The Eagles owned one of the worst secondaries in the NFL in 2019. Now the architect of that unit is the new defensive coordinator in Detroit. Go figure.
Corey Undlin was reportedly tabbed to head up the Lions’ defense on Monday. The Eagles are down three assistant coaches following last week’s firings of offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide-receivers coach Carson Walch.
Undlin was extremely well-respected in the Eagles’ organization despite the secondary underperforming during his five-year tenure. The team ranked 19th overall in passing defense after allowing 246.5 yards per game in 2019. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Undlin worked on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England.
He had a reputation for mentoring young players. The ongoing excuse around the NovaCare Complex was that the Eagles just didn’t have the talent at the cornerback position to succeed. It’s something they need to address moving forward, particularly in April’s draft.
“I think that we’ve got to get with our staff and decide kind of what we’re going to do going forward, but also look at any way we possibly can improve the team, and that’s an important position,” head coach Doug Pederson said of the cornerback positions last week. “You see it, when you have a guy who can really kind of take over and take one side of the field, but those guys are hard to find. They don’t kind of grow on trees.”
Top Candidates to Replace Undlin as Secondary Coach
Greg Jackson, Cowboys
Jackson has been coaching up the Dallas secondary since 2016 where they have seen steady improvement. The Cowboys ranked 26th, 13th, 11th and 10th, respectively, in NFL passing defense from 2016 to 2019.
This year, Dallas had the league’s 10th-best passing defense after surrendering 223.5 yards per game. The 53-year-old is a Florida native and his contract is up for renewal. Since the Cowboys just hired a new head coach, they will likely restructure their staff and Jackson could find himself out of a job.
Does his name sound familiar? It should. Jackson played in Philadelphia for two seasons (2004, 2005) as the stop-gap free safety. He took over for fan-favorite Wes Hopkins and relinquished the spot to Hall-of-Famer Brian Dawkins.
Tim Hauck, Eagles
If the Eagles wanted to promote from within the organization, then Hauck would likely be the guy. He’s been an excellent safeties coach for the past four years showing a knack for getting the most out of his players. Rodney McLeod has blossomed under his tutoring (probably earning himself a new contract) while Malcolm Jenkins continues to grow his legacy.
Remember, Hauck also played safety in Philadelphia for three seasons (1999-2001) as part of a productive 13-year career. The former Eagle might be best remembered for delivering the bone-shattering hit that ended Michael Irvin’s career. (It’s OK to boo. This is the trust tree).
Joe Woods, 49ers
Woods should be getting serious looks at defensive coordinator jobs after the year he has put together in San Francisco. The 49ers led the NFL in passing defense, giving up just 169.2 yards per game and nabbing 12 interceptions. Prior to that, Woods served as defensive backs coach in Denver where he oversaw a suffocating unit that won the 2005 Super Bowl.
Woods’ contract expires after the season but there is much chatter about 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh being a hot head-coaching candidate in 2021 so the franchise may want to keep Woods around as an insurance policy. He’s also getting interest from the Browns as a possible defensive coordinator.
The 49-year-old is a Pennsylvania native, although he hails from the other side of the state in North Vandergrift, PA. The town is located outside Pittsburgh about five hours west of Philly.
Daronte Jones, Bengals
Cincinnati was bad. So hiring someone from that staff won’t be high on many people’s lists. However, Jones does have a certain level of respect around league circles.
He has been in charge of the cornerbacks in Cincinnati for the past two seasons where they have finished 21st and 32nd in the NFL. His strength lies in mentoring young cornerbacks and the Bengals have 23 picks in his two seasons.
Jones is currently a free agent and could be lured away if the Eagles believe he’s polished enough to turn around their struggling secondary. Jones’ name has been removed from the Bengals’ website so he may have already been fired.
It took Jones 15 years to get his first NFL coaching gig when the Dolphins took a chance on him in 2016 as assistant defensive backs coach. He was largely credited with helping to develop shutdown corner Xavien Howard.
Perry Fewell, Panthers
Fewell would arguably be the safest and best hire to replace Cory Undlin in Philadelphia. He’s a football lifer who has overseen successful secondaries in Carolina, Washington, Buffalo and Jacksonville.
He played a major role in helping nurture Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville, plus he brings both head-coaching experience (on an interim level) and defensive-coordinator experience. More importantly, the 57-year-old could slide right in as defensive coordinator in 2021 when Jim Schwartz’s contract expires.
Fewell’s units have fared well over the years, too. His Panthers’ secondary ranked 13th in the league in 2019 and his Jaguars were No. 2 in 2018 and No. 1 in 2017. He also guided the Giants to a Super Bowl victory in 2012 as their defensive coordinator. It might take some money to bring him to Philadelphia but he would worth every penny.
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