Reading the Defense: Eagles defense lacking talent

The Philadelphia Eagles defense is bad. Very bad. Like, arguably worst-in-the-league bad.

Through the first four games of the season, only the New York Giants have allowed more points than the Eagles. However, Philly has surrendered more yards than any other squad in the NFL. It doesn't help that the Eagles defense has been on the field for 298 plays -- tied with the Bills for most in the NFL.

Some of that is owed to an offense that attempts to play fast, which has led to more than a few pretty quick three-and-outs. Some of it is owed to new defensive coordinator Billy Davis and his switch to a 3-4 defense. Davis is taking the fall and preaching patience over the fact that things haven't worked out so far.

But Davis isn't fully to blame. Some of the fault lies with the departed regime of Andy Reid, who built a defense that is lacking in talent on the field. There's a reason IDP owners aren't flocking to Philadelphia's roster to find pieces. Being bad has something to do with it, but it's not the only reason -- after all, even the Jaguars have a Paul Posluszny.

Maybe it gets better once the Eagles get accustomed to this new defensive scheme. Then again, who will that player be? Trent Cole is switching to a new position after struggling through 2012. His fellow linebackers, Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin have yet to prove they can be impact players. The same can be said of Brandon Graham. And the secondary? Well, that's been a complete mess, allowing nine TD passes (second-most in the league) while snaring just two interceptions.

This week, the Eagles face the Giants -- whose defense is equally woeful and whose offense features more turnovers than a mom-and-pop bakery. If this can't get Philly's defense kickstarted, it might never happen this year.

It still doesn't mean you're starting anyone from this unit.

Pressure on young Cowboys

Just a few weeks ago, I praised Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church and suggested that Monte Kiffin's arrival could mean good things for that team's secondary. So far, that hasn't quite happened with the 'Boys giving up more than 300 yards per game through the air.

While Church has remained solid (he's the fourth-highest scoring DB), opponents have found a weakness in the Dallas defense by picking on linebacker Bruce Carter and cornerback Morris Claiborne. It's become enough of a problem that Claiborne has lost his starting spot to Orlando Scandrick for the time being.

The takeaway for IDP owners is (obviously) to stay away from Claiborne and Carter for now. Claiborne will be on the field to help defend three-WR sets, which means he could still see plenty of snaps against the Broncos this week. If anything, it reinforces the value of Church in the secondary as he'll likely be asked to help out the second-year cornerback in coverage. Then again, the way the Broncos have been throwing the football this year, everyone in the secondary might have a target on their back.

Four downs

» Clay Matthews was a limited participant in Packers practice Wednesday as he deals with a hamstring injury. It's a little worrisome when you consider Matthews had the bye week to get healthy and still seems uncertain for this week's game against the Lions. It would be a bit of a surprise if he isn't able to go Sunday, but it's worth monitoring as the week progresses.

» Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is preparing to make his 2013 debut this week against the Carolina Panthers after serving a four-game suspension. It comes not a moment too soon with the Cardinals lingering in the bottom half of the league in pass defense. Washington's ability to rush the passer -- in this case, the elusive Cam Newton -- is a much-needed asset. Look for Arizona to take the reins off Washington immediately. That's good news for IDP owners.

» Jo-Lonn Dunbar is back with the St. Louis Rams after serving a four-game suspension. The team had cut ties with the linebacker and re-signed him after the ban ended. With the Rams struggling to stop the run and the lowly Jaguars coming to the dome, Dunbar has a nice way to introduce himself back into the lineup ... as well as fantasy rosters.

» Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd made his practice debut earlier this week, but still isn't sure if he'll play this week against the Cleveland Browns. That's OK since IDP owners are probably better off waiting until Week 6 against an inconsistent Bengals passing game to give Byrd a look.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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