Believe it or not Eagles fans, Brian Dawkins has been gone for four seasons. In that time we have had Victor “Macho” Harris, Sean Jones, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jarrad Page, Jaiquawn Jarrett, and David Sims man the safety position. It’s called safety for a reason and a very viable one changes a defense into a better unit. For all but two years between 2000 to 2008 (Dawkins’ final season with Philadelphia), the Eagles did not have a defense that was ranked lower than ninth in points allowed. Prior to this season, only 2005 (and we don’t speak of that season) and Reid’s first season in Philadelphia were years where the Eagles finished with a negative point differential. This was the Eagles 3rd worst season in point differential in 40 years.
A big problem for the Eagles is that the safety position will be difficult to address in this year’s draft. Kenny Vaccaro is by far the best prospect of the bunch, however it’d be a reach to take him at four unless the Eagles traded back and stockpiled picks. My money is taking a chance with USC Safety T.J. McDonald in the 3rd round (provided he’s still available). McDonald played under Monte Kiffin all three years that Kiffin was the defensive coordinator. Also remember that Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks played against McDonald all four years he was at USC. An interesting name to look out for is Bacarri Rambo of Georgia. Last season Janoris Jenkins was one of the top cornerback prospects coming out of college behind Morris Claiborne. Off the field questions made him go from a lock of a first round pick to the 39th overall player selected. For the Eagles, do Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis have equal or better discipline methods and coaching strategies that could unlock a player’s potential the same way Jeff Fisher has done with Jenkins? A small note (no pun intended) to keep under advisement is that Oregon did not have a safety over six feet tall since Titus Jackson in 2009.
Free Agency doesn’t get much better for the safety position. The one name that some will want to throw around, particularly with the Oregon ties is that of Jarius Byrd. Byrd is coming off his second All Pro season and could command top dollar in the free agent market but will get the franchise tag if Buffalo cannot reach a multiple year deal. There is zero way that the Eagles will get the opportunity to even speak with Byrd. Dashon Goldson is probably the cream of the crop behind Byrd, but the chances of the 49ers allowing him to hit the free agent market is very unlikely as well. Ed Reed is too old to join a rebuilding franchise and Ronde Barber is in the same boat. Patrick Chung could also be a player that Chip Kelly decides to pursue in free agency. Chung had a solid career in Oregon and has done well for himself in New England as well. If he doesn’t resign in New England, he could be a target very early in free agency.
My guess is that the Eagles will address this position in the draft and could do it as early as the 2nd round. The biggest question is how Coach Kelly and his newly acquired staff view not only the current depth chart but the prospective players available. With the lackluster production that the team has endured over the past four seasons, I would believe that the Eagles are looking to shore up the back of their secondary in a big way.