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  • Writer's picturePaul Domowitch

HOWIE ROSEMAN’S REBOUND OFFSEASON HAS BEEN ‘REMARKABLE’


Paul Domowitch - A look at the Eagles

Less than five short months ago, the Eagles defense looked like one of those poor midwest towns that had the misfortune of being in the path of an EF5 tornado.


A unit that finished tied for seventh in points allowed (20.2) and set a franchise record for quarterback sacks (70) one season earlier, had eroded into one of the worst defenses in the NFL. 


They finished 30th in points allowed (25.2), 31st in TD passes given up (35), 31st in third-down defense (46.4%), 29th in red zone defense (65.0%) and 25th in takeaways (18).


After a 10-1 start that managed to mask many of their defensive deficiencies, the Eagles lost five of their last six regular-season games. Exacerbated by Nick Sirianni’s panicked decision to take the defensive play-calling duties away from coordinator Sean Desai with four games left and give them to Matt Patricia, the defense couldn’t stop anyone.


Gave up 30.3 points per game in those last six games. Allowed opponents to convert 48.1 percent of their third downs and 75 percent of their red zone opportunities as the Eagles waved bye bye to the NFC’s No. 1 seed.


When I looked at the Eagles’ defense in January after their 32-9 playoff loss to Tampa Bay, I saw a two-year rehab


Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman has one of best offseasons ever. Photo by Andy Lewis

Even if he made all the right moves, I didn’t see any way that general manager Howie Roseman was going to be able to make the multitude of necessary repairs to it in one offseason that would allow the Eagles to compete for a Super Bowl.


But I was wrong.


What Roseman has managed to do the last six weeks in free agency and the draft to fix the Eagles defense while still addressing needs with the offense has been nothing short of remarkable.


I’m talking about bringing back safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. I’m talking about upgrading the linebacker position with the signings of Devin White, Oren Burks and Zack Baun.


I didn’t agree with his decision to trade edge rusher Haason Reddick, but at least he managed to get a younger double-digit sackmeister – Bryce Hall – to replace him.


Roseman saved the cornerback remodeling for the draft and added two of them in the first two rounds, selecting Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell at 22 and then trading up in the second round to grab versatile corner/safety/slot guy Cooper DeJean at 40.


Mitchell is the first corner the Eagles have taken in the first round since Lito Sheppard back in 2002.


He and DeJean are just the fourth and fifth corners taken in the first three rounds in Roseman’s 12 drafts. 


The others: Sidney Jones (second round, 2017), Rasul Douglas (third round, 2017) and Curtis Marsh (third round, 2011). None of those three lasted more than three seasons with the Eagles.


Mitchell likely will get an immediate opportunity to start. 


James Bradberry is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, and the smart money has him being a post-June 1 release. 


Many believe first round pick Quinyon Mitchell out of Toledo could end up the starter in game one. Photo by Ted Gangi (CollegePressBox)

DeJean also could see early playing time in Vic Fangio’s defense, either in the slot or at safety.


Roseman understands that the draft is a crapshoot, particularly later in the first round where the Eagles selected Mitchell.


“Four out of every 10 first-round picks don’t make it,’’ he said. “We just rely on our process. We rely on who the particular player is. In this case, we think we got an extremely talented, hard-working outside corner.’’


Howie Roseman even got safety CJ Gardner-Johnson to return to the nest. Photo by Andy Lewis

Roseman has tried to improve his odds of success in recent drafts by selecting players from successful college programs. Last year, four of the Eagles’ first five picks were either from Georgia or Alabama, including both of their first-rounders, Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, who played in Athens.


In 2022, two of their first three picks, including first-rounder Jordan Davis, were from Georgia. In 2021, both of their first two selections were from Alabama.


He did an about-face last week when he took Mitchell over Alabama corner Terrion Arnold at 22. 


"Obviously he’s got a lot to prove as a small-school player," Roseman said. “The MAC (the conference that Toledo plays in) is not the National Football League. We understand that. We’ve had tremendous success with big schools, so to take a player like this from the MAC, he has to be special, and we think he’s a special person.’’


Arnold played primarily press coverage at Alabama, while Mitchell played most off-coverage at Toledo. While he’ll likely be asked to play a lot of off-coverage in Fangio’s zone schemes, the Eagles needed to know that he could also play press. 


They got the opportunity to see him do that at the Senior Bowl.


“He played a tremendous amount of off-coverage at Toledo,’’ Roseman said. “But we got to see him play press coverage at the Senior Bowl, which allowed us to finish the (evaluation) process. I think that really helped us see that he had a diverse array of skill-sets there. That was one of the initial concerns when you see him play; that he’s only playing a certain way and he’s allowing his eyes to lead him to the ball.


“But when he got in people’s faces at the Senior Bowl, we thought he was one of the best players there against really good competition, against a really good receiving class.” *


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