Undlin Making A Great First Impression
Cory Undlin would not mention the Denver Broncos organization by name. Instead, he referred to it as “the other place.”
One day after being told that his services would no longer be needed at “the other place” back in January, he received a call from Billy Davis, who asked him to fly to Philly for an interview. Two days after that he was at the NovaCare Complex, where he met with Davis and Chip Kelly for some six hours. A contract was offered, pen was put to paper and just like that he was in a new place, charged with repairing a secondary in disarray.
“The roster didn’t really concern me at that point,” said Undlin during an afternoon session with reporters Wednesday. “I was looking for an opportunity to coach somewhere and keep doing what I love to do and do it with passion, and fortunately for me they offered me the job. There was no hesitation, there was no questioning it. I took it on the spot, and flew back and packed my bags.”
The 43-year-old Undlin has been a hit since landing back in town. Brandon Boykin feels that he’s “gotten better in these OTAs than maybe I had in a whole year last year.” Malcolm Jenkins considers Undlin “the most important pick up in that room,” greater even than the Byron Maxwell acquisition. On Tuesday, Jenkins added that Undlin is bringing things to the table from a coaching perspective that he hadn’t been exposed to previously during his six years in the league.
“I think our secondary, we’ve probably been at it for two months now, I think we’re better than last year already,” said Jenkins. “And that’s just cleaning up a lot of the technique aspect of our game, we’re a lot more efficient in and out of our breaks, we’re a lot better at press coverage already and that’s just one week of OTAs and mainly walkthroughs and individual periods.
“We’ve seen the improvements, from myself being more efficient, from guys like Brandon Boykin who is a phenomenal athlete but now using his technique is really starting to dominate; Nolan Carroll has been one who I think really has taken the biggest jump from last year. He’s a very explosive player, instinctual, but now he has technique and every snap is now doing a great job of challenging routes. So it’s made our secondary better.
“He’s a better teacher than anything. That’s something you don’t get in the NFL. Everybody knows how to coach, they know what’s right and what’s wrong, but they don’t know how to teach it. And I think that’s one thing that we’ve definitely gotten better at in that room.”
It’s hard not to take the players’ comments as at least a partial indictment of their former defensive backs coaches, John Lovett and Todd Lyght. But it also speaks to Undlin’s effectiveness since taking over. According to Davis, Undlin has excelled at not only teaching proper technique, but getting it to carry over from individual to team drills.
“What happens is, when you’re in individual, your brain is thinking about your footwork. But when you go to team and you have a call that you have to execute and an offense that you have to read, your footwork kind of goes on its own,” Davis explained. “So you try to drill it and teach it to where they do it naturally, and he’s taken big steps with the guys, and it’s happening in team naturally because they are repping it so well in individual.”
“I’m coaching the same way I’ve coached for a long time,” said Undlin, who has made stops in Denver, Jacksonville, Cleveland and New England during his career, “and that’s teaching and demanding technique and effort. And I’m pleased with where we are going right now and how we have progressed.”
There is plenty of room for improvement. The Eagles ranked 31st in pass defense last year. Per NFL.com, they allowed a staggering 72 pass plays of 20-plus yards and 18 that went 40-plus, both league highs. The first order of business is getting those numbers down.
“I use the term all the time: we are out of the x-play business,” said Undlin. “We’re not doing that. I believe every x-play that is given up, at some point in the down was a result of poor technique somewhere in the down: the guy fell down, somebody got picked, they just threw the ball over your head — that’s an example of technique. So my focus has been on, here’s how we’re not going to give those plays up.”
Much of the offseason focus has been on fixing the back end. Three of the four starters from last year are no longer with the team. The Eagles signed Maxwell to a lucrative deal, picked up Walter Thurmond and spent three of their draft picks on defensive backs. Ultimately, it comes down to personnel. But this group feels they are in good hands with their new coach.
“He’s made us a lot more efficient as defensive backs,” said Jenkins. “There’s still a lot that we can get better at but we’re definitely off to a great start.”