Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis met with the media today. Here are three things that stood out from the session.
1. Since the day he was hired, Davis has talked about how defensive coordinators have to call games against the opposing quarterback and the opposing play-caller.
This week presents one of the best duos in the league in that respect with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. I asked Davis what makes Payton, specifically, so good as a play-caller.
“He’s probably one of the best in formations and matchups and adjustments,” Davis said. “He’s got a great mind as far as, again, he makes you defend the width and the depth of the field. And I think him and Drew are really one and the same person. They have worked so much together that their understanding together that no matter what is in Sean’s head, Drew can execute. And that’s the key to great offensive football is when the quarterback has the same understanding as at coordinator or the head coach in this case.”
The good news? Much of what Davis said about matchups, formations, adjustments and using the whole field can be applied to Chip Kelly’s offensive principles too.
The bad news? Davis has to come up with a plan for slowing down Payton and Brees.
2. Brandon Boykin has been the defense’s best playmaker in the back end all season long. His six interceptions during the regular season tied for second-most in the NFL. Yet Boykin has only played 51 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
Davis gave an interesting answer when asked if there’s a way to get the second-year player on the field more.
“I really think, and I believe this, that one of the reasons that he’s grown like he’s grown and made the plays that he’s making is because we’ve allowed him to specialize and really focus on the nickel position and how to play,” he said. “He’s a young player that’s still growing, and I think that is one of the things that we’ve done that I’m most happy with. And I understand he’s got a lot of interceptions and second in the league, but I think that’s a product of specialization and really knowing exactly and playing a position with confidence. And that’s how you win.”
Translation for the short-term: Don’t expect to see Boykin in any other defensive roles against the Saints. But in the offseason, the conversation might be worth revisiting.
3. Kyle Orton dropped back to pass 47 times Sunday, and the Eagles failed to notch a sack. In all, they only had two QB hits and failed to make Orton uncomfortable in the pocket.
But Davis said the Cowboys’ QB was just getting the ball out quickly.
“Looking at the tape from the other night, the ball coming out that quick, they say, ‘Boy, the pass rush just wasn’t on,’ ” he said. “It’s a different time set. It’s a different time frame. It’s much harder to get to those guys that the ball is out right away. And sometimes, if he had held on one more count, we would have had him, and that’s a product. That’s why they get rid of it so quick.
“I’m very happy with the pass rush where it is. We have a lot of pressure and it’s a major cause for some of the turnovers we are getting.”
Brees has been one of the more difficult quarterbacks to sack this season. He was brought down 37 times total, but when you consider how often the Saints pass, that number is even more impressive. Football Outsiders had the Saints’ offensive line fourth in adjusted sack rate.