The first job this offseason, after nailing down just who will coach this team, is rebuilding a defense that can represent the personality of the Philadelphia Eagles, its town and its fans.
Nick Sirianni will be back. Special teams coordinator Michael Clay was the only member of that tier of coaches to retain his position. Run game coordinator/offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the best position coach the Eagles have and among the best in the entire league.
None of those three coaches will have any impact on the task of rebuilding the defense. That crucial responsibility falls on longtime defensive guru Vic Fangio.
Fangio was briefly with the Eagles as a special consultant during the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2022. Fangio left for Miami to take over coordinator duties there last year. Ironically, he would have been the team’s first choice last season if the departure of Jonathan Gannon to the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job had been better timed.
Fangio started his coaching career with the USFL-champion Philadelphia Stars before their eventual move to Baltimore. Fangio has also been the defensive coordinator at Carolina, Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco and Chicago before becoming the Denver Broncos head coach.
If Fangio’s latest stop is going to be successful, he will have to completely rebuild a defense that was among the league’s worst over the last half to the 2023 season.
Fortunately, Fangio has some talent to work with, mostly on the defensive line.
Edge rushers Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat have proven that they can get to the quarterback. Interior linemen Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Milton Williams were strengths on the team.
That’s a strong core to build around, though even that strength failed to consistently get to the quarterback, especially late in the season. Troubles in the secondary and linebacker corps ruined the timing for Reddick and Sweat. Carter and Davis, who dominated in deep rotations at Georgia, are still struggling to deal with the increased workload in the professional game.
Question marks about Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham remain. Graham has expressed interest in returning for one more season, though Cox hasn’t made his intentions known. Both players could be valuable players but finding the right role and salary fits will test the Eagles’ ability to bring either of the all-time Eagle greats back.
Not one linebacker deserves to return to the Eagles. Ben Van Sumeren could eventually have a small role but the entire linebackers room needs to be remade with a monetary commitment that the Eagles haven’t shown they’ve been willing to make.
Darius Slay is on the downside of his career as a premier cornerback. Avonte Maddox hasn’t proved he can stay healthy enough to be relied on. Eli Ricks, Josh Jobe and Kelee Ringo will have to make big jumps to become trusted contributors.
Safeties Reed Blankenship and Sydney Brown both have injury concerns and lack of quality depth at safety was one of the Eagles’ biggest problems last season.
Fangio and Executive Vice President Howie Roseman have a huge job ahead of them this offseason balancing free agency, the draft and the preseason to give the Eagles a defense that could return the team back into the conversation of Super Bowl contenders.
Last year proved that the Eagles defensive blueprint is not a winning formula.
There is a long way to go but the most important work the Eagles have ahead of them will come on the defensive side of the ball. The team’s future depends on it.