Smith’s Development “Stifled” By Switch

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

It was out of necessity that Marcus Smith II was shuffled from outside linebacker to inside linebacker earlier this year, and it is out of necessity that he is now being shuffled back to his original position.

Trent Cole broke his hand against Dallas and is expected to be sidelined for at least one week. That means Brandon Graham steps into the starter’s role while Smith figures to be the next man in.

“I expect to get some snaps. I’m not sure how many snaps I’ll get but I’m sure to get action,” said Smith. “Hopefully go out there, run around and just make a play.”

Smith is currently practicing at the Predator position, so he’ll likely rotate in for Graham at times. Bryan Braman is the other option at outside linebacker.

Smith was moved inside back in September after Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode went down with injuries. He was already having a difficult time acclimating to the pro level, and now had to do so while learning a new position. The results haven’t been good. Smith has appeared in six games and has played just 74 snaps, totaling one tackle and one quarterback hurry.

“We set him back by moving him inside, but we needed that because of all the injuries we had at inside,” said Billy Davis. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Davis usually sets up shop at the exact same spot in the middle of the Eagles locker room after home games.

He always speaks in the same calm, measured tone. You can never tell by his face whether his defense just played well or played poorly, whether the Eagles won or lost.

Players seem to appreciate that about him. And so does Chip Kelly. Davis believes in the process, and having coached in the NFL for more than 20 years, he’s been on the wrong side of plenty of bad losses, contests where the game plan left room for second-guessing and where the coaches didn’t put the players in positions to succeed.

Sunday’s 38-27 loss to the Cowboys was one of those games. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Will Eagles See a Different Romo?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo did not play a clean game on Thanksgiving as the Eagles handed the Cowboys a 33-10 loss.

He went 18-for-29 for 199 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. But most notably, he went down on a couple occasions when pressure was near, something that has been rare for him throughout his career.

“Oh, we’ll see a different offense,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “We’ll see a healthier Tony Romo. We’ll see a healthier team, a team that’s got plenty of time to prepare for us, including a game with us under our belt. But we also have that time. It will be a little different. Tony Romo will look completely different against us than he did against Chicago. He looked a lot healthier in Chicago, and now 10 more days of recovery, I think we are going to get more of the healthy Tony Romo.”

Maybe Davis just wanted to make it clear to his players that taking the Cowboys lightly would be a mistake. Maybe he wanted to drive home the message that the performance in the first game will have no impact on this one.

Or  perhaps he was saying how he really felt. Read more »

All-22: The Good And Bad Of the Eagles’ Defense

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Eagles defensive players – well, most of them anyway – know by now not to make excuses.

The offense wants to play fast every week, regardless of opponent, situation or anything else. The defense’s job is always to get off the field and give the offense another chance to score. Since Chip Kelly took over, that formula has worked pretty well. But there are games, like Sunday’s, when the offense is stagnant. And that puts the defensive players in a bind.

For example, to start the game, the defense gave up a 10-play, 43-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock. The offense went three-and-out in 25 seconds. And Billy Davis’ guys were right back out there.

That is just how it is. It’s why the Eagles train the way they do. And it’s why in a perfect world, they’d like to rotate players on defense even more.

“I think they are fine,” Kelly said Monday. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fourth quarter. I just think that they are built for it. They are in great condition. They train at a really high level. They practice against us. They understand what it takes. We didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything like that. I would imagine they will all be ready to go.” Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Seahawks, the Day After

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY

There was a lot of talk about measuring sticks in the Eagles’ locker room Sunday evening. Questions regarding what the players learned about themselves during a windy afternoon at the Linc. Discussions on whether the team is capable of competing with the best of the best in the conference.

After a 24-14 loss to the Seahawks in which the offense looked completely outmatched, the Eagles are now 0-3 against NFC teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

The overall mood, though, was more upbeat than one might expect. As Russell Wilson knelt down to kill the clock in the fourth quarter, Connor Barwin walked around to his teammates and delivered fist-pounds and hugs. When Mark Sanchez returned to his locker after his press conference, Jordan Matthews greeted him a handshake.

Everyone seemed to share the same feeling.

“I don’t think that anybody in here feels that we can’t beat the Seattle Seahawks,” said center Jason Kelce. “I just think they were much better than we were today. And I think we feel the same way about Green Bay and about any team in the NFL. On any given day, you can win in this league. And it really comes down to us just continuing to improve each and every day.” Read more »

Barwin Named Defensive Player Of the Month

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans

Connor Barwin was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.

Barwin racked up 6.5 sacks last month, including 3.5 against the Panthers on November 10. He also had three passes defensed and a forced fumble in that stretch. The five-year vet is second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, which is a career high.

He is actually rushing the passer slightly less on average than last season (24 times per game compared to 27 per game in 2013), per Pro Football Focus, but is having a much bigger year statistically.

The biggest difference? Read more »

Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

From the defensive performance to the most likely playoff scenarios, here are three Eagles numbers that matter.

8 – That’s where the Eagles’ defense ranks in terms of DVOA, per Football Outsiders. It’s time we start looking at stats that actually mean something when analyzing Billy Davis’ unit.

If you look at traditional stats like yards per game, the Eagles rank 24th (366.3). That number is incredibly misleading, when you consider the defense has faced the sixth-most snaps of any team in the NFL. The Eagles also have a +90 point differential, second in the NFC behind only the Packers. They’ve held a lot of big leads on opponents in the fourth quarters of games and have given up some yards at the end. But that does not speak to the overall performance of the defense. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: The College Edge on Defense

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

When he was the linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns back in 2012, Billy Davis and his colleagues had to come up with a game plan for then-rookie Robert Griffin III.

At the time, Washington was using the pistol and the read-option, college concepts that were making their way to the NFL.

“We had to spend a lot of time watching Washington and figuring out how we were going to adapt Coach [Dick] Jauron’s defense to stop that,” Davis said a few months after he was hired. “Well, the guys that are in our defensive staff room right now, they’ve solved that problem a hundred times.”

Davis has seven coaches on his staff; six of them came to the NFL from college. And that was no accident. Read more »

Graham Finding Success, Blocking Out Noise

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Brandon Graham has tried to block out the noise.

During his five-year career, he’s pretty much heard it all. That he’s a bust. That the Eagles would be better off with someone else. That they should have never taken him with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

“People were… saying little stuff,” Graham said. “They used to be like, ‘Jason Pierre-Paul is better than you.’ Now they saying he ain’t. Now they’re like, ‘Oh man, we should have got Earl Thomas.’ Hopefully I can change all that.”

Thomas and Graham will be on the same field Sunday when the Eagles host the Seahawks. The names will forever be linked around these parts. When the Birds traded up in 2010, analyst Mike Mayock predicted on TV that they were going to grab the safety out of Texas. He was wrong. Since then, Thomas has developed into a guy most agree is the best safety in the NFL. Read more »

‘We’ve Gotta Really Turn It Up’

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots

The Eagles have been averaging 30 points on offense over their last five games. The offensive line and (consequently) the running game is beginning to click, their quarterback is playing pretty well and the head coach knows how to scheme it up. There’s reason enough for this unit to be feeling good about itself as it hits the home stretch.

Sunday’s opponent is a different beast, though, and everybody inside the NovaCare seems to be bracing for some tough sledding ahead.

“I don’t think we go into it thinking [our defense] has to win the game but there is a difference between our offense going against anybody else’s defense and our offense going against Seattle,” Malcolm Jenkins acknowledged. “You do realize this is probably going to be a defensive struggle. We don’t expect our offense to go in and put up 35 points on this defense.” Read more »

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