Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘We’re Looking For Non-Impostors’

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Below is an excerpt from my Eagles Almanac chapter on the changes on defense. If you haven’t done so already, click here to purchase this year’s edition of the Almanac.

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In Year 3, we have a pretty good idea of what the defense is going to look like from a schematic standpoint. The Eagles run a two-gap 3-4 that focuses on stopping the run first and foremost.

Billy Davis and the players did a good job last year of generating pressure, and the plan in the secondary will be to play mostly with a single high safety and disrupt routes/timing within the 5-yard window.

“I think we want to be a press, single high team that gets after you with a pass rush,” said Malcolm Jenkins. “That’s what they’ve been coaching. That’s what Cory Undlin specializes in is teaching press and technique. We have the front to get after the quarterback so we don’t have to cover for a long time. And we’ve got safeties with range. So I think we have the personnel to get that done.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Team gets rid of assistant coach and adds his replacement. Players rave about the new guy and subtly take jabs at the old guy. Everyone assumes the problems are solved. Then the regular season begins, and the narrative gets thrown out the window. Read more »

All-22: Deploying Mychal Kendricks

mychal-kendricks-940x540

When looking for an opinion from Chip Kelly, sometimes simpler is better.

Present a bunch of background information before getting to your question, chances are he’ll get bored and cut you off.

So back in March at the owners meetings when we were looking to get Kelly’s take on Mychal Kendricks, we asked directly for Kelly to evaluate the inside linebacker’s play in 2015.

“When he was healthy, he played really well for us,” Kelly said. “But we missed him for… four games. And the health aspect was a difficult thing. We were a different team without him on the field. But when he played, he played really well for us.”

The answer was peculiar considering the Eagles’ other moves at the position. They had traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, a player who had missed all of 2014 with a knee injury. And they were in the process of extending DeMeco Ryans, a player rehabbing from an injured Achilles’.

Kendricks’ name has surfaced in trade talks multiple times during the offseason. The Eagles took action to make sure Alonso and Ryans would be part of this team for the next couple of years. They also drafted inside linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round. Meanwhile, there have been no indications that the team is talking extension with Kendricks as he enters the final year of his deal.

Yesterday, reader Dustin asked about Kendricks’ performance in coverage. Perhaps that was a reason the Eagles were a little cool on him?

So we went to the tape for answers. And the truth is, Kendricks was not only very good in coverage, but as the defense fell apart down the stretch last year, he was a true bright spot and played some of the best football of his career. Read more »

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

From the pass rush to a surprising Nick Foles stat to the run game, here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

29.6 – The percentage of pass plays last year in which the Eagles’ defense generated pressure. That number ranked first in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. It’s a pretty remarkable stat for a couple different reasons. The Eagles play a two-gap 3-4 in which they focus on stopping the run on early downs. And I don’t think they have a player who would be considered a premiere edge rusher.

Connor Barwin led the team with 14.5 sacks and 21 hurries (coaches’ stats) last year. Those are great numbers, but in many cases, he’s not blowing by (or running over) offensive tackles. He’s savvy and does a great job of anticipating where the quarterback is going to end up. To his credit, Barwin knows how to finish also. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: More Flexibility In Secondary

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Billy Davis accepted some of the responsibility for what went down in the secondary last year.

The Eagles’ defense yielded a league-high 72 pass plays of 20-plus yards in 2014 and finished second from the bottom in overall pass defense. Too often, the corners — Bradley Fletcher in particular — were left out on an island against superior opponents. The results were predictable.

“Could I have given him more help? I could’ve,” said Davis. “The technique he was using out there could have been better, and I could have given him more help.

“There were a lot of things I had to look at. It is a combination of technique and how many times you split the safety and give those guys help and how many times you don’t. You have to move in and out of that, and you learn.”

New defensive backs coach Cory Undlin was brought in from Denver to help fix the technique issues, and Davis went back and reviewed his performance as defensive coordinator in an effort to improve. But the breakdowns clearly weren’t all tied to coaching. The back end was in serious need of a talent infusion, so the Eagles signed Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal, inked Walter Thurmond to a one-year contract and spent three draft picks on defensive backs.

Asked what stood out the most about Maxwell when the Eagles faced the Seahawks last year, Chip Kelly pointed to his versatility. Read more »

Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Brett Brown and Chip Kelly.

Brett Brown and Chip Kelly.

Here’s what we saw during Eagles OTAs on Monday.

12:25 – A shoutout to Andy Reid off the top today. We’ll start with injuries. DeMeco RyansMarcus Smith IIEarl Wolff and Julian Vandervelde are working off to the side. Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles are not here. The Eagles did not provide any reasons why. The OTAs are voluntary.

12:30 – I hate to keep providing video of the defensive linemen, but they are the guys who have been practicing closest to us. Here, they’re working on their pass-rush and their hands with Jerry Azzinaro. Read more »

Three Eagles Leftovers: On Barbre, Maxwell And Hicks

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

From Allen Barbre’s comfort level to Byron Maxwell’s role to a Jordan Hicks-DeMeco Ryans comparison, here are three Eagles leftovers.

1. We know that the Eagles will enter 2015 with at least one new offensive line starter at right guard. And depending on what happens with Evan Mathis, that number could be two.

One of the players who has been talked up quite a bit is Allen Barbre. Barbre has started a grand total of eight games in seven seasons, including one with the Eagles. But if the Birds had to play a game tomorrow, chances are he’d be in the starting lineup.

While many assume there’s not much of a difference when it comes to a player lining up on the left side as opposed to the right side, that’s not always the case.

Asked how Barbre looks on the left side, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said: “Better than on the right. He’s a lot more comfortable. I think he’s been a left-side player for a long time. He was not generally on the right. We moved him on the right last year because we needed him to play multiple positions. But he had always been more comfortable as a left-side player by far. Ask him that right now. He’ll tell you that.” Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: No Odd Man Out At ILB?

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

As Billy Davis addressed reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the same topic seemed to surface over and over again.

How is this going to work with three starting-caliber inside linebackers?

“When we get to training camp, the competition will amp up, and it allows us to expand how many packages we run too,” Davis said. “So we can put some packages together where we get two and three inside backers in the same group. So there’s a lot of things we want to do. But right now it’s just about getting everybody up to speed and on an even playing field.”

Davis repeated some form of that response on multiple occasions. The basic gist was: We’ll make it work. There are ways. It’s only June.

It’s true that Davis could cook up a package to get DeMeco RyansKiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks on the field at once, but it’s not like the Eagles are suddenly going to morph into a 4-3. The team has spent two-plus years working on the intricacies and nuances of a base two-gap 3-4. Read more »

Eagles Notes: Eric Rowe On Chip Kelly

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Yesterday, Eagles second-round pick Eric Rowe joined the 97.5 morning show to talk about his first impressions of the city, the fans and, most importantly Chip Kelly. During his introductory press conference, Rowe explained how he was intimidated by Kelly when they first met at the Senior Bowl, but after being drafted by the team, Kelly was much more friendly to the rookie defensive back.

Rowe elaborated on what it was like in that meeting room.

“[Kelly] wasn’t doing anything, he just had his arms crossed,” Rowe said. “He didn’t ask any of the questions. Everything I would say, he was jotting it down. It was just really intimidating.

“When I left the room, I was just like, ‘man, that was tough.’ They were asking me questions left and right.”

But what kind kind of questions were the Eagles asking Rowe? Read more »

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