Eagles Wake-Up Call: Davis Breaks Down the Breakdown

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.”


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.


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.

Good read.

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.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • JofreyRice

    First-game adjustment to the scheme is a plausible explanation, and I’m willing to let things play out, but I just can’t seem them effectively running a 2 gap 3-4 with this personnel. Davis saying he’s still not sure what he can run worries me. It seems pretty clear to me what the limitations are. I don’t think Fletcher Cox should be head up on a tackle. Sure, he was able to put Solder on skates and push him back towards Tom Brady for a pressure, but why wouldn’t you have him making the most out of his superior athleticism beating guards?

    If they want a 3 down linemen, 2 standup edge rusher look, to create confusion in blocking schemes, I think they need to run a 5-2 one gap system like Wade Phillips in Houston, or Fangio in SF.

  • jon h

    Time will tell. Davis inherrited a LOT of issues on the D side of the ball. But it is refreshing to hear someone who’s not making excuses and realizes he has to dig out of a hole.

  • dislikedisqus

    Translation: “not ready for prime time”.

  • ICDogg

    I look forward to the “Logan Square” formation

  • Stuart Philp

    I feel like the line will come together by the time the season starts, I’m not overly concerned about the front 3 (1s and 2s).

    The LBs will probably be a rough area all season. They might get some pressure on the QB, but will likely only be adequate in coverage and against the run.

    The secondary has me worried. I feel like any team will be able to throw against us in any way they please. Maybe some hard hitting toughness would help cover up technical limitations, but we haven’t seen that either.

    • G_WallyHunter

      I think the secondary will get the best test PS week 4, if the secondary looks like they did against Brady, but this time against Sanchez/Eugene, then yes, that’s when concerns will start flowing much faster..

  • Andy124

    Silver linings time:
    At least 3 Brady completions came against excellent coverage => tiny glimmer of hope.
    Run defense => I got nothing. We’re not going to give up 248 every game, but we can do a lot better than that and still be bad. Ugh.

  • Andy

    I predict the phrase “clock management” becomes a very popular one in Kansas City beginning this fall.

  • Basscase

    Peter King never fails to amaze (or disappoint).

    Reid says he “only wants to coach”, but both sides blame each other for the personnel debacles the past couple of years.

    • EaglePete

      I was thinking exact same thing. Here is Reid demanding all those responsibilities, yet now “he just wants to coach” ya know, you can just stfu with that nonsense, you asked for it Reid, and for King to just give him that easy out, total weaksauce.

      • Basscase

        IKR. We have YEARS of documented evidence of Reid wanting to control personnel decisions. This whole “All I wanna do is coach, daddy” nonsense ignores that both he and Roseman had a hand in the lack of depth this team sees now.

        (BTW – King slagged McNabb for YEARS before coming out with a praiseworthy piece on him, right before he was traded to the Redskins. Objective much?)

        Also, King’s followers are roasting him for coming to Jeff Fisher’s defense, insinuating that Kosar was “drunk” when he called out Kellen Clemens and the Rams WRs during that preseason, when it turns out his slurred speech is due to all the concussions he’s suffered over the years.

        King can pound sand.

  • Rick Lindquist

    Great article. The Grantland piece is excellent as well and has lots of other links, enough to drive around in for at least an hour. Good stuff!

    Prediction that no one else will agree with: The Birds will run the single wing at least once this season, probably from a second and goal at the 6. 8^)

  • EaglePete

    Special teams has looked way better so far, gotta love that. Demaris had a nice return, he shouldve been able to make that final juke to get by the punter. Oh well, Im just getting greedy, another guy was pursuing fast. Coverage has also looked solid, they were so pathetically bad last year its a nice thing to see.

  • reb

    Is anyone else sick of the deja vu about Allen? “Nate Allen…took a bad angle” What’s the point of being able to really hit hard if you can never actually get to the guy to hit them? Allen’s a bust. Let him go.