You’re either a defense-first guy or an offense-first guy. I’m a defense-first guy.
Which is why I think the Eagles did the right thing by addressing their need for receivers first.
Let me explain: The Eagles were a different team before they lost tackle Lane Johnson for 10 games. They won their first three, should have won their fourth, could have even held an 8-1 or 7-2 record by early November if not for a couple of dubious rookie coaching calls, calls that seemed to be pretending that Johnson was still blocking.
This, despite a receiving corps that looked comically inept all season. Just by lining up correctly, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery will be huge improvements over Nelson Agholor. Just by running a correct and precise route better than Dorial Green-Beckham will they underline the challenges last season’s wideouts posed for a rookie quarterback trying to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
Adding these two, keeping Johnson for a full season, taking advantage of the experience gained by the young offensive linemen thrown into last season’s debacle, all should help Carson Wentz utilize the entire playbook next season, not just the third-and-long plays.
And it should help defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz utilize his aggressive schemes a little more, too.
Yes, the Eagles' defense looked terrible by December. But let’s not forget the narrative that led to that. An Eagles offense that was putting up points, that was controlling the line of scrimmage and thus the clock for large chunks, went stale, south and occasionally stupid when they could no longer balance their play-calling between the run and the pass.
In the first game played without Johnson, a 27-20 loss to the Redskins that didn’t feel anywhere near that close, Washington rolled up 493 yards and held the ball for nearly nine more minutes. The Eagles entered the game with the NFL’s second-rated defense. Those cornerbacks we now all want so badly to replace seemed more than serviceable until that day. Washington’s defense sacked Wentz five times and the Eagles accumulated just 239 yards.
It soon went south, as the Eagles went through a stretch of seven of eight. And Wentz’s season, once compared favorably to the rookie years of Ben Roethlisberger and Dan Marino, became instead an analysis of his learning curve and toughness. He got sacked. He got hit. His mechanics, once lauded, became flawed. The Eagles scored 15 or fewer points over a three-game stretch in November, putting immense pressure on that defense, and ultimately, exposing its less-than-stellar secondary.
One last thing. The Patriots won a Super Bowl playing Eric Rowe and Patrick Chung. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has looked far better with the Broncos and Giants than he ever did here.
Cornerbacks are quite often weather vanes. Good defenses are a byproduct of how they must defend, and how often they are called upon to do so. You want to pick a cornerback first in the draft? Go ahead. Because whoever is back there next season is bound to look better if Johnson, Jeffery and Smith become permanent fixtures on offense.