First off, if you haven’t already make sure you dive into Sheil’s breakdown (with help from the All-22) of the “4-3 under” that new defensive coordinator Billy Davis has used in the past. In this hybrid scheme there is a position called the Predator, which is essentially an outside linebacker/defensive end that almost exclusively rushes the passer.
Dan Graziano talks about that position and more.
In this arrangement, the Eagles’ “predator” could be either Trent Cole or Brandon Graham. Either one fits the mold as a pure pass-rusher with a great first step and, especially in Graham’s case, a high motor. I’m not sure either of those guys translates to the strong-side linebacker role in this scheme, and Mychal Kendricks seems suited to the weak-side linebacker role. They may need to find a more traditional stand-up linebacker and either rotate or decide between Cole and Graham, since you have to think Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox are the ends and the nose tackle is someone not yet on the roster.
Another interesting aspect has to do with veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who would remain an extremely important player in a scheme such as this. It’s true that one of the reasons the Texans traded Ryans to the Eagles was that he’d become an imperfect fit once they switched to a 3-4, but that had more to do with Ryans’ salary and the emergence of fellow linebacker Brian Cushing as a superior three-down option than it did Ryans’ ability to play the scheme. And if Davis runs a system similar to the one he ran in Arizona, Ryans takes on a vital dirty-work role.
Tommy Lawlor gives a thoughtful take on the new staff, while zoning in on the O-line coach:
Hiring OL coach Jeff Stoutland came as a real surprise. He did a phenomenal job at Alabama, developing the nation’s best OL this year. The most interesting tie-in with Stoutland is that he was the OC at Cornell in the early 90′s when their QB was a kid named Bill Lazor. Getting a coach like Stoutland is a real coup. He was given Grade-A talent at Alabama and delivered a great O-line. Some may question how he’ll do with Chip Kelly’s system. Chris Brown, who runs SmartFootball.com, said on Twitter a while back that “Chip Kelly’s top run plays — inside zone, outside zone & power (guard pull) — are same Trent Richardson ran at Alabama.” I would say that Stoutland and Kelly will be an excellent match in terms of style and system.
Reuben Frank cautions against jumping to conclusions about Kelly’s assistants simply because they lack star power.
The Eagles’ success from 2000 through 2008 was due in great part to Andy Reid’s original staff. When those guys gradually began leaving for promotions — Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, John Harbaugh, Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo, Shurmur — on top of the tragic death of Jim Johnson, that’s when the Eagles stopped enjoying the same level of success and gradually turned into a last-place team.
When Reid announced those guys, the names certainly didn’t blow anybody away, and the reaction was much the same as it’s been the last couple weeks, as Kelly’s hires have been revealed one by one.
Shurmur had been an offensive line coach at Stanford. Frazier was head coach at obscure Trinity College, where he started up the program. Spags was coaching in the World League, of all places. Rivera had just returned to the NFL after five years in private business. Harbs was an unknown special teams coach, still 13 years from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower was the ultimate journeyman coach, in his 14th job in 28 years. Even the legendary Johnson hadn’t had a unit ranked higher than 18th during his two years as an NFL defensive coordinator, 1996 and 1997 with the Colts.
But put it all together, and it worked.
Much of the talk has been about Navy Seal trainer turned Eagles Sports Science Coordinator Shaun Huls. Lindsay Jones of USA Today looks for the meaning behind the move:
Since the Eagles lured Kelly away from Oregon last month, the NFL world has been wondering how Kelly would implement his innovative college system, with his high-paced practices and up-tempo offense, in the NFL.
Hiring Huls appears to be part of that plan. While other teams have dabbled with alternative training programs — the Denver Broncos, for example, gutted their training room after hiring a new strength coach last year — the Eagles are thought to be the first to add a Sports Science Coordinator in an official capacity.
Kelly has previous experience with Navy SEAL training. In 2011, he put his Oregon team through a program called “Judgment Day” led by a former SEALs trainer, and in 2010 told The New York Times how much he admired military-style training.
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