BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Training camp is for trying new things out.
The Eagles are experimenting with a different way to handle how plays are relayed to their defense, especially when an opponent switches into the hurry-up offense.
“We’re not huddling as much as we did last year," linebacker Casey Matthews said Friday. "Last year we huddled and the [middle linebacker] would be the only one looking for the call. This year with offenses going at such a quicker pace we’re all just looking at the call.”
Traditionally in the Eagles defense, the middle linebacker -- who is also hearing the call in his headset -- looked to the sideline to receive the signal from a coach. Last year, safeties coach Mike Zordich relayed Juan Castillo's calls to Matthews and Jamar Chaney. The middle linebacker would then call the play in the huddle and the players would get into position.
Several teams last year, however, tripped the Eagles defense up when they unfurled the no-huddle (e.g. the Patriots) and the plays were coming in too late.
“They want everyone to line up faster instead of having the [middle linebacker] look over, get the call, break the huddle, and get the front lined up," said Matthews, who is currently backing up the newly-acquired DeMeco Ryans in the middle. "They just want everything to be faster because last year it seemed like sometimes the call would get in late because teams would disguise personnel till the last second.”
Basically, the Eagles defense is handling its pre-snap business as if the offense is always in two-minute drill mode. In between plays the players stand close to where they will position themselves at the snap. Matthews and Chaney said they aren't sure if the defense will conduct itself this way for the entire game, but they have yet to huddle up so far this camp.
“As a defense, Juan said, you don’t want the offense dictating the pace," Chaney said. "If they want to go hurry-up, we got an adjustment for it. We can just turn to the sideline and get a signal and be ready to play like that.”
In college, many defenses have all their players on the field look to the sideline to see the play call because there is no headset for the middle linebacker to wear. Ryans will still make the call and still align the front four, though.
“It’s good because everybody needs to know the signals anyway because you never know what can happen with the headset," Chaney said.