Kelly gives due diligence to defense in Draft

The offensive mastermind that is Chip Kelly stayed focused on the task at hand this past weekend as the Draft commenced. In drafting six players, five were on the defensive side of the ball. Three were at cornerback.

Make no mistake about it, Kelly has established that the defensive depth the Eagles had across the board was unacceptable after last season ended without a playoff appearance. The secondary has a new look to go along with a stacked group of starters in the front seven.

In some cases, yes, Kelly didn't address all team needs and needs to get lucky with health and performance. The offensive line and quarterback positions stand out the most there. But defensively, Kelly improved the Eagles immensely this offseason, and that's half the battle.

It started with the overhaul of cornerbacks. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are both gone. The jury is still out on Brandon Boykin's job security.

The additions started with Byron Maxwell. Then came Walter Thurmond. Then E.J. Biggers. And over the weekend, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans joined the group.

Last season, the Eagles opened with a 7-2 record. They finished at 10-6. 

They lost three of their last four games, two due to defensive struggles. The game that stands out is the Week 15 loss at home against Dallas. Dez Bryant went off for three touchdowns. The Eagles rallied back from a 21-0 deficit to take a brief third-quarter lead before surrendering 14 points by the early stages of the fourth, too much to overcome.

That is the game that cost the Eagles the division. Against Dallas, they controlled their own destiny. Dallas clinched the division the following week.

That too was the final straw for Kelly, who completely revamped a secondary that did not contain the likes of Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, DeSean Jackson and others.

Kelly's due diligence there shows a recognition for the team's needs. Yes, he may still be taking a risk in Sam Bradford and need depth on the offensive line, but in both cases, he has starters that could be capable of doing the job at hand.

Bradford deserves his chance to start. Just months before Marcus Mariota entered the conversation, fans truly believes Mark Sanchez could lead the Eagles to a division title. And he nearly did.

The offensive line, if healthy, is still a talented one with Pro Bowlers Jason Peters and Jason Kelce and up-and-coming lineman Lane Johnson. So often during the 2014 season, the Eagles had to play mix and match with the offensive line due to injury, suspension or something else unforeseen. 

The Eagles may be better now than they were a year ago. It's hard to believe with the losses to the offense – no more Nick Foles, no more LeSean McCoy, no more Jeremy Maclin – it is essentially an unrecognizable offense. That said, the Eagles still have the offense capable of putting up points, especially with Kelly's philosophies. What they needed was a defense that could shave a few more points off the board.

One scoreless possession here or there last season would have taken a 10-6 season with no playoffs to a 12-4 season with a potential deep playoff run. With the Eagles improvements, there may be more than just a few more scoreless possessions coming from the defense next season.

Kevin Durso is a contributing writer and editorial assistant for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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