Sunday, November 29, 2015

Davis: Expecting flag day opener, for now

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he expects the NFL's crackdown on defensive holding to extend at least into the early part of the regular season. Calls dropped significantly late in the preseason.

Davis: Expecting flag day opener, for now

Brandon Graham works with Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Brandon Graham works with Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Wednesday he is going into Sunday's season opener against Jacksonville assuming nothing has changed in the NFL's extreme crackdown on defensive holding downfield.

"I think we made steady progress" adjusting to the way preseason games were being officiated, Davis said. "The whole league, collectively, kept working hard at it. Part of that equation is the officials, early, were throwing everything at anything, and then they got better at what really was the interference call, and what wasn't. I think collectively, officials and players are working and have gotten better at it."

Davis said his approach is always to "continue to talk to the man" to see what's going to be called and what isn't.

"Early on, I'm banking on, it's not going to change much" from the preseason, Davis said. "I think there's a message they wanted to send that's been sent. I don't imagine they're backing off too much. I think it is what they said it is."

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Davis noted that the adjustments he alluded to cut down on the number of flags toward the end of the preseason. Also, he said, having starters playing against starters will cut down on athletic mismatches, which is what often prompts holding.

Other highlights from the coordinators' press conferences, and the conference call with Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley:

*Bradley said while he was in Philly, before he went to interview in Jacksonville, he got a call from former Eagles coach Andy Reid, telling him he should take the Birds' job, if it was offered.

*Pat Shurmur mentioned that the Eagles have practiced TE Trey Burton at running back, which might take a little of the pressure off the decision to keep just three RBs on the roster, including hamstrung Chris Polk.

*Asked about Polk getting into football shape after missing the preseason, Shurmur said: "It's gonna have to happen quickly."

*Davis indicated that first-round rookie Marcus Smith will be active for the opener, in "a limited role." Davis said he has several options when it comes to backing up Connor Barwin, which is what Smith has mostly been doing. But he made it clear that OLB/ILB Travis Long was going to be a useful player for the Eagles, before he tore his right ACL last week.

*Rookie corner Jaylen Watkins did not seem to be a full practice participant; he came out in shorts, with no helmet.

*Shurmur said he thinks WRs Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper got enough preseason reps to be sharp Sunday.


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