Eagles Wake-Up Call: Next Step For the Defense?

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With the 2013 season in the books, Connor Barwin could finally admit it: He had some doubts about this defense after the Eagles got off to a slow start and gave up 52 points to the Broncos in Week 4.

“Maybe a little bit, but I wouldn’t share it with you or anybody,” he said at his locker earlier this week. “Yeah, there were a couple weeks that looked a little… but obviously you really did believe in Billy [Davis]. Billy came in and said the right things, and I was like, ‘Alright man, I trust this guy.’ And he was exactly right. We kept our head down and kept working and gradually got better and better.”

After the Broncos game, the Eagles’ defense went on a nice little run, limiting opponents to 21 points or fewer in 11 of 13 games. There were stumbles along the way, and the defense didn’t exactly finish strong – getting picked apart in Week 15 against the Vikings and struggling in the second half against New Orleans. But overall, most would agree this unit exceeded expectations. Read more »

All-22: Why the Run Defense Faltered

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Since the day he was hired as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Billy Davis has talked about competing against opposing play-callers and quarterbacks on gamedays.

Last week against the Saints, he went up against one of the best duos in the league in that respect: Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

“He’s probably one of the best in formations and matchups and adjustments,” Davis said of Payton. “He’s got a great mind as far as he makes you defend the width and the depth of the field.

“And I think him and Drew are really one and the same person. They have worked so much together that their understanding together that no matter what is in Sean’s head, Drew can execute. And that’s the key to great offensive football is when the quarterback has the same understanding as at coordinator or the head coach in this case, and they play very efficient.”

The Saints entered the postseason with the reputation as one of the league’s more pass-happy teams. That figured to be even more the case Saturday, considering they were without their leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. The Eagles, meanwhile, had the fifth-best run defense in the NFL since Week 10 and had shown vulnerabilities against the pass.

All week, the question was whether the Eagles could handle Brees. No one paid much attention to the Saints’ running game. Read more »

Boykin Getting the Last Laugh

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Brandon Boykin
fractured his leg in the 2012 Senior Bowl while playing special teams. He needed surgery and had a pair of screws inserted. That was in February. The injury prevented him from participating in the combine or holding a pro day, but the Georgia product received no indication that the injury would negatively affect his draft stock.

It did.

Speaking with some NFL teams leading up to April’s draft, he was told that he was projected to go between No. 26 overall to early in the second round. Instead, he slipped all the way to the fourth round before being selected by the Eagles with the 123rd pick.

There were 12 corners taken before him, and he knows the names of each and every one of them. He sees them every day when he wakes up. Read more »

All-22: On the Kendricks-Graham Matchup

Last year against the Eagles, Jimmy Graham was targeted 11 times and ended with eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Three of those catches came with Mychal Kendricks in coverage, including the one in which the 6-7, 265-pound athletic phenom found pay dirt.

With the Saints set up deep in Eagles territory late in the third quarter, Drew Brees found Graham in the flat. Kendricks moved in for the tackle. Read more »

Three Highlights From Billy Davis

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis met with the media today. Here are three things that stood out from the session.

1. Since the day he was hired, Davis has talked about how defensive coordinators have to call games against the opposing quarterback and the opposing play-caller.

This week presents one of the best duos in the league in that respect with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. I asked Davis what makes Payton, specifically, so good as a play-caller.

“He’s probably one of the best in formations and matchups and adjustments,” Davis said. “He’s got a great mind as far as, again, he makes you defend the width and the depth of the field. And I think him and Drew are really one and the same person. They have worked so much together that their understanding together that no matter what is in Sean’s head, Drew can execute. And that’s the key to great offensive football is when the quarterback has the same understanding as at coordinator or the head coach in this case.” Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Normally we use this space for a thorough recap of the previous day’s game, and there will be some of that.

But it’s a playoff week for the first time in three years in Philadelphia, so let’s lead off with 10 things you should know about the next opponent: the Saints.

1. New Orleans took care of business Sunday, crushing the Bucs 42-17 to improve to 11-5 on the season – that’s 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road. The Saints won four of their last five and were 2-3 overall against teams that are in the postseason. Going into Week 17, Football Outsiders had New Orleans as the No. 7 team overall – fifth on offense, 11th on defense and 24th on special teams. Read more »

Williams: Bring On Dallas, No Matter the QB

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
Tony Romo, Kyle Orton
. Kyle Orton, Tony Romo. Whatever, says Cary Williams.

“We’re here to win a Super Bowl. We’re here to contend in the playoffs. We’re here to build on what we’ve built already. As far as I’m concerned they can play those games. I don’t care,” said Williams.  ”Jason Garrett can get out there. Jerry Jones can get out there. It doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t matter to anyone else in this locker room. We’re on a mission and they’re in our way. Period.” Read more »

Eagles Still Prepping For Romo

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The Tony Romo report broke late Monday afternoon. As word leaked into the NovaCare that Dallas’ starting quarterback could miss Sunday night’s game with a back injury, the Eagles had to modify their approach. But it wasn’t as if they just started ripping up the game plan. In fact, they are still preparing as if Romo will start for the Cowboys.

“It really wasn’t Earth-shattering,” said Davis. “Most of the time when injuries happen early in the week, [the reaction is] not that drastic because  there is still a possibility he’s playing. Now, do we say, ‘OK, let’s take maybe a longer look at Kyle Orton?’ Absolutely. That’s probably the biggest shift, we may have to play a different guy, but we’re going to prepare for their offense and all their weapons. He’s one man of 11 out there — he’s the main guy, but he’s also a guy we’ll prepare equally for.” Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Bears, the Day After

NFL: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

As the Eagles prepared for their final possession Sunday night, Nick Foles stood on the sideline next to tight end Zach Ertz and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.

The offense gathered briefly before running onto the field. Foles had a green and black baseball cap on instead of a helmet. He paused his conversation, joined his teammates briefly, put his arm around James Casey and returned to the sideline as Michael Vick took a couple kneel-downs to end the game.

There was a hug from Chris Polk and a handshake from Brent Celek. Foles then made his way past cameras towards midfield to greet the Bears’ quarterbacks as the clock showed triple zeroes. He removed his hat, knelt down for the prayer circle with members from both teams and joined LeSean McCoy for an interview with NBC.

Foles’ performance will not be the first or even second topic of conversation among Eagles fans today. And that’s saying something considering he went 21-for-25 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 131.7. Read more »

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