McDermott, the D-line and Eagles' goals

How will Sean McDermott re-shape the Eagles' defense in 2010? (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

The Eagles held a chalk talk event Tuesday night at the Novacare Complex.

Its purpose was to give the media a chance to meet with members of the coaching staff and front office in a casual setting. There were no formal press conferences with audio recorders and the like, but MTC never leaves home without our notebook.

So over the next couple days, I'll share some of the more interesting parts of the event.

Let's start with the defense. Sean McDermott cued up the tape to show how the Birds' defensive personnel packages changed on third down last season. I went over a lot of these things last season: bringing in pass rushers to play inside on third downs, playing as many as six DBs at a time, etc.

I asked McDermott who he thought would be the guys to sub in for Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley now that Darren Howard is gone and Victor Abiamiri is injured. He didn't provide names, but said he's started to classify guys into different categories: pass rushers, hybrid LB/DEs and so on. McDermott said his job is to get the best players on the field, even if that means playing four linebackers at times, or having someone like Stewart Bradley line up with his hand on the ground for a couple plays.

There's evidence to support McDermott's notion. You remember last year that Trevor Laws, a second-round pick from 2008, could not get on the field even though the Eagles used as many as nine or 10 linemen in a given game. Instead, undrafted free agent Antonio Dixon was used as the first backup for Bunkley and Patterson. At strong-side linebacker, seventh-round pick Moise Fokou started over Chris Gocong.

In other words, McDermott showed he has no reservations about giving a low-profile guy the nod over a high draft pick or a veteran.

McDermott said subbing so many guys in and out last year was not ideal, but it's reasonable to wonder whether he'll have to do the same thing this year. Especially on the defensive line, there appears to be quite a few guys with specialized skills. Think about it. Other than Trent Cole, who's a defensive lineman that should absolutely be on the field in every situation? The Eagles hope Brandon Graham is that kind of guy, but he's a rookie, whose role (at least to start the season) is unknown.


McDermott has a chart up in the classroom with goals for the defense next season. In the coming weeks, I want to take a look at some of the numbers to see how good the defense would have to be, compared to previous years, to meet these goals, but here are some of the numbers (per game):

* Allow 17 points or less.
* Allow 285 yards or less.
* Create two or more turnovers.
* Limit opponents to less than 44 rush attempts and pass completions (combined).
* Allow no more than three big plays (defined as runs of 10 yards or more, or passes of 25 yards or more).
* Limit opponents to 5.5 yards per pass.

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