Clearly, Chip Kelly’s Eagles are much further ahead on offense than they are on defense.
It was that way when he was hired as head coach in January, and the gap seemingly widened after the Eagles expended three of their first four draft picks on offensive players in April.
General manager Howie Roseman was asked Thursday why the Eagles didn’t invest more in the defense this offseason, especially considering the schematic change the unit would undergo.
“When we went back and studied the teams who’ve won, they have a strength,” Roseman said. “They’re not just in the middle on both sides of the ball. And when we looked at our offense and looked at where we had players rated in the draft, we saw that there was an opportunity to really strengthen positions there that we thought could really help us be successful on offense.”
The Eagles did spend a fair amount on defensive players in free agency, but they did not draft any young players that could develop into cornerstones at linebacker or in the defensive secondary. Defensive lineman Bennie Logan has showed the most promise among the defensive rookies, but safety Earl Wolff and cornerback Jordan Poyer are a ways off from starting, if ever.
Three of the Eagles' first four draft picks were on offense -- tackle Lane Johnson was selected fourth overall, tight end Zach Ertz was taken in the second round and quarterback Matt Barkley was snapped up in the fourth.
Some have pointed to the Eagles’ second round pick as a spot where Kelly and Roseman could have added a key piece on defense. But Roseman said that Ertz was the best available player on their draft board and they were committed to sticking to their plan.
“We didn’t go into the draft saying we needed to get a tight end,” Roseman said.
The Eagles already had veteran Brent Celek, reserve Clay Harbor and signed James Casey in free agency.
“We knew that we had good players at that position,” Roseman continued. “But it’s got to be about what’s best for this team, not only in the short term but the long term.”
Asked to give the positions that he felt were strengths for the Eagles after a month of training camp and two preseason games, Roseman’s first three selections, predictably, were on the offensive side of the ball – offensive line, running backs and quarterbacks.
“To be able to have three quarterbacks like we have, we think we got three really good players at the hardest position to find,” Roseman said. “So we’re excited about seeing that position.”
Kelly named Michael Vick the starting quarterback ahead of Nick Foles on Tuesday. Barkley will start the season as the third quarterback. Foles said earlier this week that he did not want to be traded to another team with the chance to start.
Roseman was asked if he had received any calls from teams around the league looking for the second-year quarterback.
“We’re excited about that group and you need to have quarterbacks in this league, and more than one quarterback in this league. So all of our trade talk you kind of keep that in between teams,” Roseman said. “And obviously that’s not a direction we’re going in.”
Roseman did single out the development of the line as one area the team was excited about on defense. Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Isaac Sopoago are the projected starters in the base defense, but rookies Logan, Damion Square and second-year defensive end Vinny Curry have performed well in the hybrid front.
“I think a surprise at camp for us has been the defensive line,” Roseman said. “It was a process when we started in March. We thought it was going to take more time because of the transition. Some of the players that we brought in here have done a really good job and need to continue to grow.”