Eagles Wake-Up Call: No-Huddle Will Affect the ‘D’ Too

Billy DavisChip Kelly doesn’t like assumptions. He said as much earlier this week.

“It’s never safe to assume, just in general,” Kelly pointed out, interrupting a reporter’s question.

That belief is at the foundation of his football philosophy. The new Eagles’ head coach wants to use practice time to prepare for as many scenarios as possible. That means simulating fake field goals and trying offensive players like Jason Avant at defensive positions like cornerback just in case there ends up being an emergency situation.

Which brings us to today’s topic: How will the pace of his offense affect the guys on the other side of the ball?

Most defensive players I’ve spoken with believe this offense is going to be really good. They believe in the talent, and they’re excited about the scheme. But it’s one thing to believe in those things and another to assume production right away.

So the defense has been preparing for what could essentially be described as a worst-case scenario. It goes like this: The offense plays fast, but is not productive. There are three-and-outs. There are turnovers. There are short breaks on the sideline for the defensive players before they’re called on to take the field once again.

“From the very beginning, we have talked in the Eagles locker room and our meetings rooms defensively about [how] it’s not the Philadelphia Eagles offense that is no‑huddle and up‑tempo, it’s our whole team,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

“The defense has to be in equally great shape to handle the no‑huddle offense, because we are running it. So we pride ourselves on being in that great condition, and we can no-huddle all game. Our defense is just as ready for us to be a three-and-out or a three-and-in. If it’s half a sip of Gatorade and you have to go back on the field, so be it. That’s who we are as a team and it’s a positive, not a negative.”

The other factor to consider is playing time. Oregon rotated defensive players with Kelly at the helm. And according to Davis, the Eagles will likely do the same thing.

“I think the nature of the defense, if you’re active on the roster, you’re probably going to get on the field,” Davis said. “Especially on the D-Line, especially when you talk about the no‑huddle and your group being in shape. That’s a natural progression of who we are as a team that the D-Line definitely will roll through, and backers, they are all [gonna] play.  It will be a rotation, definitely. Probably more so than you’ve seen.”

Last year, Oregon’s defense averaged 75.8 plays per game, which was fifth-most among the 61 Division I schools that played 13 games. As a point of reference in the NFL, the Patriots, who ran the fastest offense last year, logged 65.4 defensive snaps per game, eighth-most.

The Eagles have seven defensive linemen on the 53-man roster. That’s a natural place for a rotation. And Brandon Graham figures to mix in with Trent Cole at outside linebacker. It’d be surprising if DeMeco Ryans or Mychal Kendricks came off the field much. And same goes for the starting secondary, although Earl Wolff is supposed to fill in for Nate Allen at times.

Managing the defense on a team where the offense is expected to move quickly is just another piece of the puzzle. After a long offseason, answers about the new era of Eagles football will start to be revealed in three days.

WHAT YOU MISSED

LeSean McCoy said he expects opponents to “try and do dirty things” to Riley Cooper.

Full details and video of the Cooper-Cary Williams scuffle.

Davis is not exactly brimming with confidence as his defense prepares for the Redskins.

Good piece by T-Mac on how DeSean Jackson is at a crossroads.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles are 25th in ESPN.com’s power rankings:

The Chip Kelly experiment begins with Michael Vick under center. Kelly’s Oregon team averaged 20.9 seconds per play last season, four seconds faster than the NFL’s fastest team (Patriots).

Bill Barnwell of Grantland says there’s some hope for the Eagles:

And in their place is … hope. Chip Kelly was the highest-variance coach a team could have hired this offseason, a coach capable of either giving whoever hired him a significant strategic advantage or, perhaps, an even more notable disadvantage. Eagles fans only need to look as far as Washington to see how effective a dramatic change in offensive scheme can be, but it’s still unclear whether Kelly has the personnel to make his offense work.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and have more on Eagles-Redskins from the NovaCare Complex.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.