Intensity. Electricity. Dominance. These are the words that best describe the legendary Philadelphia Eagles defensive backfield of the 2001 and 2002 seasons. The foursome instilled fear in the hearts of quarterbacks and receivers across the league as they shut down passing attacks drive-after-drive, game-after-game.
The Eagles have once again pieced together an impressive defensive backfield in 2011, and while this year’s DB’s are sure to intimidate QB’s around the league, how do they compare with the Eagles’ secondary of the early 2000?s?
There’s certainly a lot of hype surrounding the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and for good reason. Both corners have height, each standing at six-foot-two. Asomugha is a 210-pound shutdown corner who is sure to complicate the route-running of dozens of receivers this season. Rodgers-Cromartie has 4.29 speed and a 38 1/2? vertical jump that will make completing long-ball passes difficult for any quarterback-receiver combination in the league. As of right now, this pair is accompanied at corner back by play-maker Asante Samuel, who recently reported to training camp amid trade rumors. The combination of Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Samuel would create a formidable force in the secondary, but the fate of the three as a unit is “50-50,” according to Samuel.
Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, both in their second season, are the probable starters at the safety positions. Both are solid players, but neither is very experienced. With the absence of SS Quentin Mikell, Coleman and Allen will be the Eagles’ slight weak spot in the secondary. Should Samuel be traded, his contract would free-up enough money pick up a prime-time safety. Until then, Allen and Coleman will be splitting time together, and they both still have a lot to prove.
Despite the hype surrounding the Eagles’ 2011 secondary, they’re no match for the Fantastic Four of 2001 and 2002. For starters, Dawkins, Taylor, and Vincent had been playing together since 1996. They had incredible chemistry and coordination, often appearing to think and react as a single unit. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie will have been practicing together for a month before their first game as a pair. No amount of training can create the chemistry that Dawkins, Taylor, and Vincent had. The coordination and communication of the Eagles’ secondary during the early 2000?s was a result of playing together for six and seven seasons.
Another major gap in the comparison between 2011 and the Golden Age of Philadelphia DB’s is the presence, or lack-there-of, “Weapon X.” Any Philadelphia Eagles fan who had ever watched “B-Dawk” play live felt the electricity that Brian Dawkins created when he stepped onto the field. He had presence. He was as tough, and gritty, and hard-nosed as they come, and when he was on the field he had every eye in the stadium pointing towards him, including those of fans who were cross-eyed.
Dawkins was the leader of the pack, a position he earned over the course of several years of gaining the trust and confidence of his teammates. Dawkins commanded respect. This year’s pack doesn’t have a definitive leader, and certainly nobody who can create the presence that Dawkins created.
While 2011?s DB’s have the size, skill, and talent needed to be a great secondary, they don’t yet have the intangibles that made the 2001 and 2002 Eagles secondary the dominating force that it was.
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