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.

Part of the reason why the Eagles play a two-gap 3-4 is because Chip Kelly and Davis decided that was the best scheme to defend what Kelly likes to do on offense. On Sunday, the Eagles face a Seahawks team that likes to use Russell Wilson a lot on zone read plays. Davis believes having coaches on staff who have previously defended against similar run schemes is a huge benefit.

“It’s the biggest difference,” Davis said Tuesday. “Our guys have spent a career of defending this, and it’s old hat to them right away. They’ve got answers for everything right away. Honestly, from the aspect of them knowing the answers right away, they’ve defended it. So as an NFL lifer, I haven’t had to have those discussions a lot in my career, but over the last two years – again, we face it in practice every day, so that’s a benefit to us, and then the coaches that we have are not only outstanding coaches on any scheme, but the read option is part of what they know well.”

On the season, Wilson has 679 rushing yards. That’s more than he had in either of the previous two seasons, and there are still four games left. He does a fantastic job of avoiding big hits and getting down after picking up yards with his legs.

The Eagles have faced other offenses with read-option elements (San Francisco, Carolina), but defensive players said no QB they’ve gone up against has kept the ball as much as Wilson.

“One of the benefits we have here is there’s no new conversation for us when we play a zone-read team like there are for teams that don’t have a whole offseason of defending it,” Davis said. “We see it every single day of the offseason. We see it every single day of training camp and even during the course of the week when we do some good-on-good, we defend the read option. So our calls and our conversations for our linebackers, the reads, the outside ‘backers, the inside ‘backers and how we defend it, is nothing new. We reopen that conversation when we have to face a read-option team like we are this week.”


Brandon Graham will be on the same field as Earl Thomas Sunday. The Eagles’ OLB is finding success and blocking out noise.

“We’ve gotta really turn it up.” Mark Sanchez and the offense prepare for Seattle.

Will the Eagles stay away from Richard Sherman on Sunday?

The Eagles could have had Wilson. Now, Kelly faces him for the second time.


Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers thoughts on the Eagles’ defense:

Last year the defense played two really good games. They held the Lions to 231 yards and 20 points and the Bears to 257 yards and 11 points. The Lions game was the Snow Bowl so that helped the Eagles to keep Megatron from going nuts.

This year the defense has a shutout (that did really happen, right?). They just held Dallas to 10 points in Dallas. The Panthers trailed 45-7 before scoring a pair of garbage time TDs. The Rams trailed 34-7 late in the 3rd quarter when they went nuts to somehow make that a close game. The Eagles have held 5 teams to 317 yards or less. When the defense plays well, they can be pretty good.

David Murphy of the Daily News weighs in on the Kelly/Florida rumors:

Maybe Chip Kelly is a megalomaniac. Maybe he secretly harbors the feudal political leanings required to enjoy the kinds of powers that a college football overlord possesses. Maybe he really misses being escorted to midfield by a couple of state troopers. But everything that we’ve learned about him thus far suggests that what Kelly enjoys more than anything in the world is coaching football. And the NFL is the one place where a head coach’s full-time job is to coach football. Quick, name a successful NFL coach that voluntarily left the league to return to college. I can’t, even after spending 15 minutes on Google. That’s because it doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t. Because, again, coaching college football sucks. A college football coach is guaranteed to meet one of three fates: unemployment, burn-out, or probation. Sometimes all three.


We’ll talk to Kelly, have reports from practice and hit you with some All-22