NFC East watch: Eagles

NFC East watch: Eagles
March 24, 2013, 8:15 am
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Almost two weeks into free agency, the Redskins haven’t managed to accomplish much because of the crippling, $18 million NFL-imposed salary cap penalty. Some of their NFC East rivals, however, have been busy, adding players, filling holes and reshaping their rosters. Here’s a quick look at who they’ve added and how the changes might affect next season’s battle for the division crown.

Team: Eagles 

2012 record: 4-12, 1-5

Key acquisitions: WR Arrelious Benn (trade, Buccaneers), TE James Casey (Texans), LB Connor Barwin (Texans), LB Jason Phillips (Panthers), CB Cary Williams (Ravens), CB Bradley Fletcher (Rams), S Kenny Phillips (Giants), S Patrick Chung (Patriots), NT Isaac Sopoaga (49ers) 

2013 outlook: Much of the buzz in Philly next season will center on new coach Chip Kelly and how he implements his up-tempo offense. The real story, however, might be on the other side of the ball. 

Only two teams yielded more points than the Eagles did last season. So, it came as no surprise that GM Howie Roseman dedicated much of his energy – and his team’s cap space – toward upgrading the defense. 

Actually, what Roseman did can’t really be described as an ‘upgrade.’ It was more like a total rebuild.

With the addition of cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher and safeties Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung, the Eagles could have a completely new starting secondary in 2013. Last season’s defensive backfield (Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Co. ) allowed 25 passing touchdowns and netted just one interception in the final 10 games.

In addition a revamped backend, new defensive coordinator Billy Davis also has at his disposal linebackers Connor Barwin (19 sacks in 49 games with the Texans) and Jason Phillips as well as nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Davis won’t say whether the Eagles intend to switch over to a 3-4 scheme, but all signs point to such a change.

In the final analysis, the Eagles appear to be a much-improved team, particularly on defense. But I can’t erase the memories of the 2011 “Dream Team” that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Integrating so many new faces takes time. Chemistry isn’t guaranteed. So until I see results, please excuse me if I remain a tad bit skeptical about the revamped Birds. 

For Saturday's look at the Giants, click here.