The Eagles’ defense tried its new 3-4 scheme on for size Friday evening, and learned that it’s not yet ready for prime time. That was evident on the first play from scrimmage — a 62-yard run up the gut from New England’s Stevan Ridley.
On the play, Fletcher Cox was steamrolled by Nate Solder and found himself watching the play unfold from his back. DeMeco Ryans over-pursued and was sealed off by Logan Mankins, giving Ridley a gigantic hole to scamper through. Nate Allen, the last line of defense between the Patriots and a big play, took a bad angle. Ridley was off to the races.
When the dust settled, the Patriots had racked up 248 yards on the ground on 31 rushes (8 yards/carry).
“We went in there knowing that whatever it was, however we played defensively was going to be a true indicator of where we are today at this point in time,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis. ” We would have hoped that it would look better than it looked. I was hoping to be further along at this point, but the film is the truth. The game tells you everything you need to know about where we are.”
Where they are is in the middle of a major transition. Several members of this defense, drafted to play in the 4-3, are learning a new scheme on the fly. And while they have been showing signs of progress in a more controlled setting, things changed on game day.
“Our practices are looking pretty solid and the techniques used. When the speed and the bright lights come on, sometimes we take a step back, and I believe that’s what happened the other night,” said Davis. “It’s about the guys being able to execute the defense they’re trying. And they’ve been practicing it well. In the game, they reverted back a little bit. And some of the break downs happened from those, and we’re all over it right now. In practice, we’ll tighten it back, peel it back, if we have to. We’ll play as many defenses as we can play well, and I’ll throw the rest out.”
Patience will be a virtue when it comes to this group, which has a ways to go in its journey towards self-discovery.
Friday’s outing did provide promise in some respects. The young defensive linemen — Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan, Damion Square — stood out. Davis found that this group was able to play the techniques that were asked of them. That has to be encouraging.
And Davis was positive when talking about Brandon Graham and Trent Cole, who are making the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker.
“They’re doing good, they really are,” he said. “They’re two grown men going forward, and their drops were pretty solid the other night. It was a good night for them. There wasn’t anything where they dropped in coverage and it was a liability.”
And so the experimenting continues. Davis will try out this look and that as he attempts to understand his group’s strengths and limitations. Meanwhile, the calendar tells us we’re less than a month away from the opener. Tick-tock goes the clock.
“I have a lot left to figure out about the car I’m driving here and how it fits, what it does well and what it doesn’t. I’ve got some learning to do with the personnel and we’re growing it in the right direction,” said Davis. “It wasn’t the start we were looking for, but we’ve got another chance Thursday night to take a step forward.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Chip Kelly trades for one of his former Oregon receivers.
The sights and sounds of camp in Sheil’s latest running diary.
Earl Wolff ran with the ones at Monday’s practice.
Kelly knew what he was getting in Cary Williams.
Lane Johnson draws high marks from Kelly.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Chris Brown of Grantland provides a very detailed look at Kelly’s first preseason game in the NFL. His conclusion?
While there were clear differences from what Kelly’s system looked like at Oregon, his Eagles offense looked a lot more like the Ducks offense than I ever anticipated.
…Michael Vick may have said the Eagles only used about “a third” of their total scheme, but what Philadelphia did was show a lot about how Kelly and his staff will approach bringing his offense to the NFL. More than anything else, Kelly showed that he’s not leaving behind what worked for him at Oregon.
Peter King catches up with a revitalized Andy Reid in Kansas City.
For one thing, though he won’t say it, it’s clear that he’s happy to have a GM like John Dorsey in his corner, because he clearly was tired of refereeing the front-office skirmishes that quietly characterized the last two or three years in Philadelphia. He just wanted to coach. And here, he’s basically just handed all personnel decisions to Dorsey. You know how most coaches are dying to buy the groceries? Well, after a few personnel debacles in Philadelphia (the Dream Team fiasco, mostly) and the front-office in-fighting between what used to be a tight band of brothers, Reid’s happy to be a personnel consultant and leave the heavy lifting to Dorsey.
“When I got into coaching a long time ago,” he said, sitting on the RA’s couch in the Spartan room an hour north of Kansas City, “I got into it to coach. That’s the fun part of the game to me. Now I’m able to do it again—all of it. The hands-on coaching at practice, the install [installation of plays and the gameplan], and to call the plays.”
Practice at NovaCare begins at 12:30. We’ll have it covered for you.