Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Leftovers From Davis

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

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.”


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.


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.

PDF: $10
Paperback: $25

Josh Paunil contributed to this post.

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.

  • TNA

    The rookies, I hope, are also not just watching film of the players they want to emulate, but also the players they are going up against this year. Lots of learning to do: learn your assignment, learn everyone else’s assignment and how your role fits in, learn what the strengths and tendencies are of your opponent, and learn how to take away those strengths as an individual and team.

  • anon

    Can we just call him billy d?

    • Septhinox

      Only if he starts making Colt 44 references.

    • OldDuckMcDoc

      The Eagle has Lando’d!

      I’ll get my coat….

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        The Millennium Eagle.

        • OldDuckMcDoc

          I feel like there should be more pun-potential here but I’m coming up empty. Something, something Darth of talent at safety. Dang it, I swear I had something for this.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            I’m punless. But there is this:

            If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

            Nick Foles to the Cowboys immediately before they concussed him (in the 1st quarter).

            More Violence!

            Sith Lord Jerry Azzinaro.

          • MagatBrackendale

            Of course Guiness-Kenobi was more powerul. He was twice a Knight after all.

    • DirtyWaters

      Buddy Ryan had his 46 defense, Billy D has his 45.

      • Always Hopeful

        Hopefully it’ll work everytime…especially on 3rd down :-)

        • DirtyWaters

          It’ll be more like Sex Panther. 60% of the time, it works every time.

          • Always Hopeful

            I’d take thar percentage :-)

    • knighn

      Some additional nerdiness for this conversation.
      “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

      So if you jump out and scare a friend, are you sending them on the path to Dark Side? If so, next time you scare the crap out of your friend, you should say, “Ha ha. I dark-sided you!” Then whip out your light-saber and cut off his head. You don’t want him turning into a Sith Lord.

      • MagatBrackendale

        Wouln’t carbon-freezing him do? Maybe not. He might recover then start gritting his teeth and bouncing around under Wermacht military vehicles..

  • Eagledelphia

    The Eagles have to lead the NFL in guys who used to play quarterback

    • guest

      I hope so. Thats a good thing. QBs are wired differently, and to have that QBs perspective can be very valuable when trying to block for a QB (Lane Johnson) or trying to sack a QB (Marcus Smith). I think more so for Smith – he knows the defensive call so he knows what the QB will see and how a QB is going to tend to react to that.

      The important thing about those ex-QBs, is that in the limited time at their new positions, they’ve shown remarkable talent. And thats still the most important thing. But the ex-QB stuff is just an added bonus.

      My guess is that if Andy Reid was compiling these ex-QBs, most Eagles fans would be ripping him for taking guys that are inexperienced at their positions. But with Chip, everyone assumes that its just Chip doing some revolutionary thing. I wouldn’t go that far, but its definitely a positive

      • Jerry Pomroy

        One thing that Smith does well already is cut off his outside rush and bring it inside when he sees the QB stepping up in the pocket. He’s also very adept to stripping the QB from behind and getting his hands up & not selling out on pump fakes to bat passes. This is attributed to his being a QB previously & having a better idea of how the QB moves & reacts within the pocket. These are also skills that will serve him well going against the likes of an RG3 or even a Romo whom while not mobile, moves well within the pocket.

  • dislikedisqus

    That tackling efficiency improvement stat is amazing!

    • OldDuckMcDoc

      Can’t decide whether ditching Nnamdi and DRC would have helped or hindered here. On the one hand, terrible at tackling, but on the other hand if all your doing is giving WRs an “atta boy” on their way to the end zone I’m not sure that counts as a missed tackle.

  • Adam G

    It almost makes me laugh loud at the difference between how the Eagles are run under Kelly versus the Phillies under Monty and Ruben.

  • Andy Six Score and Four

    OT, but I’ve seen Huff projected as our 4th WR since we drafted him. I really don’t think he’ll pass Smith on the depth chart any time real soon.

    One thing I think I’ve learned about this regime, the tie goes to the vet.

    • OldDuckMcDoc

      Seems like Smith’s been seeing lots of action at WR and on STs so not sure how much we see Huff, especially early in the year. It’ll confuse the jeebus out the Oregon Bias crowd if we don’t.

      • aub32

        I’ve been saying this for a while. I think we are going to see a lot less Huff then people think. 3rd round rookie WRs usually don’t become the staple of an offense. He might get as many snaps as Maehl last year, if that.

  • JofreyRice

    If Davis can fix Kendricks’ tackling, I think he’s a probowl ILB. If he can also improve his coverage on backs & TE’s, to go along with that, I think he can be a Navorro Bowman legit all-pro guy.

  • Matt G.

    My biggest concern regarding the upcoming season(s) is the ability of our defensive coordinator to not only game-plan for a team’s specific attack, but to make the crucial adjustments within games that are the difference between a close loss and a thrilling victory. Last year, we couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down, our blitz packages seemed telegraphed and ineffective, and our best players were left to bake in the oven far too long, even in games that weren’t competitive. Davis seems like a throwback nuts and bolts technique coach, but not an effective leader or strategist. I hope I’m wrong, but if this season is less successful than we expect, it will be because our defense – and its head coach — lacks answers in key spots.

    • aub32

      I’ll defend Davis by saying sometimes you need talent to help with your scheme. S and OLB were weaknesses last year. Our best defender was our Nickle CB. I didn’t agree with everything he did, but he got a lot more out of the group than I thought possible in the beginning of the year.

    • MagatBrackendale

      “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.” Now on to improving the pass rush.

  • Rockedupeaglesfan

    I never got the uproar last year after it became clear that Chip wouldn’t have tackling to the ground in camp. Andy had a ton of tackling in camp and often had poor, undisciplined, un-physical tackling teams. Why not try a different approach?