PHILADELPHIA -- With the start of training camp approaching, the Philadelphia Eagles still have some unanswered questions. Here's a look at those soon-to-be-solved mysteries.
Unanswered question No. 5: Which was the bigger issue in the Eagles' secondary, coaching or the level of talent?
It was natural, while watching Bradley Fletcher chase Dez Bryant into the end zone or John Brown run past Nate Allen, to focus on the shortcomings of the Eagles' defensive backs. But when you look at all the events of the past eight months, you have to wonder how much of the problem was in the coaching.
That covers a lot of ground (unlike Fletcher). Coaching means the overall defensive scheme, which is the responsibility of coordinator Bill Davis. It means deciding which players will be on the field and what their responsibilities are, which is Davis' job with input from coach Chip Kelly. And it means working with players individually to make sure they understand the game plan and are fundamentally sound. That is the role of the defensive backs coach.
John Lovett coached the Eagles' defensive backs for two seasons. After the 2014 season, Kelly replaced him with Cory Undlin, who most recently coached the Denver Broncos' secondary under John Fox. The Broncos had three defensive backs in the Pro Bowl. The Eagles haven't had a DB selected for the Pro Bowl since Asante Samuel after the 2010 season.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said during organized team activities that Undlin was already having a huge impact on the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Boykin praised the attention to detail, as Undlin works with the players on technique and fundamentals.
Of course, last year at this time, the defensive backs were vowing that 2014 wouldn't be a repeat of 2013. So it's easy to get caught up in talk during the offseason. It is particularly easy when the ball is sailing toward Bryant or Odell Beckham Jr., that we really find out what's what and who's who.
Before coming to the Eagles in 2013, Cary Williams was a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. After being released, Williams signed with the Seattle Seahawks, a team that knows a little bit about defense. Fletcher signed with the New England Patriots and is one of the candidates to replace Darrelle Revis in their lineup.
Patrick Chung, who played one miserable season for the Eagles in 2013, returned to the Patriots and ended up with a Super Bowl ring.
The preponderance of evidence suggests the players were not the problem (or at least the only problem) in Philadelphia the past two years.
The Eagles will have three new starters in their secondary. They will have a new coach working with them. There will be better competition for jobs after free agency and the draft. In other words, Kelly wasn't taking any chances. He changed almost everything involved in the performance of the Eagles' secondary.
Davis remains as defensive coordinator, though. He has hinted he will use marquee free agent Byron Maxwell to match up with certain elite wide receivers. In the past, Williams lined up on the left and Fletcher on the right, no matter what the offense did. That is another significant change.
Davis will also have to do a better job of managing his personnel. That isn't easy. Last year, he should have benched Fletcher before he finally did. But Davis had seen Fletcher play better and believed he would snap out of the confidence-sapping spiral he was in. It just didn't happen.
Could Undlin have gotten better performances from Allen, Fletcher and Williams? Maybe. But you can't blame Kelly for not sacrificing another season just to find out.