**The Eagles defense allowed the Bears to go 10-for-17 on third downs in Friday’s preseason loss, which was not a sign of progress for a defense that was one of the worst in the NFL on third downs last season.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Monday that the Eagles do not scheme as much for third downs in the preseason because they need evaluations in pass rush and coverage situations. So there’s more base, with less blitzing.
“Third down wasn’t a good night for us,” Davis said. “One of the products of that is it’s harder than you think to hold the base four-man rushes and coverage calls to evaluate our four-man rush and evaluate our coverage. I knew halfway through that we were struggling on third down and we were losing one-on-one battles. You can go to the pressure package if you want, but it takes you away from the evaluation process. The goal is to evaluate and grow the players, and that’s what we’re working on right now, and it hurt on third down.”
**Vinny Curry was drafted to be a 4-3 pass rusher. That’s what he does best, although the problem is he’s now a 3-4 defensive end. Curry was inactive for the first two games last season before finishing the season with four sacks. He had a sack in the Bears game on Friday.
“When we’re out of our 3-4 mentality and we’re in our pass-rush third down, Vinny’s always in the backfield,” Davis said. “That’s what he does well. The two-gap part of it, he’s a little undersized to two-gap. But he’s getting better and better and better at two-gapping. But you’re talking about Vinny…and you’re asking him to take on 500 pounds of men in a double team, that’s not his world. When you ask Vinny to get in the gap and penetrate, that’s his world. We’re just trying to grow and put Vinny in the best positions for him.”
Davis said there are “absolutely” opportunities in his schemes for players like Curry.
**The Eagles want their cornerbacks to be physical. That is more difficult to do this season with the league’s emphasis on illegal contact by defensive backs.
“We can still be aggressive, we can still attack, we just have to do it a little bit tighter than a year ago,” Davis said.
The officials explained the points of emphasis to the players last week, and there’s been an effort by Davis to tell players during practice what will not be allowed this season. The Bears game proved that the officials are serious about the changes.
“The officials are calling a tighter game, and the other night they called it pretty well,” Davis said. “We grabbed cloth, they called it. Everything they told us they were going to call, they called. We made the mistake, we put our hands on someone past five, they called it. We’ll adjust to it. We have great athletes who are smart, we’ll adjust.”
**The Eagles have a walk-through on Monday before leaving for New England on Monday afternoon. Davis thinks the three days of practicing against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will help the Eagles defense.
“You really do know where you are against the elite of the elite when you get to play and practice against them a couple days in a row,” Davis said. “We’re all excited about going up there, challenging ourselves, and going against the best.”
**Cornerback Nolan Carroll and running backs Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker are not participating in the walk-through.