Eagles Wake-Up Call: Defending Eli Manning

Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Davis gave a knowing smile when asked about the quickness with which Eli Manning is getting rid of the ball.

“So once again,” Davis said, “it’s a high efficiency, quick, ball-out-of-the-quarterback’s-hand offense.”

The 2015 Eagles are accustomed to facing quarterbacks with quick triggers. According to Pro Football Focus, four of the five quarterbacks they’ve played — Drew Brees (2.44), Kirk Cousins (2.43), Matt Ryan (2.36) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2.40) — are getting the ball out in under two-and-a-half seconds, above the league average.

This week things will be be sped up even more when Davis’ unit squares off against Manning, who ranks fifth among QBs with an average release time of 2.21.
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Eagles-Washington, The Day After

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

LANDOVER, MD — The league website came out with a nifty little #NextGen stat this week in respect to distance travelled on the football field. Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond ranked No. 1 and No. 2 among safeties in distance covered per game, the study found, while Nolan Carroll was third out of all the cornerbacks.

A reporter stumbled while searching for positives to be taken from this stat. (All three are playing well, after all.) Does it speak to  hustle? The ability to track and cover a lot of space?

“It could be a positive. It could also mean that we’re on the field a lot,” said Thurmond earlier this week with a laugh. “I mean, that’s what it comes down to, the most distance traveled, so you’re talking about time on the field from a defensive standpoint.”

Thurmond, Jenkins and crew likely added to their lead on Sunday in Washington. The Eagles’ defense faced 79 plays and was on the field for over 41 minutes — 5:39 of which was accrued in the final, defining moments of the game as Washington marched 15 plays and 90 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Read more »

Roddy White Takes Jab At Eagles Cornerbacks

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

Roddy White took a swipe at the Eagles cornerbacks when discussing Atlanta’s upcoming matchup with the Giants.

“This is a different week, this is a different team,” said White, via ESPN. “To me, they’ve got better corners than the guys we played last week. So, it will be different.

“They’re good players and they can run. [Dominique] Rodgers-Cromartie has been in the league a long time. He understands stuff. Prince [Amukamara] is kind of following behind him. They’re going to try and put their hands on you and try to disrupt timings of routes. To me, they’re just a better bunch than the guys we just played. So, we’ll have to be on our A game.” Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Leftovers From Atlanta

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

From Chris Maragos‘ playing time to Billy Davis‘ mea culpa, here are three leftovers from the Eagles’ game against the Falcons:

1) A pivotal moment in Monday’s loss came late in the third quarter. With Atlanta nursing a three-point lead and facing a 3rd-and-15 from its own seven-yard line, Kyle Shanahan dialed up a draw that hit the jackpot. Tevin Coleman raced 20 yards to give the Falcons a fresh set of downs, extending a drive that eventually resulted in a 44-yard Matt Bryant field goal that put the home team up 23-17.

Afterwards, defensive coordinator Billy Davis took responsibility. Read more »

Eagles-Falcons, The Day After

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

ATLANTA, Ga. — The cast being discussed was different, but the conversation was largely the same.

The 26-24 loss to the Falcons still thick in the air, Billy Davis met with a handful of reporters in the center of the visitors locker room to address what went wrong Monday night, particularly in the back end. The Eagles yielded two touchdowns and 298 yards through the air, including five pass plays that went for 20-plus yards.

“And again the x-plays,” said Davis. “We’ve got to get that deep ball off of us.”

That was the primary mission of this offseason: to build what Chip Kelly described as a  “lactose intolerant” secondary — one that wouldn’t bite the cheese and give up the big play. They yielded an NFL-high 72 pass plays of 20-plus yards last season. Determined to correct the issue, they revamped three-fourths of the starting secondary; replaced DBs coaches John Lovett and Toddy Lyght with Cory Undlin; signed Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal.

It would be hasty to cast full judgment on this group. It was one game — their first game  — and they were facing a potent aerial attack led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Still, with the amount of resources and time invested in the secondary, it’s hard not to look at Monday’s unveiling as a significant disappointment.
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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.


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


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 »

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