I am genuinely concerned about the Eagles' defense this year. This team wins because of defense, not because of offense. The defense has now taken three major hits, and from where I sit, there is plenty to be worried about.
First came the unfortunate death of defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson. Johnson was the architect of the defense, and he was the driving force behind it. He was its spiritual leader, the guy that made the Eagles the feared defensive team that they have been for the last decade. He's the guy who reinvented the position of safety with the great Brian Dawkins. I realize that the new defensive coordinator is a Johnson disciple, but he's not Jim Johnson. There will never be another Jim Johnson. And I can't help but wonder what that will mean to the team.
And then, there's the loss of Dawkins. BDawk is probably the best safety to play the game. Ever. And the Eagles let him leave. While his skills are diminished at 36, Weapon X was the unquestioned on-field leader of the defense. His are a huge pair of shoes to fill. While I think Quentin Mikell is a perfectly fine player, the bottom line is that he's not Dawkins, and in a season without Jim Johnson, I really fear what the loss of Dawkins will mean to the defense.
And then today, the Eagles announced that their fine young middle linebacker, Stewart Bradley (pictured above), is lost for the season with a blown ACL. That means that Omar Gaither--who was replaced as the starting middle linebacker by Bradley after starting in the middle for the 2007 season--is the likely starting middle linebacker. Again, with no disrespect intended to Gaither, who did alright as a role player last year, he's not Stewart Bradley. Without Dawkins and Bradley to stop the run, I cannot help but wonder how well the Birds will play run defense this year.
As is the usual case, Andy Reid won't discuss the situation, so we're left to guess and speculate and hope for the best. He decided to punish the beat writers for talking to Bradley directly instead of waiting for him to talk about the injury. That's one thing about Big Red that I have always hated.
I wonder how the Birds' defense will do without their spiritual leader in Johnson and without their on-field leader in Dawkins. Losing one is a big blow. Losing both may be too much of a blow to overcome. Mix in the loss of the well-regarded starting middle linebacker, and I am deeply worried about this.....