Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis met with reporters Sunday. Below are three things that stood out.
1. We’ve written plenty in this space about the high number of snaps guys like DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin played last year. Part of that had to do with the defense’s inability to get off the field. Part of it had to do with the team’s lack of depth at certain spots. Part of it had to do with pace and style of the offense.
But going forward, Davis wants to get those guys off the field a little bit more.
"It's something we are very concerned about," he said. "We don't want any of them to play all the snaps. It's too many snaps for any one defensive player. We know we had way too many. It benefits both us and the player and DeMeco or Mychal [Kendricks] that we get a rotation in there, too. We'll get that rotation all the time through different packages and with the addition like you touched on of some new players. It will give us a little bit more flexibility.
"We really ran last year out of two personnel packages: a base and a nickel. And I think we can grow and add those personnel packages, maybe two or three more packages."
So far at practice, those packages have been the same. But if someone like cornerback Nolan Carroll II or second-year player Earl Wolff proves worthy, maybe the Eagles will introduce a dime package. Or perhaps they can find a way to take advantage of rookie Marcus Smith II's versatility. At the very least, Smith should be able to lighten the load a bit for Barwin.
At linebacker, Najee Goode is the player to watch. He's been backing up Ryans and could spell the veteran on occasion if he earns the trust of the coaching staff.
2. The Eagles, like most teams, will not be tackling to the ground this summer at practice.
"I think all of us in the NFL any more are getting better and better at teaching tackling and working on tackling without the tackling to the ground element," Davis said. "A lot of that is body placement, coming into balance.
"You'll see that we have our guys two-hand tag below the waist. If you can two‑hand a runner like [LeSean McCoy] below the waist, your body is in a position to tackle him."
There's no arguing with Davis' methods here. According to Football Outsiders' numbers, the Eagles ranked sixth in terms of tackling efficiency last year. They were last or second to last the previous two years.
"If you can continually work on putting your head in front of the ball-carrier, as opposed to behind... I think one of the biggest problems we had last year when I broke down the tackling issues was our head placement was always behind the ball-carrier, leaving all arm tackles," Davis said. "We kept working on it and talking about it, and as we went on and got better at tackling, our head placement along with our total form tackle increased. And we have to build on where we left off at the end of the season."
Davis was just being honest, but his words read as a pretty big indictment of the Eagles' previous coaching staff.
3. An obvious question going into 2014 is: How much different will the Eagles' defense look? From a scheme perspective, there are going to be wrinkles, but not dramatic changes.
Davis feels he can do some more things with guys like Smith and Malcolm Jenkins. But this is still a base two-gap 3-4 which will rely on turnovers, pressure and red zone stops to be successful.
"I think last year you saw the base foundation of the defense and what we have added and grown," he said. "We have kept our foundation and we really had some bridge concept coverages we’ve added, some run calls we've added.
"We've grown it in a way that we didn't take away what we did last year, the guys understand what we did, and we just saw some holes and maybe where game plan tools we didn't have, we've added them in the offseason. We’ve worked on them and continue to work on them here. So we think we've grown the package without changing the package at all. We've just given ourselves more tools.
"I think the biggest thing you see is a year ago, you saw more assignment football. Guys were studying hard to know their assignment, what was asked of them and they were trying real hard to get to their assignment and maybe not understanding their whole picture of how they exactly fit with their teammates and how it all came together. It's a learning curve, and you've got to start at the bottom and learn yours first, and then you spread out and learn around yours."
WHAT YOU MISSED
The quarterbacks have impressed so far and other thoughts in my day two practice observations.
T-Mac's notes from the second day of camp include a scuffle between LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole.
Josh takes us around the NFC East in his weekly roundup.
What some national media said about the first day of camp in T-Mac's practice notes.
My running diary from day one, including why Rita's is overrated (there's some football stuff in there too).
A photo gallery from the weekend's practices.
Chip Kelly spoke about Lane Johnson's suspension before camp began.
"I’m taking Foles [over Russell Wilson]. Not even close." That and more in weekend reading.
Jeremy Maclin says he's not worried about what his numbers will be this year.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com asked all the Eagles' draft picks whom they emulate. Marcus Smith's answer:
"Coming up, I played quarterback, so there really wasn't any defensive players that I modeled my game after. But now, when I look back and I try to go look at people, I try to look at Dwight Freeney and Clay Matthews.
"When they rush, they're non-stop. It's like when the fourth quarter starts, I just like how their enthusiasm shows, and I like how they don't get tired. So I want to get to that where I'm not tired in practice, nor in the game."
Mike Sielski of the Inquirer on Kelly and Sixers GM Sam Hinkie:
No one else wields as much influence over any of the city's four major franchises as these men do, and no one else has shown the same willingness to flout the conventional wisdom of his respective sport.
The Eagles held their first training-camp practice Saturday - exactly one month after the NBA held its annual player draft - so it seemed an appropriate time to point out the philosophical line that separates two of the town's teams from the other two. It's a stark divide, and Kelly and Hinkie are the cause of it.
The pads come on for the first time. McManus probably couldn't sleep last night he was so excited. We'll have you covered all afternoon long.
And don't forget to pre-order your Eagles Almanac.
Josh Paunil contributed to this post.