Either a NT or an OLB with the first pick in the draft. Name for me if you will a FS in the NFL right now that is dominant who does not have someone that plays in front of him that QBs are worried about? Either there is someone coming after them on ever play forcing them to make a bad throw, or a run stuffer who makes the offense one dimensional allowing the FS to play center field and be really aggressive going after the ball.
1.) I disagree with the notion that we need a "ballhawking FS" in order to have a strong defense. What we do need is a defense that makes teams one dimensional by shutting down the run, then comes after the QB hard. I would argue that Ed Reed is Ed Reed because of guys like Ray Lewis up front that do not allow an offense to get comfortable. Ed Reed disapears because there are bigger and more immediate problems to deal with in the front seven. The QB gets the ball to who he thinks is an open receiver, and BAM, Ed Reed comes out of nowhere and makes a play on the ball. The key to having a dominant Free Safety is the word "FREE." We need to free him up from having to come up and support the run, etc. After all what do you call a FS that is second on his team in tackles only behind your SS? Gibril Wilson.
If your 2 safeties lead the team in tackles, the problem is not your safeties. The problem is the 9 guys in front of the safeties that either completely missed, or were just grossly out of position to make the tackle. We see every tackle that Gibril missed and site that as a reason we sucked last year. Really? What about the guys that actually get paid to stop the run? Are they completely free of blame there?? Soliai sucked against the run. Porter sucked against the run. Akin Ayodele sucked against the run. Charlie Anderson sucked against the run. Why didn't we see them miss a tackle on some of these runs? Apparently they weren't even close. Yeah, well Gibril got beat in coverage. Why were the guys up front not in the QBs face, why did no one knock the ball down, how did it come down to Gibril having to make a play???
We did a lot to improve our defense last year by getting a guy that can actually make plays and put him at ILB, but that does not solve our bigger problem. We had a big problem at NT last year. The front office has said nothing but how they feel like Soliai can do the job, so you can bet that we are going to address NT in either round 1 or round 2(we will get a round 2 pick somehow), since there are no NTs available in FA. We cut JT so we need someone to fill the vacancy left by him also, unless the front office is planning some trickery there and have planned to bring JT back all along.... I still think we pick up an OLB in round 2, if not round 1.
How does getting a better FS fix the 2 biggest problems that we had last year? Our 2 biggest problems last year were stopping the run, and getting to the QB. We had a good number of sacks last year. But other than that we were not harrassing opposing QBs. There was not the constant pressure of a guy in his face. Part of that was scheme, but since we just got rid of both of our starting OLBs last year, we need to think about getting one at least. I do think we can get Cameron Wake more playing time and be fine on the WOLB.
Gibril was not the only guy to get beat deep last year. The rules in the NFL are structured for the WR, not the DB. When you make even a talented CB or even FS cover a WR or TE for an eternity, bad things are going to happen. We had no pass rush last year. Zero. QBs sat back and did what they get paid to do-- throw the ball around. We made it easy for them to pick us apart, because our philosophy was to wait for them to fire the gun, then try to catch the bullet with out teeth, instead of taking the gun away. We do not need to get a better bullet catcher, we need to figure out a way to get the gun away from the QB.
One thing I remember about the playoff game in 2008 where Ed Reed destroyed us is that there were a few throws where I was like ... what the heck? Did he just throw the ball right to Ed Reed? That bad throw was all because of the pressure up front. We had maybe one of those interceptions last year that I can recall. Everything else we got was hard fought for interceptions. We need to make teams make those kind of bad throws instead of having to fight hard for every interception we get.
2. I also think that we will be better off getting a vet back at FS anyway, since the FS is the QB of the secondary. There are a few guys that come to mind. We can either pick up OJ Atogwe after the draft(my first choice) or go after Darren Sharper with the hopes that he will mentor a guy like Chris Clemons or (insert your favorite round 3 or later FS).
We could also have Will Allen, convert to FS. So he has lost a step, let him sit back and play centerfield. His experience will more than make up for any deficiencies with speed and he will be there to keep the rookies from making a mistake in coverage. It is one thing to be fast, and something entirely different to play fast.
If we go get a FS in the first round, or even a later round FS, they are going to have to adjust to playing at the NFL level, and I do not think they are productive this year. They may be fast physically, but they will be out of position frequently while they learn to play at the NFL level and at NFL game speed. They were ballhawks in college, but the guys they were playing against were worried about their physics exams. I am not saying they will not be great, but it will take time, I think.
3. I also believe that a FS is the icing on the cake. We have to finish the cake first, before we put the icing on it. If we do not have solutions at the line of scrimmage fixing the problems in our secondary won't really matter. Are we just going to surrender 5-10 yards every play, and justify that with... "well its a passing league." We need to be able to defend the pass. The way that we need to do that is by getting the whole team involved, not just 4 guys in the secondary. That was our biggest problem last year. They were all alone back there and they had to pick up the slack for a sorry defense.
Name for me a defense that is dominant because their secondary is awesome. It all starts at the line of scrimmage. Dominant defenses are physical at the line of scrimmage, and they are constantly in the face of the QB. They force the QB to make dumb throws because he is running for his life. We can not continue to let the highest paid guy on the other team sit back and play catch with their receivers and think that having a good secondary is going to save us every single time. Yes, we may make some plays, but they will win the war because the rules favor the offense. What then?