- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The strong consensus belief is that new coach Chip Kelly wants to change the Philadelphia Eagles to a 3-4 defense from the 4-3 they currently run, and Rich Hofmann has taken a look at what, specifically, that would entail. His conclusion is that the Eagles will ultimately need to find at least seven new starters and that the transformation will take at least two years to work effectively.
This is not sky-is-falling hype. There is ample evidence that the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 takes two years, and the personnel issue is well outlined here by Rich, who operates on the belief that the Eagles could use four new starters in the secondary regardless of how they decide to align the front seven. With Fletcher Cox (moving to defensive end), linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks and maybe pass-rusher Brandon Graham the only current front-seven players who look like good potential fits in a 3-4, the Eagles would have a lot of work to do. They'd have to find a nose tackle, a second end and at least one outside linebacker depending on whether Graham could transition. They'd have to cut ties with Trent Cole, who just signed a long-term deal last year. The Eagles, under this scenario, likely would spend much of 2013 evaluating their current personnel to decide who fits into the long-term 3-4 plan and then the 2014 offseason hunting players to fill the holes that crop up.
I personally think it's encouraging that Kelly views the repair of the Eagles' defense as a long-range project, because it should be. And if the new coach has been given reason to believe he has enough time to wait out the bumps that go along with this process, that's a good thing. He needs to feel comfortable and empowered to install his program his way. If you're a big-picture Eagles fan, you can embrace the idea of trying to overhaul the defense and re-create it as something new as opposed to patching holes. But it is going to take time, and it is going to look ugly at times in the short term. And I just think it's important that Eagles fans go into this season with that understanding.