With the cleaning house of the defensive coaching staff following a disastrous 2012 campaign, new defensive coordinator Billy Davis has a new vision for the defense. After playing a base 4-3 defense under Jim Johnson, Sean McDermott, and Juan Castillo, the Eagles are transitioning to a 3-4 system in 2013.
Juan Castillo and ex-defensive line coach Jim Washburn used defensive linemen primarily to rush the passer. In doing so, they were willing to sacrifice some size and stoutness against the run in order to field quick linemen who could get after the quarterback without the help of blitzers.
Under Billy Davis, the Eagles are asking their defensive linemen to gain weight. Their roles will shift dramatically, going from finesse pass rushers to big uglies occupying blockers and holding the line of scrimmage. By focusing more on the run game, the hope is that the defensive line will be able to free up inside linebackers to make tackles without having to shed blocks.
Starting defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton now weigh 311 and 310 pounds, respectively, while nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga stands at a massive 330. Second team players Antonio Dixon, Clifton Geathers, and Bennie Logan all weigh at least 309 pounds as well.
The Eagles have long been under fire for fielding undersized defensive units, and Chip Kelly’s staff has already put an end to that problem. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not the team’s new infatuation with size will hurt their ability to rush the passer.