Eagles remain devoid of true defensive leadership


— Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck. Charles Woodson and Nick Collins. Darren Sharper and Jonathan Vilma. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

Five super defensive combinations on the last five Super Bowl winners. Pro Bowl talents with the personalities to match. Leaders. Winners.

No matter how long and hard Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly works to refine his fast-paced offense and general manager Howie Roseman continues to crunch the financial numbers that always seem to work out in the team's favor, the organization has to know that it will not truly move toward contention in this era of football without at least a couple of fully qualified defensive rocks.

All the personnel department has been able to deliver to this defense since the days of Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter are flawed Pro Bowl mercenaries.

Jason Babin was pretty much only out for himself, something poor Eagles coaching sweepstakes runner-up Gus Bradley will discover soon enough in Jacksonville, if he hasn't already.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie died his hair green and wore glasses with no rims. Nice guy, but a goofball.

Nnamdi Asomugha ate lunch in his car by the end of his tenure here and still has never experienced a winning season in a career that began a decade ago (which should make the 2-2 San Francisco 49ers more nervous than they already are).

Asante Samuel was always a cowboy who would have been better as a Cowboy from the start.

Today, the only two defensive players on the Eagles roster to have made a Pro Bowl are linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Trent Cole, who's been in the league for nine seasons now. The Eagles haven't drafted a Pro Bowl defensive player since. Not even by accident.

By all accounts, Ryans is a super teammate and studious player with a great motor and attitude. But he's not the kind of a person who glues a defense together and/or keeps it from falling apart. We saw that last year.

Not a knock, just not him.

The same can be said of Cole, another good guy to have on your side, so long as he doesn't have to call the shots.

Meanwhile, second-year defensive end Fletcher Cox claimed to be calling the shots and not mocking Peyton Manning last Sunday in Denver. His statement was unconvincing, to say the least. Plus he called the wrong shots anyway.

Second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks seems like he can be Jack Lambert and Jack Ham at the same time — except for some entire series in which he looks more like Quinton Caver. He needs to be led, not the other way around.

Cornerback Cary Williams and Patrick Chung have the kind of forceful personalities to lead. But they're newcomers and lack the high-end talent to keep the youngsters' attention spans from dwindling. Linebacker Connor Barwin, another newcomer, possibly fits into this category as well.

Because the Eagles' defense has been in a perpetual rebuilding state for more than five years now, no leadership has been able to take hold and emerge in the midst of all the personnel changes.

The irony is that fourth-year safety Kurt Coleman could be that guy they really need, if only he could get on the field for anything other than special-teams work these days. He can't, so he isn't.

Truth is, the Eagles are short on personality as well as talent, and the two always go together on championship teams.

"I just go with my experience and what I know," Barwin said of his style. "I mean, if guys listen to that, they do. If they don't, they don't."

Of defensive leadership, Barwin can see where "they're coming. I think they're starting to come out. We're a new group and we're all getting to know each other.

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on ctnow.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.