Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis talks pass rush, cornerback depth, third downs, and more
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke to reporters on Monday at training camp. Here is the full transcript:
Q. It looked like the Bears converted 10 out of 17 third downs. It looked like you had that problem again of not getting off the field. You had good first and second downs?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, third down wasn't a good night for us. But one of the products of that is I really am trying to evaluate. It's harder than you think to hold to base four-man rushes and coverage calls to evaluate a four‑man rush and evaluate our coverage. I knew halfway through that we were struggling on third down, and we were losing different one‑on‑one battles, but you can go to the pressure package, if you want. But it takes you away from the evaluation process. So the whole goal is to evaluate and grow the players, and that's what we're working on right now. It hurt a little bit on third down.
Q. You want to be able to generate a rush with the four-man base?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely, absolutely. That's exactly it. And you want the guys to win the one‑on‑one battles and have a couple of opportunities. An outside rusher or inside rusher, they have a couple opportunities to set up some moves, to work some moves on that tackle, so there is a lot of thinking that goes into staying basic in the preseason believe it or not.
Q. How would you evaluate that four-man rush.
BILL DAVIS: There were some real nice rushes. There really were. We had some great rushes. We had some bad ones. The guys were trying new moves and techniques that worked sometimes and sometimes they got tripped up. So every play helps us that we get to evaluate and grow. Even if it's a young player learning what not to do, at least he grows from that point.
Q. How is it going to help you guys to go against an offense like the Patriots for a few days here?
BILL DAVIS: It's going to help a lot. I loved going against Jay Cutler and that group we had in Chicago. It's one of the top offensive talents in the league. And we backed that up with New England and Tom Brady was great last year to see. 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. So we're all really excited about going up there and challenging ourselves and going against the best.
Q. You mentioned you you like to see twos against ones to get a better evaluation of how they do. Is there any chance Marcus Smith or Beau Allen, or Taylor Hart might get with the first team Friday night and get some looks?
BILL DAVIS: We'll try to do that a little more Friday night but we're also going to try to do it in practice against New England, so we can see our twos or threes against their ones. It's easier to do it there than in the games. The hard part about the games you don't know how many more reps are left. How many three‑and‑outs are going to happen. Or the other night we had a 16-play drive we didn't want, but all those young guys got a lot of reps, so that goes back and forth. So against New England in practice, we'll definitely be moving the roster around for evaluation purposes.
Q. I know you haven't seen Bennie Logan much in training camp because of injuries. But what were your evaluations with him as a run stopper last season? What were some of the things you thought he did good?
BILL DAVIS: The thing about Bennie Logan last year, I really think about the progress he made week‑in and week‑out. He really took some huge strides. At the halfway point when he started starting a little bit and Bennie got better and better as it went on in the run game. He hasn't been out here a lot yet, but he's fine. I think he'll pick up where he left off.
Q. Those two good nose tackles that you have, that's a good problem to have. But Bennie can come in on passing downs and it seems like those guys both have pass‑rushing skills, I mean, how do you juggle two nose tackles like that?
BILL DAVIS: You play them both. We rotate anyway. We are constantly rolling. Our D‑line, of all the positions, that group rolls the most and tries to stay the freshest. We're still 90 plays the other night. We're still on the field a lot, and we have to roll our personnel. It's great to have two noses or two or three. We've got some other guys in there. We have a good young group of defensive linemen across the board that rolling them through, I'm excited. It's not a problem. It's just great to have competition and a rotation.
Q. When you see Marcus Smith on film, is it fair to say maybe the coverage and run defense will come sooner for him than the pass rush?
BILL DAVIS: It's very fair to say that. I think you saw his athleticism. Again, those guys are thinking a lot. The very first preseason game is always their hardest. They have the most nerves; they have the wow factor; they're in the NFL. That settles after a couple plays, couple quarters. Now you typically see the second third and fourth preseason game with young guys, you see big growth because the nervous part, the, oh, my God, that's Jay Cutler over there, whoever it is, is kind of gone. Now they start saying this is football again. Let me just do my thing and they get better because of it.
Q. Jaylen Watkins got beat for a touchdown then came back with an interception. What do you say to that?
BILL DAVIS: I love the mental toughness he showed in coming back. He had a bad jam. In the NFL, you pay for your mistakes, and it's something that he's learned a valuable lesson. He's a very smart young man. I don't see him making that mistake again, and I love the way he bounced back. Took him a little bit. He had a couple other stumbles before he regained composure, but he regained it. And that is growth of a young guy.
Q. Do you think your cornerback depth has improved from last year?
BILL DAVIS: I do. I think the personnel department has done a great job building depth at all positions, and I think going into this season, we're deeper this year and more competitive. I mean, there are more spots up for grabs. The competition is higher, and the play should elevate, and I think it is.
Q. Where are you having guys in the right place, right time, right call right now versus the last game of last season?
BILL DAVIS: Well, the preseason is a little bit different in how you call them. But when we get to the season, first of all, the coaching staff, we know the players and strengths and weaknesses much more than we did a year ago. We've seen them play through the big games and we know what they do well and what they don't. Defensively, structurally we'll put them in better positions than we felt we did at the end of last season. Hopefully we gain and build off what we did last year. And they in turn know our defensive calls better, what we expect of them, their assignments. So hopefully by the time the season hits, we're way ahead of where we left off at the end of the year.
Q. How is Joe Kruger coming along as a two‑gap lineman?
BILL DAVIS: He's getting better every day. He had a couple nice flashes the other night. But Joe, like a lot of the young guys, we have such a mix of young talent in there. Every preseason game means a lot to him, and I think he took a big step forward. He had a nice game the other night.
Q. Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman are known for their special teams. How are they coming along on defense?
BILL DAVIS: Good, I think Chris Maragos is a great addition as a safety. He's been in the mix in other places he's been. He's made a name in special teams, but he's a solid safety and a good pick up for it. What is the other name?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, Braman, he's a great athlete out there. You see him fly around. You always know where he is on special teams, and he's picking up our scheme and fitting in well. He did all right. He had one penalty that you didn't like, but other than that, he had a solid game.
Q. Are cornerbacks still able to be as physical as you want them to be?
BILL DAVIS: Corners? Absolutely. We're learning how the officials are calling a tighter game. The other night they called it pretty well. I mean, we grabbed cloth, they called everything they told us they were going to call, and we made the mistake. If we put our hands on someone past five [yards], they called it. It's a matter of us adjusting. We have great athletes. We're adjusting. It takes work. You don't want to get beat and sometimes you do something you shouldn't. But we talk about it, we're working on it in practice every day, and every time someone shows up, we point [it] out [and say] this is a flag, this is a flag. So we can still be aggressive, we can still attack, we can still press. We just have to do it a little tighter than we did a year ago.
Q. Vinny Curry started out last year inactive. Can you just explain what he was going through and where he needs to get in order to be a regular contributor?
BILL DAVIS: Vinny Curry has a great pass-rush skill set. And you see that every time he's in there. When we're out of our 3-4 mentality and in our third down, Vinny's always in the back field. And he does that well. The two-gap part of it, he's a little undersized, but getting better, and better and better at two-gapping. So when you talk about Vinny and you put him in there in a four ‘I’ and ask him to take on 500 pounds of men and double team, that's not his world. When you ask Vinny to get in the gap and penetrate, that's his world. So we're trying to grow and put Vinny in the best positions for him. Then you have the whole defensive unit out there, and how it all fits together is where it gets to where you have to be creative and make sure the situation and the call match the talent and we do what they do best, and that's what Vinny does best is penetrate.
Q. Is there an opportunity in your scheme for a guy like that?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely, yes, yes.
Q. Head coach Chip Kelly has mentioned several times how much man coverage he had to face last year. As a guy that's gone against Darren Sproles in the playoffs and goes against him every day, what effect is he going to have on defenses this year and their ability to play man against you?
BILL DAVIS: God bless him. He is hard to cover out of the back field, and you are very aware as a defensive signal caller who is matched up [against him] in your man coverages, and [LeSean McCoy as well] for that matter. And those are two great space athletes that are difficult to cover. If you've got linebackers and even safeties, you better make sure they're quick, because those guys are so shifty. It's a hard match‑up. We usually end up putting a whole player to that side or extra body on our man coverages especially when they're out of the back field as much as they are. I'm glad we have them and don't have to defend them, I know that.
Q. Other than Brandon Boykin’s athleticism, what makes him so good in that nickel role?
BILL DAVIS: I think his understanding is growing. When we first got him, I don't think he had a great feel of his leverage and how it affects the routes that he can get. I think his understanding of his role in the nickel spot and how his leverage changes and who on different calls helped and where he doesn't have help, that is making him a better player and more aggressive in the coverages. I think early on, he was getting the guy no matter what and not focusing on where his help was and wasn't.
Q. Piggybacking on the question about Sproles, how much more challenging did you find defending against him in the playoffs years before or whatever, that quarterbacks to tend to make adjustments at the line more often while on coverage? Get him against a slower linebacker? Did you find it ‑‑ does that complicate things, I guess? Does the quarterback make a call at the line and all of a sudden ‑‑
BILL DAVIS: Obviously, if they audible at the line for what they see or potentially see the match‑up, and they can get in and out of him free releasing, that does matter.
Q. How do you trust that?
BILL DAVIS: Well, you've got to make sure who is matched up. If you're not matched up, even in the zone you have to know, because out of the back field, those wheel routes, anybody that has the flat has a wheel route. It could be a big linebacker that has them. So now you have to make sure you have a safety over there. It's all attached. But he makes you think through that. And that's the running back in the back field. You have receivers and [New Orleans TE Jimmy] Graham at tight end and all those other issues of who you're putting one‑on‑one out there. That is the thing when you get a Sproles, that is one more guy that you have to be conscious of your match‑up along with the other match‑up issues that a team may give you.
Q. Is quickness the primary thing? Do you say to yourself well, a bigger guy might be better against him? How do you balance all the factors there?
BILL DAVIS: The other thing with Darren Sproles is his intelligence and work ethic. So not only is he faster and quicker than most on the field, he knows exactly what the defensive coverage is, he knows protections. This is a smart man and a great football player, so he gives you a problem all the way around.
Q. Mychal Kendricks and the linebacker group had a couple real good plays in coverage, that's got to be encouraging.
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I put him in the same category as Brandon [Boykin] in the fact that [inside linebackers coach] Rick [Minter's] doing a great job with those inside backers in learning the scheme and growing the scheme. I think Mychal understands what his assignment is, how it's attached to others around him. When you have young players, usually they don't figure that part out. Usually all their effort is my assignment and what I have to do. Then as they take a year or two and they grow, and for Mychal it's the second year in the same system finally, now he can say I know now what others around me have to do and how that affects my job. I think Mychal's growing in that area.
Q. It's been a week now that Nolan Carroll's been down. What's that do in the evaluation of him?
BILL DAVIS: It's hard. You can't evaluate anybody that's not in there. But we know he's a vet and he's mentally in it. He's a great leader. He's in every play call and he was coaching on the sidelines, all those things that benefit him. But when he's out there, obviously you can't see him do things. But we've seen him enough. He started a couple years in Miami, and we know what he brings and we'll get him healthy and have him back out there in the mix.
Q. Getting pass deflections at the line of scrimmage…is that something you guys are actively coaching?
BILL DAVIS: We're actively coaching, but you can't do it in practice because we have to let our guys throw. When we get to those preseason games, we talk about it a lot. We talk about throwing windows and the effect it has on quarterbacks and timing and accuracy. We talk about it a lot. [Defensive line/assistant head coach Jerry] Azzinaro does a great job with those guys in the pass rush and how you affect the quarterback.
Q. Do you have a preference for positions that sort of factor into your guys ability to get in there in terms of blocking passes?
BILL DAVIS: It helps. A lot of the length has to do with two-gapping and that there. But the length does help when they're throwing the quick balls and our hands are up.
Q. What did you think of the tackling in the first game?
BILL DAVIS: I thought we were a lot farther along than we were last year. I thought the run defense and the tackling are two areas that we took big steps. If you compare preseason game one this year to preseason game one last year, we still missed too many tackles. One of the encouraging things was we missed with the right leverage. We had head placement and we still missed. That's got to get fixed. But the fundamental part of it we weren't missing because of arm tackles and heads in the wrong position. The thought of being in the right position was much better.
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