Eagles ‘D’ Produces Different Results Vs. Brady

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots Practice

FOXBORO, MASS. — Billy Davis had seen this before.

It happened in 2000 when he was an assistant with the Packers and later in his career when he was the Cardinals defensive coordinator. A top-level quarterback completing pass after pass, dissecting and embarrassing the defense. The ball never hitting the ground.




That was the scene last summer too when the New England Patriots traveled to South Philadelphia to practice against Davis' unit. But a year later at Foxboro, he noticed a difference.

"It really is a great barometer," Davis said. "Every place I’ve been, the quarterbacks like [Tom] Brady during 7-on-7, the Kurt Warners of the world, the Brett Favres, 7-on-7 is just them picking you apart. And that’s what he did last year to us. And this year I think we were a little bit better. He’s still who he is, and no rush he’s gonna win more than he loses. But we are so far ahead of where we were, even with how much scheme we have in is so far ahead of where we were a year ago."

The Eagles have spent the offseason harping on continuity. There's a pretty good chance that when they take the field Week 1 against Jacksonville, the defense will only have one new starter (Malcolm Jenkins) from a year ago. But Davis sees improvement in a couple areas. One, players are more comfortable with the scheme. Two, more scheme has been installed.

"It’s a much better feeling," hesaid. "That first year is a bear. I don’t know how to explain it. That first year, you just kind of keep growing and growing and growing. You’ve still gotta show up on Sundays and have it be there. But it’s a good feeling now."

Brady still made plenty of plays against the Eagles this week, but there was a clear difference. Cornerbacks and safeties got their hands on the football, coverage was better downfield, and quite simply, the Eagles just competed at a much higher level.

Perhaps the surprise of the week was that Cary Williams didn't get into a scuffle. The Eagles cornerback was kicked out of practice for fighting a year ago. And earlier this month, he called the Patriots cheaters, making it quite clear that he had no interest in practicing against them.

But Williams was on his best behavior and was a part of the defense's effort to improve on last summer's performance.

"They’re a physical team," Williams said. "We know they’re gonna set the precedent early. We knew we had to come out and respond to what we did last season against those guys, basically came out and punched us in the mouth last year. And we definitely wanted to be ready for that. So as far as I’m concerned, great practice, an opportunity for us to build on.

"We understood what happened last year. I guess we didn’t understand the pace, and then we didn’t necessarily understand our responsibilities within the defense either. We were a team that was basically brand new, coming together with guys we had never practiced or played with in our lives. We were just trying to get the system up under our belt. And they took advantage of those things. They knew that. And Tom Brady is a savvy, great quarterback who’s gonna take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves. Since we got our defense up under us for a year, we added some new pieces and things like that. We shored up our communication, and you saw a better day of practice today."

The defense still has plenty to prove. The Eagles ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders' ratings last year, but in its weighted ratings, which account for how teams played late in the year, they ranked 15th.

Davis is a smart man. Since the day he got here, he's been tempering expectations. Last summer, he warned everyone that switching to a two-gap 3-4 would be a process. After the team got smoked by the Broncos in Week 4, he promised that they were actually showing progress. And that progress showed in the second half of the season when they held opponents to 21 points or fewer in nine straight games.

Asked if the defense is better now than it was at the end of last season, Davis said: "I’ll hold judgement on that until Jacksonville because that’s the true test. We’re happy about the progress we have right now in camp and it’s a great barometer. You’ve got New England from a year ago this same week... and where we are and install and all that. It’s a good feeling to be where we are."

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  • TheNest

    Keep it up Billy. Great article. I can’t wait for week 1.

  • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

    If our offense can stay top 5 and this defense improves to a mid-level or better unit then we should have some post season games to play. Football is back (almost)!

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      I’ll go a step further. If our O is top 8 and our D isn’t bottom 20 we should be playing in the postseason.

      • Robert Baer

        If our O is top 12 and our defense still looks top 15 compared to ‘Allas we should have Eagles playoff games.

  • EricT

    It’s not how far ahead from this time last year that matters. What matters more is how far ahead of the end of last year we are now.

    • reb

      True, but not measurable at this point.

  • anon

    Is anyone really satisfied with this defense? I’m re-watching the Bears pre-season game and our pass defense is terrible. Our run D is great, but our pass D is so porous that if you have an accurate QB it’s game over.

    • Javi Echie

      It’s been stated in several articles that the Eagles didn’t show even a quarter of the defensive playbook in that game. I agree that they did look terrible but I will wait until the 3rd preseason game where they show more of their hand to give judgement on how this defense perfoms

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        I wouldn’t expect much of their playbook to be shown in the 3rd game either. The first team will play more, but I doubt we’ll see much more than we did in the first game.

    • reb

      One word: preseason

    • peteike

      Not sure I will be til they get some legit pass rush, unless they create that with scheme to a serviceable degree. I love the O though, even watching that game and Foles not playing well you can see how they open up so much. So creative its fun to watch. If they can improve on that this season and the D improves just a tad more they will win a bunch

    • Kleptolia

      You’re re-watching a preseason game (the first of the year) with the idea that it will give you an accurate idea of the skill level of the starting defense.
      Think about that for a minute.

      Please tell us that you’re at least wearing a shirt…

    • Mitchell

      We were facing Cutler and the best WR tandem in the league. They were bound to score some points ya know? Our pass D is definitely our biggest weakness though!

      • dnabrice

        We faced them last year too, when our D was worse than it is now, and how did that turn out??? (54-11 so you don’t have to fact check)

        • Mitchell

          Lol yep, the bears had something to prove this preseason against us. We were playing preseason. Dnt remember if we were playing Cutler or McCown last year either. Point is, it is very hard to shut down that offense and it would be hard to hold them to 11 points with their starting unit in.

  • JofreyRice

    Not bad that they’re probably opening up against Chad Henne and whoever the Jaguars running back is. For my criticism of Davis, I have to admit he’s patient, explains things well, and has been straightforward and realistic every step of the way.

    • Joe L

      They seem to struggle against mediocre running backs. If Matt Asiata can have a big game against us, so can Toby Gerhart.

    • Token

      Thats really gotta be a win. Things could go badly out of the gate if they drop that one. I cant look past it. Wouldnt be surprised if Bradley fielded a half decent defense this year. And our defense has showed it can be beaten by anyone on any given day.

    • shady25

      I’m not worried about the Jags offense, but that defense is going to be a problem. Seems like we have problems with 4 man fronts and their front is very stout looking at them last night.

  • rogerPerdactor

    I’m worried bout Foles…

    • Javi Echie

      Why is that?

      • Adam

        because preseason

        • Nathanael Brice

          Summertime and the livins easy….

    • ACKID38

      Please share. because of a 1/4 of pre-season game #1, with only maclin(only starter). His 2 ints have be analyzed over and over and Momah was a problem on both.

      • Jason

        I don’t have a problem with people having concerns with Foles. What I think is funny is that people are popping off about a small sample size with the one preseason game but doesn’t believe that one 34 year isn’t also a small sample size (not saying you are doing that with your post just a generalization). We saw a similar thing with Vick in 2010. I think Foles will have a good year, but none of us know for sure.

        • John E. Zang

          I hear the small sample size but don’t you get a good sense of the player after so many games? I don’t think we need to see him play three years before we can decided he’s a talent. He has certain physicals attributes, he’s a team player and has a good mentality and he put it together last year through much adversity what else do we need to decide he’s a good player?

          • Jason

            Oh absolutely, I never felt as comfortable with Vick or Kolb as I do with Foles. I truly believe he will be a great QB, but I also don’t think that people on this board should get hammered every time they voice a cautious opinion of him.

      • Tyler Thierolf

        How was Momah a problem? Did Momah cause Foles to throw off his back foot behind his intended receiver? Foles will be fine, I’m not worried but there’s no reason to start blaming his mistakes on others. He’s a big boy and doesn’t need excuses.

    • Kleptolia

      I’m worried about ice cream. I mean, is it really as good as it can be, or can it improve?
      I DON’T KNOW FOR SURE AND IT’S MAKING ME CRAZY!!

    • midddletownwatch

      get a dog…

  • ACKID38

    This whole Foles thing is getting crazy. Hell i read that Sanchez will take his job by mid season. That was on NFL.com. not some rinky dink website.

    • Kleptolia

      ITS TRUE MAN! SANCHEZ IS DA FUTCHA! THE TRUTH WILL SET THE EAGLES FREE! THEY WILL FLAP THERE WINGES WITH SONGS IN THERE HEARTS!!
      MARK SANCHEZ WILL THROW 40 TOUCH DOWNS THIS YEAR! AND LESS INTERCEPSHINS THEN FOLES!!!!
      MARK SANCHEZ IS A QUARTERBACK ANGLE FROM HEAVAN WITH A MOINTAIN FOREHEAD AND PECS MADE OF IRONZ!!
      NICK FAILS NEVER SHUD HAVE BEN QUARTERBACK! CHIP KELLEY ONLY CHISE HIM BECAUSE MIKE VICK WAS BLACK! AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO SAY THAT BECAUSE I’M WHITE!!!
      MARK SANCHEZ IS EVERYTHING A QB SHUD B!! HE WILL SHOW ALL THE HATERZ THAT HATE IS FOR SUX!!
      GO SANCHISE!!!!!

      • EagleDuck

        “He will show all the haterz that hate is for sux”… I was thinking the same thing!!! Btw, this is some of the strangest trolling I’ve ever seen.

        • Kleptolia

          WELL ITS MY TORLLING AND I LUV IT!!!

  • anon

    Can we talk about mark sanchez’s arm? surprised me. excited to see more. 2 TE are big.

    • Clamdigger

      No.

    • Septhinox

      When has anyone ever doubted his arm? Is he Stafford or Cutler? No, but he’s still got a very good arm.