Billy Davis, the ‘Predator’ And the 4-3 Under

We learned yesterday that Chip Kelly has pegged Cleveland Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis to be his defensive coordinator.

Hopefully, we’ll hear from Davis soon, but until then, it doesn’t hurt to discuss what type of scheme he might be bringing to Philadelphia.

There’s one article making the rounds in which Davis (then with the Arizona Cardinals) explained his scheme to Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly.

“Everybody puts us in that 3-4 category, but what we are is an ‘under front, a 4-3 ‘under’ defense,” Davis said. “The ‘under’ is almost a 3-4. As 3-4 [defenses] go, it’s not really what we do here.”

The guess here is that we’re going to be hearing the term “4-3 under” quite a bit in the coming weeks and months. It might even be the new Wide-9, who knows? But what exactly does Davis mean? Let’s take a deeper look into the hybrid front that is used by teams like the Seahawks and the Ravens.

Here is an All-22 shot from a Seahawks-Rams game last season. We’ll focus on the five defensive players at the line of scrimmage.

Let’s start with the nose tackle.

As Davis explained it, the nose tackle lines up between the center and the guard (the 1-technique) on the strong side. Pete Carroll offered the following description of what he wants out of the nose tackle.

“At Nose Tackle you have to find a player who likes to mix it up,” he said, per “We want a big guy in there who likes to get down and dirty. He is going to get doubled a lot on the run and pass and is going to get down blocked a lot. He has to be a tough player. This guy can be a short and stubby type of player.”

The Eagles very well could add a nose tackle in the draft or free agency. The options on the roster would be Mike Patterson or Antonio Dixon.

Part of the nose tackle’s responsibility is to occupy the center. If he does that, the other defensive tackle (lined up at the 3-technique between the guard and tackle) should get a one-on-one opportunity, in this case against the right guard.

“The 3-technique player should be your premier interior pass rusher,” Carroll said. “He is going to get a lot of one on one blocks as it is hard to double team him because of where he lines up.”

If you’re referring to this front as a 3-4, the player described by Carroll is considered a defensive end. If you’re talking about a 4-3, he’s a defensive tackle. Either way, this sounds like it could be a good fit for Fletcher Cox.

From the Davis article referenced above:

But in the 4-3 ‘under’ front, like the Cardinals use as their base defense which looks similar to the 3-4 to the naked eye, the biggest difference is in the outside linebackers. The strong-side linebacker is still outside the tight end. But the other outside guy – the Cardinals call this player their “Predator” – is almost always rushing the passer, although the Cards will occasionally drop him into covers to mix things up.

Here’s another look at the All-22 shot, highlighting the two players he’s talking about.

One linebacker (to your right) is lined up across the tight end. This would be your typical outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. You need a player who’s capable of rushing the passer or dropping back into coverage. Chike Okeafor filled this role for the Cardinals in 2008. According to Pro Football Focus, he rushed the QB about 70 percent of the time and dropped back about 30 percent on passing downs.

Perhaps someone like Brandon Graham or Vinny Curry could fill that role for the Eagles, although projecting their coverage skills is a complete guess at this point.

And then there’s the pass-rush specialist on the other side. This is the player Davis referred to as the “Predator.” For the Cardinals, that spot was occupied by Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy. Per PFF, Berry rushed the passer 94 percent of the time and dropped back just 6 percent. For LaBoy, the exact same percentages applied.

As for the Eagles, Graham or Trent Cole (even though he had a down year in 2012) would seem to fit the bill. Or perhaps a player who’s not currently on the roster. Remember, ideally, the guard is blocking the defensive tackle. And this is the side without the tight end, meaning there’s not a lot of help for the tackle to block the pass-rusher.

Carroll refers to this player as the LEO:

“The best pass rusher on the team is usually the defensive end to the open side of the field. That puts him on the quarterback’s blind side and makes him a C gap player in this defense. We often align him wider than this in order to give him a better angle of attack and allow him to play in space.”

“(He) has to be one of your best football players. Size does not matter as much. We want an athletic player who can move around.”

While Chris Clemons has his hand on the ground in the image above, this player could just as easily be in a two-point stance, which would create the appearance of a 3-4.

Meanwhile, the other defensive end (to the strong side) won’t get as many advantageous pass-rushing opportunities and needs to be able to play the run well. Cullen Jenkins? Cedric Thornton?

And finally, the other two linebackers have defined roles. The middle linebacker may have to get away from the guard on the strong side (in this case, the LG). Davis referred to him as a “thumper.” DeMeco Ryans, coming off a very strong season, would likely be the primary option.

The scheme would likely benefit second-year player Mychal Kendricks. Karlos Dansby played weak-side LB for Davis in Arizona.

The way the defense is set up, he has a nice protective shield to keep potential blockers at bay. “What we’ve done with Karlos is put him behind a three-technique, so basically – we call these anchor points – he’s got a wall in front of him,” Davis said. “So he can run and use his athleticism. The center can’t get him because the nose is on him. The guard can’t get him because the end is on him. And the tackle can’t get him because the predator is on him. So this is your athlete that can run, go cover ground and make plays.”

If you’re wondering about blitzing, Davis’ defense liked to send one extra defender. They rushed five 29.9 percent of the time in 2010, sixth-most in the league, according to Football Outsiders. They rushed three just 4 percent of the time (24th).

In 2009, Arizona rushed five 33.8 percent of the time (third) and three 5.6 percent (16th).

So those are some concepts and roles to keep in mind. Davis will meet with Kelly to determine what kind of defense they want to employ and which pieces fit. We should get some pretty good clues of what they’re thinking in the coming months as the roster is shaped.

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  • I feel like one of our starting OLB’s are not on the roster yet.

    • Whit

      I felt that way all year

    • Nor is that menacing nose tackle and safety. Fletcher Cox I expect to become unblockable in one on one situations lining up next to a menacing, nasty nose tackle.

  • Alistair Middlemiss

    We will need to add an NT (decent FA crop actually) and the ‘SAM’ OLB….. of which there is nothing quality in FA for this system so will pretty much be forced to look at in the draft.

    • theycallmerob

      (fingers crossed), but this draft seems deep regarding OLB’s

      • nicksaenz1

        I can envision a trade of Trent Cole happening. It would make me sad, but, he really seems to be the odd man out in this defensive alignment. Obviously we’ll have to wait and see, but it seems to me that Graham would do just fine in the DE/OLB role which predominantly rushes the passer, and Kendricks on the opposite side mixing some coverage, and then filling in a ILB like Ellerbe. Just a thought.

        • aub32

          I have to disagree. I think Kendricks remains your ILB as the athletic playmaker. Kelly doesn’t believe in time of possession so you’re going to need quality depth. Cole and Graham can split the predator role and then we can acquire an OLB in the draft or FA.

    • David

      OLB to consider would be Kruger and Spencer, Spencer will walk with the 4-3 in Dallas and Kruger might be a cap casualty with the Ravens havingto sign Ellerby with Ray leaving

    • Actually, I think Brandon Graham’s a pretty great fit for the SAM OLB spot. It’s the weakside “predator” or “LEO” role they have yet to fill. Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones at #4 or a guy like Sam Montgomery in Round 2 would be just fine.

  • Bdawk20

    You know, I was kind of like “WTF” on this hire, but then started looking at all “great” defensive coordinators. What you will find is that those defensive coordinators are not always great, they have some really bad years depending the personnel. When you combine a good coach with good personnel, you get a good defense. (Most recent/relevant case in point is Steve Spagnuolo in NY, he went to New Orleans and it did not work out. Jim Johnson was in the bottom 1/2 of the league in Indy, but we all know how he was in Philly, Gus Bradley is another example). So, I am not going to put too much focus into Davis’ past, but rather focus on what we do personnel wise over the next 2 seasons before making any judgement call.

    • B-West

      Good call on the two seasons… If we get early returns that are better than expected, that’s great. But this is without a doubt a rebuild.

  • BostonianGuest

    God damn… this is a good article. Good job.

    • Sheil, you’re incredible. You’ve taken the starch out of Kelly’s hiring preferences. Davis and Shurmur appear to be well qualified given a review of their qualifications.

    • grn_mtn_phan

      Agree 100%! The 4-3 under has always vexed me in terms of player assignments. This is the first article that breaks it down in wonderfully. Simple assignment terms. I’m a 30 year fan and no dummy lol. But every other attempt I’ve read to break this formation down made things WAY more complex than was necessary. It sounds to me like the perfect scheme to implement wit our likely roster. I’m excited about it now

  • JofreyRice

    Great breakdown Sheil. This is one of the best explanations of the 4-3 Under I’ve seen. I really like this defense, and was bummed that Bradley didn’t come here to install it. I didn’t realize Davis ran this in Arizona. In a way, the 4-3 Under is a front that has both 1-Gap and 2 Gap elements simultaneously, putting your best passrushers, the 3 tech, and the Leo, in 1 on 1 matchups. I like Graham for the Leo role.

    Not sure we have a SLB as good as KJ Wright, though. That SLB really needs to be a very fluid cover guy, with size. Projecting Curry, Graham or Cole seems less likely. I think we’ll have to add someone in the draft. I don’t know what you do with all these other DE’s. Maybe you put Cole in the Red Bryant 5 Tech role, to defend the run? That might be asking too much, because of his lack of bulk.

    Because of the extra guy at the line of scrimmage, and the vision he gets on the QB in the backfield, I think this is a better defense to defend the zone-read with. I liked what Baltimore did in just assuming Kaepernick had the ball and attacking him, and forcing him to give it up to Gore. It was a much better strategy than what Atlanta did in just standing at the LOS, containing him.

    What will be interesting will be the coverage philosophy they run behind it. Seattle does it with incredibly physical, tall corners and Chancellor, who is almost a SS/OLB hybrid. Earl Thomas covers a lot of ground, and has a lot of responsibility deep. We def. don’t have a player of that caliber in the secondary, but if they truly want to make this D work, they’ll try and get one (Vaccaro/Cyprien/Swearinger/Rambo).

    • MAC

      One of the things I took away from super bowl was exactly what you mentioned, about Ravens just assuming Kaepernick had the ball. I thought that really slowed down the zone read bc teams do not want there QB hit that often and will tend to stop running it if hit him each time try to run it. I feel as though in NFL zone read will become more of a part of playbook than a heavy part of offense. Teams simply put can’t put QB in harms way that often or will be without QB a lot. This is one reason CK hiring scares me. I know he uses many other concepts and this is not focus of what CK is known to do, but I think the fact he likes to use QB to gain a #’s advantage can be dangerous in NFL. Will see but definitely like the 4-3 under defense.

      • theycallmerob

        I see your point, but look at last year’s line for Oregon’s QB1, Mariota:


        Avg/GMariota, Marcus

        that is not a QB who is running a lot, or taking many hits. Also, a 163.2 eff. rating as a passer, 6 INT in 336 attempts (1 every 56 pass attempts), and a 68.5% completion percentage. And that’s with a QB who has great running ability. Kelly’s #’s game is far from a read-option.
        For a more Foles-like QB, look at the time he spent at New Hampshire with his QB Ricky Santos (who was all-american).

    • Mitchell

      I’m pretty big on McDonald myself as we’ll as cyprien. The knock on him was he didn’t have top end speed but I read he ran a 4.6 flat. What is considered fast for a safety? I can see cyprien running a 4.5 in the combine.

  • Corry

    Articles like this is why I come back here and hit refresh over and over again. Good stuff Sheil!

    I don’t like the hire, and said as much on a different article (but that post devolved into name calling and was deleted I think). I will say that reading the article made me feel a bit better about whether or not we have the personnel to make a quick turn around on the defense. Seems we have adequate pieces in place except for SAM.

    I also noticed in the image above that the SS (#31, Chancellor I think?) is down in the box. Is it typical for them to play 8 men in the box? We already needed to upgrade safety, but if that’s the typical look, I think we’ll be looking at a bigger safety (210 range) to play in the box regularly.

    • JofreyRice

      I know your question was directed at Sheil, but yeah, Chancellor plays in the box a lot.

      If they decide to run coverage like Seattle does, though, it means that they might have a need for positions filled out by guys that other defenses see as “tweeners”; for instance, Chancellor was advised to switch to OLB during the draft process. It’s kind of like when the 3-4 defenses came into vogue, and teams running it could grab guys that were “too small” to play DE and stick them at rush linebacker. You can end up with some gems that just didn’t “fit” on other Defenses.

      South Carolina has a really interesting player that was their SPUR (SS/OLB) player named DeVonte Holloman. He worked out and played as a LB at the Senior Bowl, and has been projected to OLB, but definitely has some coverage capability. Not as tall as either KJ Wright or Chancellor, but can do a multitude of things at a pretty high level.

      • Corry

        I’m just happy to get an answer. Thanks for the explanation!

      • nicksaenz1

        Worst case scenario, Coleman, as bad as he was in the last scheme, might not be a bad fit there. Chancellor was a hitter, and if the reads get simplified and he doesn’t have to worry about blowing bracket coverage with Nnamdi all the time and get yelled at for it, it seems as if there is at least some potential there.

      • Joe Jones

        Just went to the South Carolina football website and watched a profile on Holloman. Intriguing player. Maybe he can be our Chancellor or Adrian Wilson. Really helps if the other safety has great range as a bigger guy like this needs to play closer to the LOS. And with the emergence of the receiving tight end(Graham, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Davis) it’d be great to have someone with the size of a LB but the ability to cover like a safety.
        Andy went a little too far with the “fastball” concept. I hope Chip appreciates and covets bigger players. Physicality still matters, especially on defense. Who wants a finesse defense? Thats how you end up 4-12.

  • JettMartinez

    While there are some bloggers who do good work, this is the only major outlet for real analysis of the Eagles, and not just windblown opinions. Great breakdown, Sheil.

    • phillychuck

      Try Tommy Lawlor on Iggles Blitz–also good, balanced analysis from a guy who knows a 4-3 under from a 3-4.

  • The Guru

    This might be the best piece since this site started. The philosophy is easy to understand and this is the Steel Curtain compared to the Wide 9.

    Now all we need to do is replace 7 guys on the defense. Only Cox, Ryans, Graham, and Kendricks are fits to play in this defense. I assume they draft Star Lotulelei making this change to this defense and noting the importance of the nose tackle.

    • jabostick

      The good news is that those 4 represent a good start at some key spots. If this new scheme makes our corners a little less reliant on run support, DRC looks a lot better. NT is the big key, I guess, but I think the personnel could get overhauled quickly enough.

      • The Guru

        Not having your DEs lined up at the numbers will certainly make the corners less reliant on run support. Although, I’m not sure I want DRC back. I’d rather take a less talented guy who plays hard every play.

        • Bob A

          Remember though, DRC became a pro bowl player under Davis, so he must be the guy that has the “right button” in terms of getting him to play hard. I would agree we don’t need any part of ‘DRC 2012’, but he might play for this guy.

          • The Guru

            Going to invest an awful lot in a guy who “might” show up and play. I’d rather bring in new blood like Brent Grimes than be stuck with DRC 3 more years.

          • Bdawk20

            If you want a less talented guy who plays hard every play, we can always move Kurt Coleman to CB.

          • The Guru

            Haha now that’s just crazy talk!

          • Bdawk20

            Only the Andy Reid Eagles would put a special team lifer as a starting safety for two years…

          • DRC 2011 or 2012.

          • GoBirds1

            Falling in love with potential will always leave you disappointed. If 2012 is what DRC can muster up in a contract year, what do think his effort will be after you give him a monster contract. My only hope with CK is that he builds a team with football players, not so called talented part-time primadonnas. We have a year to develop young players that want to be complete players and tackle and hit on every play. We know what you get in DRC, and honestly, it is not much.

        • Mitchell

          Bill Davis had him playing well in arizona. Then again he could just be a putts

      • UKEagle99

        The only thing that can make DRC look better is DRC. CK/Davis need to get his head in the game for the whole game because I don’t think we can cut both Nnamdi & him free…

        • Damien

          DRC is a FA.

    • theycallmerob

      Curry might be able to play one of those spots, a lot of teams had him pegged as a 3-4 OLB coming out of last year’s draft

    • aub32

      I fail to see how Jenkins and Thorton don’t fit this system as the strong side DE. I also think either Graham, Curry or Cole could definitely fit the predator role. There is a definite need to find a NT and an OLB that can rush as well as cover, and that I can agree.

      • The Guru

        Again, what is the love affair with Thornton? This guy isn’t an NFL player! Jenkins is 32 and his career is done.

        • aub32

          It’s no love affair. He has shown to be a decent player, and I think he and Jenkins can man the strong side DE spot in 2013 with some success. Again, I am only talking about needs for 2013, and I remind you that we can’t have pro bowlers at every position. You need players that can get the do their job. The combination of Jenkins and Thorton is more than serviceable. Let Cox, Kendricks, and maybe Cole or Graham be the playmakers.

          • The Guru

            It is amazing how two people watch the same games and see entirely different things. Cedric Thornton wouldn’t make 90% of other teams rosters. Jenkins might have one year left (maybe)…but both these players stink.

          • aub32

            I am only arguing on Jenkins behalf for one year, so where is your problem? I would love to hear your master plan that would net us with future HOFs at every position.

            This team has holes. They can’t all be addressed. If you have two players who can fit the scheme and are serviceable, that’s not a bad thing. Jenkins and Thorton can play in this scheme. Jenkins will most likely be out next year, at which point in time we all will know exactly what we have in Thorton as a 3-4 DE. At that point we can upgrade. However, this offseason we don’t even have serviceable Safeties or anyone to fit the NT or SOLB role.

            Again, I am not saying Thorton is a star. I am saying he can play in this scheme and not be a liability.

          • The Guru

            Never once did I say we need 11 HOFs on this defense so you can stop using that in your defense. If you want to keep Jenkins at a stop gap, that’s fine. I think he’s shot personally (and his play last season leans in favor of me).

            Cedric Thorton is an absolute joke. If they can’t do better than Cedric Thorton, shame on them. And you should really be embarrassed for bringing his name up in any sort of future plans. Come on man….you’re better than that.

  • Mitchell

    Excited to see what Cox can do in this system. Him getting a lot of one on ones should be a scary thought to the offense. I also don’t think we have the SOLB for this system. Who is out there either in the draft or free agency? What kind of cover do the corners play in this system primarily>

    • JofreyRice

      as good as Seattle’s defense is, they would KILL to have a guy like Fletch collapsing the pocket from the 3 tech. It’s conceivable that the Eagles have better players at the two passrush positions than the Seahawks do.

      • GoBirds1

        Thats great, besides those two players we have nothing! Expect a lot of growing pains.

  • T

    Sheil, have the Eagles contacted you for a coaching position yet?

  • silvio

    Sounds disturbingly similar to the wide-9 gimmick …
    But why all this hype on our base-alignment when we’ll be 70% of the time in nickel?
    Bottom line: Graham, Cole and Curry are unfit to play SDE (too small and not strong enough vs the run) or SLB (unable to run after TE and RB in coverage) in this alignment.

    • LostInChiTown

      I agree – lining up a pass rush specialist wider than normal… sounds like the wide nine to me.

      i disagree on Cole at SDE. PFF has ranked him as one of the best run defending DE’s over the better part of his career – however, I don’t see him as someone able to cover well.

      • GoBirds1

        Over his career! that is the point. He is way past his prime and on the decline

        • LostInChiTown

          If anything, I would expect his pass rushing to be more affected by age, and not his run defense. Explosiveness, speed, flexibility – those are needed for pass rushing. Strength, technique to shed blockers, desire – I think those are more needed for run defense and will last longer.

    • D-von

      Not Really. This scheme is meant to protect the wlb. If you look at the pic you can see how the blocking is going to devolop. The C takes the NT, RG takes MLB, RT takes SDE and the FB takes on the LEO/Predator. But the WLB is left unblock to attack the RB in the running lanes. While this scheme is is actually protecting on of the LBs to make a play, the wide 9 left all the lbs unprotected

  • lib4

    Sheil you are the man ..thank you!

  • Absecon

    Great job, Sheil! I’m liking this approach. Hopefully Davis will go this route…

  • ClydeSide

    Warren Sapp is going to the Hall of Fame as a 3 technique UNDER TACKLE. Let’s hope that Fletcher Cox does the same thing.

  • jabostick

    Who knows if Davis will be any good but I’m ready for a change in scheme on defense and I got excited reading this article.

  • eagle fan dwn south

    I might find a way to like this hire also I just dnt trust a browns coach but now I really think we have to get a stud pass rusher maybe jarvis jones and then grab matt elam in the second and let cole and graham battle it out for the other side but fletch only going to gd if we have a stud olb beside(J.Smith and A.Smith)him

  • eagles2zc

    I see Jenkins as more of an interior pass rusher. He hasn’t played the run well thus far. Thornton, on the other hand, can be a good fit as the strong side DE. He can anchor against the run as well as provide some pass rush. Great stuff

    • The Guru

      I soooo don’t get this love affair with Cedric Thornton. He is not an NFL player.

      • eagles2zc

        Because Washbum didn’t really develop him. Just look at it as a discussion on where the current pieces would fit on the new scheme

        • The Guru

          He was undrafted for a reason. If he’s in your long terms plan, they have much bigger issues than personnel.

          • ACViking

            Vikings’ HOF DT John Randle from Texas A & I. Undrafted.

            Not saying Thornton’s a HOFer. But small school guys don’t get drafted much.

          • The Guru

            Of course there are exceptions, and for every Randle, I can name 1000 guys who didn’t make it, but the chances that Cedric Thornton is the next John Randle is 0%.

          • eagles2zc

            How very negadelphia of you

          • The Guru

            Just trying to educate you….keep drinking the kool aid

          • eagles2zc

            You mean “educate.” Keep being mad at life

          • The Guru

            Keep being stupid in life.

          • eagles2zc

            I sure am glad I lack your “education”

      • 1972

        hunt and thorton are preseason players.. they make zero impact in the real games.I hate andy reid

        • The Guru

          Thank you. Guys like Thornton and Hunt on the roster are part of the problem….not part of the solution.

  • PaoliBulldog

    My first thought on reading the description of the three-technique tackle was – as Sheil said in the subsequent paragraph – that Fletcher Cox would be a monster in this scheme.

    And Graham’s QB pressure numbers last season were outstanding. He’s going to enjoy being the predator.

    LEO looks like a good fit for Kendricks since the position does not require great size. Good speed as an edge rusher, and he’s shown talent in coverage.

    What are the odds of Joeckel or Lotuleilei being available at #4? Either one would fill a need.

    Great article. I’m curious how many safety/corner blitzes Davis used with this scheme.

  • Bob A

    Great job with the article , Sheil. Just goes to prove when a writer challenges the readers with actual information, rather than baseless meandering about personalities like most journalists, they get better feedback.All 22 has always been top drawer writing. I wonder how many “Gus bus” folks panned hiring Davis yesterday, and then had the chance to read this?

    • FMWarner

      Well, this isn’t to comment on Gus’ coaching ability at all, but the “Gus Bus” was launched primarily on the basis of a video clip where he screams at people. I guarantee that most of the people on the Gus Bus couldn’t give you even a rudimentary explanation of his defensive philosophy. People just love them some screaming.

      • Bob A

        Right, but that’s my whole point. If they look deeper than screaming at them, they would see that Gus and Billy mostly coach the same things, though nobody wanted Billy and everybody wanted Gus. I think they very smartly crafted the coaching staffs with all NFL guys with lots of experience being the coordinators, and hired the position coaches from college ranks. I’ll be interested to see what they all have to say on Monday.

  • 1972

    Great article.. goodbye trent cole. thanks for the service up until 2012 where u sucked!
    hello star lou or jarvis jones.Davis blitzes alot so hopefully we have some players on the back end so we can get some turnovers this year.i cant wait for the season to start

    • aub32

      Cole isn’t going anywhere this year due to his contract. Also, he seems like a decent fit in the predator role.

      • 1972

        you love trent cole and mike vick lol even if the production says they re not the players they once were.

      • The Guru

        Does anyone agree with any of your points?? Ever?

        • Rich

          That’s pretty funny coming from Matt “downvote” Jacobs

          • The Guru

            Whatever you say Rich…or shall I call you Dick

        • aub32

          I’m fairly certain you’re the only one who goes around disliking or disagreeing with every comment I make. Other than that I do pretty well. I don’t even get your gripe on this post. It costs more to cut Cole than keep him. It should be a non argument that he will be on this team in 2013. If he’s on this team, then clearly he will be tried in the predator role. I think you just go looking for things to be down on.

          • The Guru

            That role would better fit a guy who could actually get to the QB. Or you still believing guys like Vick, Jenkins etc. are going to produce circa 2010?

          • aub32

            What’s your obsession with Vick this is about Cole, and yes I think Cole can still create pressure, especially if he’s facing one on one blocking. You like to look at trends and how well players have performed in the past. Prior to this year Cole has had double digit sacks the last 4 seasons. So I would think that last year is the aberration. Now if your argument is that he will wear down by the end of the season, that is why I mention elsewhere having him split time with either Graham or Curry.

          • The Guru

            You’re missing my point. Every argument you make is about how guys over 30 yrs old are going to product like they did when they were 26-27. Guys in their 30’s don’t get better. They decline and in most cases decline severely. Why do you think the eagles released anyone over 30 in their playoff run? My point is you can’t count on these guys….and it’s naive to think they’re going to bounce back.

          • aub32

            I never said they will perform like in their prime. In Cole’s case he’s going to be on the team regardless due to contract. If he’s on the team, it only makes sense to put him at the predator. I feel much better with him there, in this scheme, than I would as him being a traditional 2 pt 3-4 OLB. I also, mentioned he should split time with Graham or Curry, so clearly I am not saying he’s going to be an all pro. I do think he will have a better year than this year since I don’t expect so much locker room turmoil.

            I do think Jenkins can go one more year. Moving back to a 3-4 will help, and next year we can address that position.

            I won’t argue on Vick. I’ve said all I can, and I don’t think you can look at him objectively. You seem to blame everything on him, and bring him up as the problem even when he was never mentioned in the discussion.

            We have one of the youngest teams in the league. We will most likely get even younger after this draft and FA period. I don’t know how much younger you want to be. Having a hand full of veterans is not always a bad thing. Ray Lewis was a sub par LB for before getting hurt. However, he brought leadership to the team. Vick, Jenkins, and Cole combined are not Ray Lewis, but they are looked up to by the younger guys, and their willingness to work hard will have an impression on a very young group of guys.

          • The Guru

            Now you’re contradicting yourself. You just said Coles year was an aberration. Now you say he won’t play like him prime when he had double digit sacks?

            You think Vick, Cole and Jenkins are leaders? I say those three are the biggest locker room problems and some of the biggest reasons they’re at 4-12.

            Now you’re boring me with this. I have fact and you’re placing you’re faith in “hope”. I’d be happy to debate, but debating someone without rationale or logic who bases every opinion on hope is spinning my wheels.

          • BrickSquadMonopoly

            Vick is a born leader never once was he a locker room problem in philly he only ever wanted to win. Cole and Jenkins are another story

  • NJSandman25

    If the DT, NT & DE rush 100% of the time, the predator rushes 95% of the time and the strong side OLB rushes about 70% of the time, doesn’t that mean they are rushing five most of the time? How did Davis’ D’s only rush five about 30% of the time? The percentages don’t add up.

    • nicksaenz1

      Some packages call for the rare DT/DE in coverage just to mix it up (didn’t say 100% in the article) or one could rush 6 or 7 involving other players. Just trying to make the numbers work. I get your point.

      • NJSandman25

        Yeah, I tweeted Sheil and he said the same. I didn’t know that rushing five meant exactly five. I assumed five or more rushers. My misunderstanding. Yes, 100% was an oversimplification of the DT/NT/DE. Even BJ Raji drops into coverage sometimes!

        • nicksaenz1

          Show me whatcha got whatcha got Raji.

    • phillychuck

      The numbers don’t reflect 100% of all plays, just 100% of the plays they were on the field for. When they went 4/2/5 the NT went off the field, so all the DE’s, plus the remaining tackle and the OLB predator could rush and only send 4. And in the college ranks today they play quite a bit of nickel coverage. And some dime, too, that complicates the numbers.

  • hillbillybirdsfan

    I’ve seen some writing off Ryans if we move to a 3-4, but I’d like to see him try it when he’s not coming back from a major injury. My uninformed opinion is that he would still be an asset.

    • It’s also important to keep in mind that when Houston transitioned to the 3-4, they moved Ryans to weakside OLB, rather than keeping him inside, so his play in Houston in a 3-4 isn’t really relevant to what Coach Davis is going to be asking him to do.

  • thefadd

    there’s been no doubt in my mind that this defensive concept has a long future in the nfl and that Chip Kelly was looking for a guy to bring it here just confirms that for me. feel much better about Davis (and philly personnel) now. the under naturally dictates to the offense and defines every position on defense (aside from corner) along a gradient that plays to each players strength and his role in checking the offense.

  • AlaskaFan

    Excellent article, thank you Sheil.

  • metaReign

    Cool….makes me wonder how they will continually run the rotation, especially the NT, “Predator” and “LEO”?

    Eagles had 2 sets in the 4-3 rotation that gave offenses fits. My guess is they will look from within and without to find match up complementing one another in the hybrid 4-3 (4-3 under, hint of the 3-4). That could mean big tall players with a bit of speed to blitz and quickness to fight/shed off blocks.

    Keeping the QBs in the pocket, and stopping the run from advancing, where the Eagles had a bit of some problem, they weren’t that bad. I think the 4-3 under could actually be an upgrade, if they have players that can get back into coverage, in case of the pass-slant plays that’s one of the hardest to defend on power blitzes, as long as they make it 3 and out.

    Kelly also knows what he wants his defense to be and the type of players he needs to accomplish the task.

    • GoBirds1

      Please remind me, what offenses did the Eagles defense cause to have fits? All I remember is getting blown out game after game.

      • metaReign

        DL weren’t the problem, it’s the defensive backs that blown the coverages. As far as DL is concerned, they did their best but they had an experimental DC that couldn’t build them up with some of the DBs. And another DC that tried some old-school on with the DBs.
        Out of the 4 defensive units, the DL did their job the best they could, albeit they didn’t give DBs the chance to stand on the field with their arms down their sides.

        Should the DC applys the 4-3 under, that’ll help the DL with 4 LBs, 2 ILB and 2 OLB, to blitz the play with the ILBs covering receivers doing the underneath routes. And hopefully stunt the QB from throwing long passes or a RB from gaining any yards. I hope this DC is good enough, since he doesn’t have a good track record, because he just might be let go by the end of this season. As Kelly said, if he has to look over his shoulders, then he knows he’s made a mistake.

        In answer to your question, Castillo was released due to blown consecutive 4th quarters. That’s when it got terribly worst. The DL kept fighting through the rest of the season.

        Kelly’s defense, not Davis’s, will turn the defensive unit into a protective shield against the offenses. Kelly chooses the personnel he needs for each units on the defense, his assistants will build them up. Davis will collaborate with Kelly to build the schemes, all he has to do is teach the personnel and watch them unfold, give technical sound advice from the films, not on the field. Kelly wants to make sure that this hire isn’t a mistake, especially in his first year as a Pro HC.

        • GoBirds1

          Are you drunk, or are you always this incoherent in your thoughts? DL struggled all year to pressure the QB, get sacks, make plays and create TOs. What DL where you looking at and what player had a good season? As a team, they were 25th in the league in sacks. 25 out of 32 in not good.

  • Justin

    The Seahawks are stacking the box in these pictures with Kam Chancellor as the 8th player. Who will do that for the Eagles? Coleman!?! Also, what are the Eagles going to do when Eli checks out of the run and hits Victor Cruz out of the slot?

    It would be neat to see shots of the base defense. Not with Kam walked up.

    • nicksaenz1

      While Coleman’s strength isn’t diagnosing a D, if he’s used more in that 8th man in the box type role, he could be useful… I’m not hopeful, but there’s only one way to go after the season he had last year.

      • GoBirds1

        You are kidding. He gets trucked every tiime he tries to make a tackle except for when he whiffs. BTW, he is not a good STer either. Cut out the dead wood. You are right, there is only one way to go for Coleman, it is called the Soul! Another thing, for a guy that get gets embarrassed week in and week out, he always has something to say to the press, clearly delusional.

        • nicksaenz1

          Like I said, not hopeful. Guy hasn’t been good for the last two years, but neither have any of our safeties, and since it’s nearly impossible to completely turn over everything in the secondary given the needs elsewhere, I was just trying to make a case. In all likelihood, you’re right.

    • Daniel

      Rather see Colt there. He showed some nice instincts to blow up runs at the end of the season.

  • Diablo Castillo

    We never should have gotten rid of Castillo. He was actually pretty good. No one was going to have a dominant D with the guys the eagles have on the roster. As soon as he became pretty good, cut ties with him after waiting threw his growing pains for a full season… it’s like the Winston Justice deal. Keep him on the roster forever despite being awful, then once he turns into a pretty good player, see you later! I don’t understand this team sometimes.

  • PaoliBulldog

    This blog so good that I’m beginning to worry that “Sheil Kapadia” and Manti Te’o’s girlfriend are the same person.

  • ICDogg

    I think people are treating this like it’s some new exotic change we’re making to the defense. I don’t think it is. I think it’s a minor variation of what we’ve seen in the 4-3 before. You can use the same front 7 (not that I would want to) and call them different positions, but they’re every bit as effective (or ineffective) as they were before. Your LDE is Jenkins or maybe Graham, your NT is Patterson or Landri, your RDE is Cox, your ROLB is Cole or maybe Curry, your ILBs are Kendricks and Ryans, and your LOLB is whoever is suitable to play SAM, which we haven’t had lately. Not really a lot different, the biggest changes are to the position titles.

    Basically the team’s most urgent needs on defense are no different than they were before: secondary, and a strong side linebacker.

    This is not to say that I wouldn’t love to add Star Lotuleilei if he is sitting there at #4, but that it is less urgent than some other needs to get a nose tackle. We have 1-gap tackles that can play some 2-gap in occasional situations, which is what the defense calls for.

    And nothing that I said should be interpreted to mean that I am totally happy with the other guys in the front seven, or that we shouldn’t be looking to improve there. All I’m saying is that it’s not the highest priority.

  • jdimagg55

    Great article. Haven’t read something this insightful by a philadelphia sportswriter ever.

  • collije

    Sheil, another excellent job. Head of class stuff.

  • Mac

    Very impressed with this article. Thank you so much, you took some extremely complicated NFL jargon and broke it down perfect.y. Great job!

  • JR

    Good article and breakdown, and also nice change to read good tactical discussion in the comments instead of the usual willy waving.

  • Derek C.

    But what if the TE is lined up on the weakside? does the 4-3 under flip? will the LEO rush from the strongside at that point?

  • Tony

    But in this front.. aren’t all the best pass rushers on the left side? Generally good pass rushers arent as good run stoppers.. So doesn’t that leave one side weak against the run.. or the other side soft against the pass?

  • Ian

    That blitz statistic doesn’t add up to the other numbers you posted. If you have a NT, and 2 other DT/DE that are coming presumably 98+% of the time, a ‘predator’ that rushes 94% of the time and an OLB that rushes 70% of the time, that would mean they blitzed well over 30% of the time. At the very least that would be a blitz percentage of 68%. You would have to factor in plays where multiple guys dropped back, which would raise the blitz percentage. You would also have to account for other linebackers, corners, and safeties blizting. So you would be talking about a team that blitzes somewhere around 75% of the time. I think your numbers are either wrong or maybe you labeled the players roles incorrectly. Either that or Billy Davis drops his NT back 50% of his snaps.

  • Ian

    Made a typo in what I posted. The lowest the blitz% it could be based on those numbers is 58%. Factor in other players blitzing and you are blitzing 65% of the time.