Chip And the Up-Tempo Movement

Foles Steelers
Bill Walsh
predicted the up-tempo movement in his 1997 book titled, Finding the Winning Edge.

In a chapter called “Determining the Future Dynamics of Offense in the NFL,” he envisions a league where teams only huddle when the clock is stopped and use single-word audibles to call out a play.

The quarterback will look to the sideline the instant the whistle blows on the previous play to see which personnel combination is entering the game. The designated coach indicates the formation to the quarterback and whether he should audible his own play or will receive a play call from the coach. All of these steps will occur without a huddle.

The movement is upon us. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Davis Counting On the Blitz

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

By just about any statistical measure, the Eagles’ pass defense has plenty of room for improvement.

Football Outsiders had the Birds ranked 25th overall against the pass last year. Despite a focus on limiting big plays, Billy Davis’ unit was burned for 62 completions of 20+ yards, fourth-most in the NFL.

Any time the pass defense struggles, coaches point to two specific areas: pass-rush and coverage. The latter should see an improvement with Malcolm Jenkins filling in for Patrick Chung. The addition of cornerback Nolan Carroll II could help as well.

But the team did very little to bolster the pass-rush. The only significant addition up front was Marcus Smith II. And based on what we’ve seen in the preseason, Smith is unlikely to provide much pass-rush as a rookie. Combine that with the fact that illegal contact downfield is a point of emphasis for officials, and Davis thinks sending extra pressure might be his best chance for improvement. Read more »

Rule Emphasis Affects Man Coverage, Benefits Eagles

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Billy Davis felt like words alone couldn’t get his message across, so he reached over and grabbed the sleeve of a reporter’s shirt with his thumb and index finger.

“They’re throwing everything. They’re not playing. That one that got us off the field… [Tom] Brady to Curtis Marsh, the 3rd-and-3. I swear, it was that,” he said, barely yanking on the sleeve. “But it was that. He did it. So the flag was our’s. But it was only that. It wasn’t the pull where it moved his body. It was a feeler cloth deal. Can’t complain because we did it, but…”

Defensive coaches at the NovaCare Complex are walking a fine line. They don’t want to make excuses when asked about the new emphasis on illegal contact downfield. But they want to be honest in explaining that the job of defenders in coverage just got a whole lot more difficult.

What’s perhaps more fascinating, though, when it comes to the Eagles is how the emphasis affects the other side of the ball. Read more »

Graham, Curry State Their Case

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Heading into Thursday’s game, Billy Davis was asked if it is frustrating that two of his top pass-rushers — Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry —  are not natural scheme fits and therefor must see a limited amount of snaps.

“I don’t think anybody’s a full‑time player.  When you’re talking d‑line to me, I don’t view full‑time and part‑time players.  There are different two‑gap schemes and gap-penetrate schemes where we’re rushing, they all fit.  Those pass rushers fit,” he said.  “It’s just different sections of the scheme that we use.  I’m very impressed.  Those are two good pass rushers you’re talking about.”

There has been plenty of talk about how long Curry and Graham will remain in Philadelphia considering that they are both edge 4-3 rushers playing unnatural positions in a 3-4. Curry is undersized to be a pure two-gapping defensive end, and Graham isn’t fluid enough in space to be the type of versatile outside linebacker that this system craves.

What they can do is rush the passer, maybe better than anyone else on the team right now. Read more »

On the Marcus Smith Project

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Billy Davis has a message for players who enter his office looking for feedback:

“Be careful what you ask, because you are going to get the truth. Just be ready to handle the truth,” said Davis, channelling his inner Colonel Jessup.

The truth is that Marcus Smith is struggling. Davis has talked to the rookie outside linebacker about it, and was candid about it at his press conference this week when he said, among other things, that “the game is moving too fast in his brain right now in my opinion.” He knew Smith would be listening.

“I was interested to see how he would respond even to our comments to you guys. I know that I am talking to them, too,” he told a small group of reporters Tuesday. “But I talk to them first and I try to keep the same message. He’s going to be OK. And he’s not playing great. We try to live in the truth.”

Davis says Smith has responded well to the critical analysis and believes the 6-3, 251-pound former quarterback has the athleticism and mental make-up to push through the learning curve and develop into a good player. The question is: how long will that take? Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: What Life’s Like For Marcus Smith II

Marcus Smith

Tra Thomas wasn’t wearing pads or a uniform. Instead, he was dressed in a black Eagles t-shirt and black shorts.

With his hat cocked to the side and dark sunglasses covering his eyes, Thomas settled into his stance at left tackle just as he’d done thousands of times throughout the course of his 12-year career.

Lined up across from him, angled to the left, was rookie Marcus Smith II. Thomas, now an assistant on Chip Kelly’s staff, started 174 games in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl three times. He’s seen 4-3 fronts, 3-4 fronts and everything in between. On some weeks, he faced the game’s best pass-rushers. On other occasions, guys that had no chance of getting past him.

In 1998, the Eagles took Thomas in the first round. In 2014, they took Smith. And on Monday after practice, the two were working together. Read more »

Smith Studying Clay Matthews Tape

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Eagles coaches have been clear about what they want from their outside linebackers: rush the passer, set the edge against the run and drop in coverage.

For first-round pick Marcus Smith II, one of those aspects will be more challenging than the other two.

“It’s very fair to say that,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis when asked if the pass-rush will be the last thing to come. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jaylen Watkins Bounces Back

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

 Billy Davis noted on Monday that the first preseason game is generally the rockiest for the rookies. It’s their first time on the big stage under the bright lights wearing the shiny pants (h/t Pat Shurmur), and the moment can get a little big for them.

Jaylen Watkins seemed to be going through some of that. The rookie corner had his share of miscues against the Bears, none more noticeable than the 73-yard touchdown he gave up in the third quarter to receiver Chris Williams.

“The play I had a was a technique issue. It was all on me,” he said. “I make that play every day in practice. It’s something that I have to translate to the field.”

Watkins walked us through exactly what went wrong.
Read more »

Vinny Curry’s Reality

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Last year, Vinny Curry said he ate everything under the sun.

He was moving from an edge pass rusher to a two-gap end in a 3-4, and was trying to bulk up in order to handle double teams in the trenches. He felt slower and sluggish and joked with reporters that his gut reached “from here to your microphone.”

His weight is down just a notch this season (he currently weighs in at 277 pounds) but looks leaner and more well proportioned. As we saw on Friday in Chicago — like when he recorded the team’s lone sack on the night — Curry is explosive off the ball and can get in the backfield quicker than any of his line mates. He has been steadily building a case for why he should be featured more prominently in Billy Davis‘ attack.

While there is a chance that happens, the reality is that Curry may never be granted anything more than a specialty role in this system. Read more »

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