Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles: Read more »
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.” Read more »
Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We have already covered the defensive line, quarterbacks and outside linebackers. Now it’s on to the running backs.
The pressing question: Will Chip Kelly lighten LeSean McCoy’s workload?
On his way to setting the franchise record for rushing yards, McCoy led the NFL in carries (314) and touches (366). Only Chicago’s Matt Forte played more snaps. The Eagles added Darren Sproles in the offseason. Does that mean they want to give McCoy more of a breather in 2014? Read more »
A report earlier today from NFL Network stated that Eagles defensive lineman Vinny Curry was being made available to teams as the 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.
According to a team source, the Eagles are not shopping Curry but have fielded phone calls from teams interested in the 25-year-old. A deal is unlikely.
Curry’s agent told Birds 24/7 back in September that he was open to a trade.
“Vinny’s main objective is to play and play at a high level,” said Kevin Connor. “The question becomes, can that happen in Philly or do we need to facilitate an opportunity outside of Philly if it makes sense for all parties.” Read more »
When a reporter tracked down Trent Cole he was over near DeMeco Ryans’ locker stall, regaling the group of assembled linebackers with his tales of conquest. Animated, he was demonstrating how he was able to get a Redskins player down with a swipe of his powerful arm.
“Stop lying, Trent. You know you didn’t do none of that,” his teammates playfully fired back.
But they knew he had. Cole just walked over to his locker, a giant smile on his face.
His first night on the job as an outside linebacker had gone decidedly well.
“It was fun,” said Cole, letting out a long laugh. “I thought I owned it over there. That’s just the way it is when you feel dominant, man, like that… They’re like, ‘OK, this ain’t more of a linebacker, this is a d-end we’re going against.’ But I’m a linebacker now, you know what I’m saying? And I accept that.”
He made an immediate impact. On the Redskins’ first offensive play from scrimmage — a handoff to the right to Alfred Morris — Cole came barreling over from the opposite side and knocked the ball loose while bringing the back to the ground. Mychal Kendricks scooped it up to give possession back to offense, and Michael Vick cashed in with a 25-yard touchdown toss to DeSean Jackson.
Cole ended with four tackles, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and a pair of hurries. He also got credit for a first-quarter safety by racing to touch down Morris, who had mishandled an RGIII toss in the end zone and was forced to the ground to cover it up.
“You’ve got a guy like Trent Cole, who is now asked to play outside linebacker, to see the game he had you can tell he’s definitely feeling comfortable in the position,” said Ryans.
Cole was asked to drop into coverage some. He was on the field for 62 plays Monday night per Pro Football Focus, and dropped nine times — or on 15 percent of the snaps. Connor Barwin was in coverage on 22 plays by comparison, while Brandon Graham did not drop at all in his 17 snaps against the Redskins.
“He attacked this whole defensive scheme change with the right attitude,” said defensive coordinator Bill Davis of Cole. “I think he’ll benefit from that and you saw a lot of that tonight.”
The nine-year veteran had been largely written off heading into this season. Not only was he coming off a down year, but was being asked to learn a brand new position at the age of 30.
Cole was asked if even he questioned whether he would be able to make it work as a linebacker.
“No, no. I just knew because I know how athletic I am and I know what I can do,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence and I have the will not to fail and to do what I’ve got to do to get myself [prepared] to be good at that position.”
It was only one week, and it’s too early to deem this experiment a success. But Monday was at least a statement that we shouldn’t count Cole out quite yet.
“If people are [discounting me], let ‘em think it,” said Cole. “The games don’t lie.”
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He comes from Alabama, a program run by some guy named Nick Saban, whose roots are deeply planted on the defensive side of the ball. That is his domain. With Chip Kelly, it’s the complete opposite.
“The intensity is different because you’ve got the head guy on your field at all times,” said the rookie. “It doesn’t mean I practice in any different way but it’s a whole other pressure when you have your head coach standing over your shoulder every play. Coach Kelly, he makes a trip over there every once in a while to see if guys are buying in.”
That matches up with what we have seen at practice. If you’re looking for Kelly, it’s a safe bet that you’ll find him with the offense. (Unless it’s a special teams period, in which case he stands with the returners.) He may travel over to the defensive side from time-to-time but it’s obvious where most of his attention goes during practice sessions.
The pattern appears to hold true for meetings as well. Where Kelly is in attendance for every special teams meeting, according to Dave Fipp, the impression that we got from defensive players is that he will pop into their positional meetings on occasion.
“It’s pretty much like, ‘I hired these guys to do stuff that I’m not strong at.’ So that’s what he’s doing: letting them coach and do what they do because he has trust in them,” said Brandon Graham. “That’s what any coach should do: hire somebody to do their job.”
Kelly has made it known that he will not micromanage Billy Davis and his defense, particularly on game day. And we have seen signs of that laissez faire approach through his interaction with reporters. He indicated prior to the preseason opener against the Patriots, for instance, that Brandon Boykin would start outside. Instead, Curtis Marsh got the call.
“I was wrong,” was Kelly’s reply afterwards.
Asked on Tuesday who would start at safety this Thursday against the Jets, Kelly responded: “That’s a good question. I haven’t ‑‑ we haven’t sat down and finalized that.”
For answers about the day-to-day workings on defense, it’s best to ask Davis directly.
But it would be a mistake to suggest that Kelly isn’t plugged into that side of the operation.
“I meet with Billy. I watch all the practice tape,” he said. “I’m more involved in the offensive side of the ball from a practice standpoint with those guys, but I watch all the tape from a film standpoint and meet with the staff and talk to those guys constantly on a day‑to‑day basis.”
Are you involved with the game-planning?
“Yeah, we meet and go over what their game plan is and how they are going to approach things, pick each other’s brains.”
Big picture, the defense is being built largely in Kelly’s vision. It is no coincidence that Davis has a background in traditional and hybrid 3-4 defenses. Kelly believes his defensive coordinator can both transition this team to a two-gap 3-4 and find a scheme solution for the here-and-now while the unit is under construction.
Casey Matthews sees a lot of similarities between the defense he is in now and the one he played in at Oregon.
“It’s pretty much the same. A lot of the same terminology,” he said. “In OTAs when we first started to do the meetings it started to come back pretty quick. It’s a little different. You can tell with Chip and Coach Azz [assistant head coach/defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro] at Oregon, they definitely tuned it up the couple years that I was gone.”
In other words, this defense has Kelly’s fingerprints all over it. He just doesn’t hold it in a permanent grip.
“Chip and I meet at least once a day. He’s got a great understanding of what we’re doing defensively,” said Davis. “We spent a lot of time in the offseason talking about building and what structure he likes and what structure I like. At the end of the day, what Chip wants, I will give him. We talk often. He’s very easy to work with and understand. A very clear communicator. You know exactly where he stands and what he wants and you give it to him. So far, the real tests haven’t come yet. The real games, when they start coming, we’ll collectively solve problems.”
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