State of Eagles' Defense - Part 1 - Secondary

Written By Bob Cunningham On Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Jim Johnson has been in the driver’s seat of this defense for the past 10 years, and hopefully he won’t be going anywhere soon. Another leader on defense, Brian Dawkins, is gone for Denver.

Other than that, the defense remains 100 percent intact and looks to continue their dominating 2008 performance into the 2009 season behind a good mix of young talent and veteran leadership.

First up, the secondary.

With the departure of long-time leader and Philadelphia main-stay Brian Dawkins, the Eagles would appear to have a need at safety. However, with the signing of Sean Jones they may have found a starter for years to come.

Jones is a young guy, and a former second round pick. He had some good years in Cleveland, ranking third among safeties in interceptions with 14 behind only Ed Reed and O.J. Atogwe. All of this done on a defense ranked consistently in the bottom half of the league.

Rashad Baker was another guy brought it, seemingly only for depth purposes. He’s a young guy with some upside but really got overshadowed in the black hole of Oakland. For those who don’t know, Baker was actually the guy who picked off Jeff Garcia in Week 17 to vault the Eagles into the playoffs. That interception was one of three on the year.

Quintin Demps, return specialist for most of the year, will also get a chance to compete with Jones. However in only his second year, Demps will probably be best served as a backup while focusing on his return skills, something the Eagles have lacked for a few years.

Quintin Mikell has been fantastic at the strong safety position over the past couple of years and looks to only get better. Many believe Mikell’s strong play should have earned him a Pro Bowl nod last year (led the team with 169 tackles, second with four forced fumbles and three interceptions), but that was not the case. Instead, he was selected as a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

The cornerback position has always been good under Andy Reid, and 2009 should be no different. From Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, to Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, and now Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel.

Samuel is a superstar and proved that last season by coming up with six total interceptions, four in the regular season and two in the playoffs. Sheldon Brown has been an extremely steady and solid contributor, seemingly ready to take the next step into “elite.” He had his first interception in 19 games last season against the Dallas Cowboys, but has not missed a single game in his entire seven year career.

Joselio Hanson is a guy who was picked up off the scrap-heap to add some depth to the cornerback position, but has emerged as a solid nickel corner. He came up with his first interception in 2008 on Thanksgiving night against Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.

With the trade of the disgruntled Lito Sheppard, the Eagles will now look to the unproven second-year man Jack Ikegwuonu, who spent his rookie year on I.R. nursing a torn ACL he suffered only weeks before the combine.

Look for the Eagles to add some depth to the corner position in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft to push Ikegwuonu, or at the very least a late-round or undrafted camp body.

Either way, the secondary seems to be in great position to build on a solid 2008 to a possible great 2009. I look for more turnovers, less big plays, and overall more respect for a squad entering its second full year together as a unit.

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