The Eagles’ defense has seemingly always been on the smaller side, valuing speed over size in many phases of the game. But new defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has put an even greater premium on quicker guys who can cover. This defensive philosophy is purposeful, an attempt to counter the pass-heavy nature of today’s NFL.
The question is: how small is the defense? I went back to the NFL rosters I compiled about two months back and looked at the Eagles vs. other teams. The following numbers are based on those pre-draft rosters.
Let’s break the size down by position, starting with defensive backs:
The Eagles’ corners and safeties are undoubtably small. The unit is one of only five in the whole league that averages less than 5’11” and 195 lbs. The others are Detroit, Buffalo, Atlanta, and Indianapolis — not exactly a star group. Nate Allen and Trevard Lindley may boost the unit’s physical presence, but not by much.
The other thing that isn’t measured here is speed, and I’m not so sure this group of Eagles’ defensive backs makes up for their small stature with blazing speed.
The Eagles’ linebacker corps looks more average. But Stewart Bradley is the only real big guy they have. Ernie Sims, Moise Fokou, Omar Gaither, and Akeem Jordan are all slight, and the incoming class of rookies isn’t any bigger.
Because the Eagles are big fans of both small defensive ends and using those ends in place of back-up defensive tackles, they rank toward the bottom of the NFL here. Only Green Bay has shorter linemen, and only Oakland, Seattle, Carolina, Tennessee, and Indianapolis have lighter ones.
This data doesn’t do a whole lot other than confirm our general observations. But it does show that the Eagles are on the bleeding edge of the league in terms of valuing speed over size — and the defense is only getting smaller with every new acquisition. Whether that’s foreshadowing a new league-wide trend or just a big mistake, we’ll soon find out.