Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked today about what he’s expecting Monday night in Washington.
“I am very anxious for the Redskins to show us who we are and where we are,” Davis said. “I don’t know what’s coming. The truth will be at the end of that game we’ll know defensively how far along we are.”
You’ll notice no hint of confidence or bravado in Davis’ response. He seems more than willing to be completely honest about where his defense is and the challenges that await in the next four months.
“They played all 16 games together last year, which is a huge advantage to play in a system,” Davis said, rattling off where the Redskins ranked statistically in 2012. “And we have to face that. We’ve gotta face it using an overhauled defense with new techniques that we’ve taught. We learned in the New England game, we came out there and tried to get ahead of ourselves and play a little bit above the technique. And it hurt us. Hopefully we’ll come out Monday night and play to the techniques that we’ve worked the whole offseason on. But no matter what I wish for or what I want, it doesn’t matter. The game shows who we are.”
The man speaks the truth. The Eagles are transitioning from a Wide-9 4-3 to a 3-4. They eventually want to be able to play more of a two-gap 3-4 like the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it remains to be seen how much of that we’ll see in 2013.
The Eagles have some talent on the defensive line, but it remains to be seen how Trent Cole and Brandon Graham will transition to outside linebacker. They have no answers at safety. And their cornerbacks are question marks as well.
“I know this,” Davis said. “Wherever we start against Washington, good or bad or somewhere in the middle, it has to continue to get better by the 16th game. This season has gotta be about this defense getting to where everybody wants it to be. [The Washington game] is our starting point. And I don’t know where along the scale we are. But wherever that is, that’s the ground level. And we’ve gotta take it a lot higher than it is. And even if that’s a great game against Washington, no matter how you break it, there’s no excuses involved, we are at Stage 1 of a coaching staff, of a scheme, of a major overhaul of a defense.
“From a Wide-9 gap go-get-it to thicker-playing, reading, more patient linebackers, not running through, everything’s different. Safeties not down in the box, safeties a little bit back farther. So all these little foundation things are really what I’m looking at the hardest. Where are we in the foundation? Where’s our communication level? ”
Based on his comments and what we saw in the preseason, you get the sense that Davis would like to help his players as much as he can with scheme and exotic blitz calls. But first, he may have to see how they handle the basics of the new system.
“I don’t want to see anybody running free,” Davis said. “There should be no free miscommunication. I’ll play one defense if that’s what we can play and communicate through. So we’re at that stage and that’s what we’re looking hard at.”