Background: GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 12: Dennard Wilson speaks in the pregame huddle against the Kansas City Chiefs after Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 38-35.Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images.
This past season, Jonathan Gannon (DC), Nick Rallis a (LBC) and Dennard Wilson (PGC/DBC) combined forces to lead the Eagles defense to prominence, as evidenced by these NFL defensive rankings:
Regular Season Rankings (32 Teams) —— Playoffs Rankings (14 Teams)
- Yards Per Game: 301.5 (2nd) —- 243.7 (2nd)
- Rushing YPG: 121.6 (16th) —- 119.0 (10th)
- Passing YPG: 179.8 (1st) —- 119.0 (1st)
- QBR: 81.6 (3rd) —- 88.5 (7th)
- Sacks: 70 (1st) —- 8 (2nd)
- 3rd Down %: 38.6 (14th) —- 37.9 (3rd)
- Points Per Game: 20.2 (7th) —- 17.3 (3rd)
After being a finalist for the #Eagles DC job that went to Sean Desai, Philly defensive pass game coordinator and DBs coach Dennard Wilson and the team are mutually parting ways, sources say. This is often the outcome when an in-house candidate is passed over for a promotion.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2023
While the Eagles’ pass defense was out of kilter in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, when one considers their season-long body of work, this Eagles pass defense was as stingy as any defense’s in the NFL.
Much of Philly’s success had to do with their prolific pass rush, which accounted for a league leading 70 sacks in the regular season and the second most sacks in the post-season with 8.
JG and crew are going to try to bolster the Cardinals’ pass rushing talent in free agency and the NFL draft.
Then, key acquisitions need to be made in the secondary, particularly at CB, where Marco Wilson heading into his 3rd season is the most experienced CB on the current roster. Wilson has started 26 of the 28 games he’s played.
If the Cardinals are able to sign Dennard Wilson, he could make a significant impact on the Cardinals’ secondary, both in free agency and on the field. For example, Wilson helped CB James Bradberry earn his first selection to the NFL All-Pro Team (2nd Team).
Bradberry is a free agent who may get significant attention from the Cardinals.
It should also be noted how effective Dennard Wilson was last year in getting premium performance from all of the players in his secondary:
- S Reed Blankenship —- 79.4
- CB Darius Slay —- 73.1
- SCB Avante Maddox —- 72.2
- CB James Bradberry —-71.7
- S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson —- 66.2
- S Marcus Epps —- 57.6
The Eagles PFF grade in Pass Coverage was 5th in the NFL at 89.2.
The Cardinals currently do not have a defensive passing game coordinator. JG’s two hires of secondary coaches, Patrick Toney (defensive backs) and Ryan Smith (cornerbacks) come from the college ranks. Therefore , what a nifty fit Dennard Wilson would be, heading into his 4th NFL season as a passing game coordinator, having served in that role for two seasons with the Jets and last season with the Eagles.
If Dennard Wilson is on board, then perhaps the Cardinals have a stronger chance of signing James Bradberry or perhaps Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who many pundits feel was a breakthrough star of the Eagles’ defense (67 tackles, 6 interceptions, 8 pass breakups, 1 sack and 5 tackles for loss).
For those who believe the safety position is not a high need for the Cardinals, what the Cardinals desperately need is a “true centerfielder” to turn a team weakness into a strength. JG and the coaches will identify this need as they study the Cardinals’ game tapes.
The two-day free agent negotiating period begins a week for today.
If Bradberry’s and CGJ’s sticker tags are a little too steep for the Cardinals, Dennard Wilson could be a huge asset in identifying other talents at corner and safety in free agency and the draft.
Like JG, Wilson began his NFL coaching career as a pro scout (Bears 2008-2011).
Some of the Top UFA Secondary Prospects: (per NFL.com with their write-ups)
7 Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S · Age: 25
NFL general managers probably won’t value an undersized slot corner/safety this highly, but I do! Gardner-Johnson is a dog, nipping at the heels of opponents. His versatility makes him ideal for this pass-happy era, and he can still deliver big hits.
8 James Bradberry, CB · Age: 30
9 Jessie Bates, S · Age: 26
Bates, who played 2022 on the franchise tag, is likely out of Cincinnati after the Bengals drafted his presumed replacement, Daxton Hill. Bates has more value to a team that plays with a single high safety the majority of the time, although there are fewer of those teams every season.
17 Jamel Dean, CB · Age: 26
For most of last season, Dean was the Bucs’ best cornerback. He doesn’t have the physical skills of teammate Carlton Davis, but something similar to the contract Davis signed last year to stay in Tampa (three years, $45 million) could be in store for Dean as a young, experienced starter.
21 Jordan Poyer, S · Age: 32
Poyer is coming off one of his best seasons, and he’s been one of the cornerstones of the Sean McDermott era in Buffalo. He could be the Bills’ Devin McCourty, refusing to age as he directs the secondary.
22 Cameron Sutton, CB · Age: 28
Sutton is typical of the good young players who hit free agency: He steadily improved throughout his time with the Steelers, only looking like a future star in his sixth season. There just aren’t many other young starters available.
33 Byron Murphy, CB · Age: 25
Murphy proved with the Cardinals in 2022 he can play on the outside; his bona fides in the slot were already established. At a position with high variance, Murphy has been a steady starter since a rocky rookie year.
Vic, I think this exactly what Byron Murphy needs to do --- take a one year deal that is chock-full of performance incentives --- to then try to skyrocket his market value in 2024. He could thrive in JG's defense.— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) March 5, 2023
39 Jonathan Jones, CB · Age: 29
One of the best slot cornerbacks in the league for years, Jones was asked to play on the outside last year by the Patriots because Bill Belichick didn’t have options. Jones was fine there, but a move back to the inside makes sense as he gets older.
43 Jimmie Ward, CB · Age: 32
The longest-tenured 49er played any position the team asked with smarts and toughness. He’s the type of short-term quality veteran that often gets undervalued in free agency when he could upgrade so many teams.
47 Rock Ya-Sin, CB · Age: 27
A physical corner who excels at press man coverage, Ya-Sin profiles as a solid enough starter who has never quite reached his top potential. I like those kinds of signings in free agency, because the floor is high and the ceiling is higher.
48 Vonn Bell S · Age: 28
Everyone could use a tight end-stopper. Bell was one of the better values as a free-agent signings three years ago, when the Bengals brought him in on a deal for just $18 million, and he is still young enough to get another good contract.
79 John Johnson S · Age: 27
The last time Johnson was a free agent, he was ranked No. 35 on this list and received a huge contract (three years, $33.75 million) from the Browns. It didn’t pan out, but his former coaches in Los Angeles (either team!) should still want to work with a true center fielder.
81 Julian Love S · Age: 25
Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale got the best out of Love, using him all over the field in a variety of roles.
Top Draft Prospects: (per Mel Kiper’s most recent Big Board)
1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
2. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
4. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
5. Deonte Banks, Maryland
6. Cam Smith, South Carolina
7. Kelee Ringo, Georgia
8. Riley Moss, Iowa
9. Garrett Williams, Syracuse
10. Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (Fla.)
- Note: if the Cardinals draft a pass rusher in Round 1, as most pundits expect, the draft is so deep at CB that they could get premium value at CB with the #34 pick.
1. Brian Branch, Alabama
2. Jammie Robinson, Florida State
3. Sydney Brown, Illinois
4. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
5. Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
6. Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State
7. Jartavius Martin, Illinois
8. Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa
9. Christopher Smith, Georgia
10. Jordan Battle, Alabama
Brian Branch is a top-5 player in this class.— Cory (@realcorykinnan) March 3, 2023
Ed Kracz, the Eagles’ beat writer for Sports Illustrated, who was our special guest on last week’s Red Rain podcast, perfectly summed up Dennard Wilson’s situation and what his defection means for the Eagles.
Could another Eagles loss to their coaching staff be another gain for the Cardinals?
Here is Dennard Wilson speaking about his talent in Philly:
If you missed our interview with Ed Kracz, he is outstanding and his insights are well worth your attention:
Special guest Ed Kracz, Eagles' SI beat writer, provides excellent insights of JG, Nick Rallis and the Eagles' free agents who might be fits with JG in Arizona. https://t.co/0j24XWKmB1— Walter B J Mitchell (@WBJMItch) March 1, 2023
ROTB Questions of the Day:
- What kind of a UFA and 2023 NFL Draft plan for adding talent to the secondary would you like to see from the Cardinals?
- How excited would you be if Dennard Wilson joins the Cardinals’ coaching staff?