking this is going to be a 3-4 front. I’m still not sold that [Jonathan] Gannon knows exactly what he wants to run. I still think that he wants to be able to run different fronts. I think he wants to, like last year, on early downs run his 50 front and force whoever the opponent is into second and third and long. The personnel is almost there but it’s not quite. I’m a little nervous that it’s going to end up looking like last year, where early on they’re going to try some things, it’s not going to work out, it’s going to get impatient and then it’s going to go back to running basic Cover 4, basic Cover 2 defenses.”

Avant: “I think our personnel is so much better that even going back to those defenses is going to be a better situation. Last season, it was a lack of pass rush at times and the linebackers didn’t really understand zone drops and zone reads last year, so we were getting killed by tight ends. I don’t think that will be the case this upcoming year, but I still think it’s an incomplete 3-4 defense, meaning you don’t have the guy that can just cover the flat and carry the wheel route. I think Kyron Johnson can do that eventually but not in his first year.”

Jonathan Gannon

Mikell: “Gannon’s got to be more aggressive. He’s got to change it up, come up with some new schemes. There was no movement, no blitzing, no changed looks at all for the defense. He has to get more creative with the secondary, get more creative with the blitz schemes and movement. The biggest reason why this defense, in my opinion, didn’t succeed was that there were no turnovers. They’ve got to turn the ball over. It starts in practice. You have to stress that. Turnover drills, do it in practice. Those are habits that you develop and it really starts right now in OTAs. If they can start turning the ball over more, getting creative in their schemes and blitz schemes, they’re definitely going to be a top 10 defense and can eventually get to top five.”

– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com

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