Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Eagles still experimenting on defense

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis speaks to members<br />of the media during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 4, 2014,<br />in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis speaks to members of the media during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Watching DE Alejandro Villanueva, it seems like he really struggles with leverage and knowing how to use his body and so forth. Have you ever had a guy like that with so much physical ability and so little training?

BILL DAVIS: I think what you're hitting on is he's got no defensive line background. We love his strength. At 6‑7, it's tough to get too much leverage. One of the things we love about his length is the arm reach and that's why we covet the taller defensive linemen. But he's coming from a wide receiver red zone background and we knew he was a project when we took him on. But the character that he has and the willingness to work and learn; he's a sponge. The off‑season without pads is a little bit easier on everybody, especially in the lines, and once you start mixing it up with pads, then your technique you really learn why the technique and the steps are so important. His muscle memory is not there yet and he has reps in front of him but we love the progress he's making, the man he is and the character he brings to our team. We are very excited about growing him as a player.

How difficult is it to evaluate defensive linemen.

BILL DAVIS: It's hard until you put the pads on. When the physicality hits and you're hit in the nose and hit in the mouth and that element starts showing itself, now they believe in the techniques more and their steps they understand why they mean so much and they understand why hand placement means so much and you can see where they are and how they get off blocks. It's tough to judge a guy without pads when they are in the scrum.

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  • What does a guy like LB Najee Goode bring to the defense?

    BILL DAVIS: I'm glad we have Najee for training camp and off‑season this year. Our scouting department did a great job picking him up off the waiver wire and he learned from scratch. It was a little bit of a slow start for him. In the off‑season, he's an athletic young guy and needs some experience but he's good in coverage and against the run and he's a solid tackler. We're excited about having guys like him. We have very similar athletes at the inside backer position and we are anxious to see the preseason kind of sort that whole mix out

    What do the outside linebackers have to do to set the edge successfully in your scheme?

    BILL DAVIS: First of all, nothing inside of them ever gets outside of them. That's a rule of thumb when you're setting an edge so everything that's aligned inside of you has to stay inside of you and that's where you can prevent ‑‑ most long runs happen when you lose force. When you break down an assignment inside, there's a lot of elements in place that can fix that. When they get outside of the defense, there's nobody there but a sideline. That's where a lot of big runs come. So it's very important that our outside backers with their width and physicality, really being physical on the edge, set the edge for us and make sure nothing gets outside.

    Is there a technique you prefer?

    BILL DAVIS: So much of the whole defensive call will dictate what blocking scheme comes. For instance, if we have a five technique, if we have a three technique to the side, it's going to be wider than a tight end. There's all kind of dynamics I guess to answer your question in the best way I can, and the different call is they call for a little bit different technique to set the edge but at the end of the day, nothing inside of you gets outside of you to set an edge.

    CB Nolan Carroll said he think he's not having a great camp.

    BILL DAVIS: I'll disagree with him. I think he's very hard on himself. He's a perfectionist. I love the fact that we have him. He drives himself every day. He is a perfectionist. I've moved him inside to a dime, a lineman which he's never played. He's learning and struggling through the ‘I’ placement of a dime linebacker as opposed to a corner, so he's in the middle of a learning curve and he's hard on himself but I think I'm very pleased.

    Do you have him working as an outside dime linebacker because of how impressed you are with him or is that what the scheme calls for?

    BILL DAVIS: Probably both. I'm impressed with him and it's a personnel package we cover.

    The ‘I’ placement for a dime, how is that so different?

    BILL DAVIS: It's your location. As a corner you're wide and you're deep, unless you're pressed. Now you play that dime position, now you're coming into a depth of about five and a half yards. There's actually some formations with some run game that you have to actually play in the box in a run game. Sometimes you're in the middle and sometimes you're on the edge of a flat drop. So the closer you get to the ball, the more your ‘I’ is important. You don't have any room for error. The further you are away, you can make up sometimes with your ‘I’.

    Sometimes it's difficult to evaluate during practice ‑‑ how will your rotation look Friday night against the Bears?

    BILL DAVIS: We haven't sat down as a staff yet with [Eagles head coach] Chip [Kelly] in talking about that. The goal of the preseason games is to get great evaluation of the players so that when we pick our team, we pick it correctly. So the rotation, sometimes we get some veterans out early so we can see if the 2s can handle their 1s and you've got to try to match up to where you know what they are doing and you're doing and at the end of the day, the goal is to evaluate correctly our team, so for our 16‑game season we have got the right guys and that will be the goal. The rotations, we don't know yet.

    DT Beau Allen has spent a lot of time with the first team. What would we see coming from him ‑‑ what kind of potential does he have?

    BILL DAVIS: I think all of the young guys, the potential is what they make it. We have a bunch of guys we picked that have NFL skill sets. Beau in particular has got great size for the position of nose and quick feet to match that size. That's really the combination in the NFL, the bigger the body, they can still move their feet, you really get excited about guys. The first couple of days in pads, he's been a very pleasant, not surprise, because when we picked him, we were excited about him being where he was, and the fact that we could get him on our team and see what he could do in nose.

    If you look at total sacks on this team, who do you expect to be high on that list?

    BILL DAVIS: It doesn't matter. I'm not expecting the expectation part of it. I want the defensive unit to disrupt the timing and rhythm of that quarterback and hit him as often as we can. Who it comes from, I think we've got a lot of guys that have the skill set that they can get it done. They all understand the defense better this year. I think they will play a little faster and a little more reckless in their pass rush because they understand a lot more specifically. It's comfortable to them now. I don't think a year ago early in the season it was comfortable. Now they know they know. They know what their responsibility is. So I anticipate the group as a whole will be better individually and collectively in rushing the passer.

    Would former NFL linebacker and current Eagles training camp coach Kevin Greene be the guy to help them with that?

    BILL DAVIS: First of all, he shouldn't be here this week. He should be getting a gold jacket. The guy has got 160 career sacks and I know I'm prejudice to him but I really do believe it's time for him to be in the Hall [of Fame].

    But his knowledge of really the simplicity of pass rush and what he's bringing this year for three days to help us just kind of pick his brain on how he did it; the players are grabbing him on how he did it. It was a very basic, fundamental way of rushing the passer that he's bringing to our guys. You have to ask our guys their response to Kevin but we are excited about picking his brain for three or four days before it leaves.

    The way the CBA is and much less hitting than there used to be, what challenge does that present for you?

    BILL DAVIS: We talk about it and work on it all the time. The rules are the rules like coach Kelly always talks about. We are not here to argue with them or change them or whine about them. We are just here to make sure we maximize our ability to get work in regardless of the rules, and we do a lot of ‑‑ I've talked about this before, two‑hand tag below the waist, get your body in a position to make the tackle.

    We constantly talk about being in front of the ball carrier in the end zone to make body tackles instead of arm tackles. We were tackling every day in individual [drills]. You don't have to beat 'em up to teach them how it tackle. Like you don't have to beat up an inside backer to teach them how to take up a lead block. You can get footwork and shoulder work without banging the shoulder, because at the end of the day, we need great tacklers in December and sometimes you can take some of that away from them in August. We are kind of trying to balance it and work our way through that.

    Your starting three defensive linemen last year, are those guys going to be hard for anyone to come in here and really knock out?

    BILL DAVIS: I think those are three good players, and I think the guys behind them are close to them. So that's what we love about the competition. Competition is so healthy and it's really a tribute to our personnel department and the more competition you have, the better you are collectively. And the more intense every practice is, and the guys right behind the 1s, although the 1s did a nice job for us last year, we got the competition and if a two overtakes a one, so be it. We are for the best 11 and we don't even play 11; we play 15, 16 guys. So it's not our best 11. It's can we get our best 15, 16 guys rotating in there.

    Does S Malcolm Jenkins’ versatility allow you to stay base more and is that something you want to do more this year?

    BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. I think all of our safeties have the skill set of being able to come down and cover a third wide receiver. I don't have to put in this case he will on the field. A lot of teams will put new three wide receiver personnel groups and run at you. You are always going to in this case he will and you guys are seeing, if I have the nickel package sometimes [CB Brandon] Boykin is getting run at, I don't want that, I stay in base but a safety has to be able to cover that third wide receiver now. So if I have a big, physical hitting safety that can't cover, then I'm limited. I'm limited having one guy always be down, well, now they know our rotation. So there's a lot of elements that we are excited about our safeties being able to cover man‑to‑man on wide receivers.

    What have you seen from DE Taylor Hart so far?

    BILL DAVIS: Taylor is as consistent as the day is long. Every technique you ask him to do, he does it. If you want him to face in the B gap, it's in the B gap. If you want him striking, he's striking. He's about as coachable as anyone we've had and consistent in all aspects. He's got a nice little pass rush and he's shown some stuff in the one‑on‑ones in the pass rush elements. I can't wait for these pre‑season games to come, and for us to see these young guys and what they are capable of doing with the bright lights on.

    What progress have you seen from Boykin?

    BILL DAVIS: Yeah, he's really come along. We really locked him in the nickel spot and he's really coming along, in the understanding of his leverage and the entire scheme. I think he got better as the year went on and a lot of that was understanding the leverage component of playing inside. It's a different world, you're out playing sideline and on No. 1 and now we bring you into the two, three world and all the exchanges and I think Brandon is taking huge strides and his understanding of his role as a nickel linebacker, as well as getting better at corner and everything that it asks you to do in our defense. 

    Are you guys still in the progress of trying out certain guys with different units, maybe guys 2s for 1s?

    BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. We'll do that through the Patriots probably to where we are constantly ‑‑ and again, the best way to evaluate your 2s and your threes is to see them against the 1s, and it really is a telling sign of can they do it in the NFL. If you keep them on your roster and you have to play them in a real game against their 1s, where are we at with this young man. It kind of makes for a little chaos in training camp but it's good chaos and we are doing it for a specific reason, and that's true evaluation of our three on a one or a two on a one.

    Pass rush ‑‑ how is he looking there?

    BILL DAVIS: Every day he's getting better. We're just a couple days into pass, so the one‑on‑one, we have a lot of outside backers and we have a lot of rotation going. I think he's up today so we'll take a look at him today.

    I think he's getting a better understanding, and with the reps ‑‑ like I said, a young man needs reps, reps, reps and he's getting them and he's going in the right direction.

    What dictates who is with the starting unit?

    BILL DAVIS: Nothing. Nothing right now. In these first couple weeks we are simply throwing them in against different people. I'm putting different safety rotations along with corner rotations so the backup safety can talk with the starting corner or whoever.

    I'm trying to get the communication to be comfortable. When you start with ones and leave the 1s with the 1s, safeties, corner, communication gets smooth between those guys but some backup comes in and communicational difference. Trying to get everybody a comfort zone with everybody in the communication world and that's what is challenging about the music in practice and the speed of practice. So the more they can work together and with different guys, when we do pick the final starting lineup or somebody goes down and the next guy has to come in, we have already practiced them communicating together and it does it's an advantage in my opinion.

    Seeing DT Bennie Logan in drills.

    BILL DAVIS: He's doing all he can when he can and some days are better than others. There are a lot of guys where they are not going to come out and do something, they come out with the intention of doing everything but for whatever reason, we make decisions on what we have that this is the right thing to do is to push through it or this is the wrong thing and back them off. Every day is a different day.

    Cris Collinsworth was talking about being in the Super Bowl and he mentioned the Eagles, the upgrades to the offense ‑‑ he knows what he's talking about, right?

    BILL DAVIS: I think that's a loaded question. All the predictions and all that stuff and Coach Kelly does a great job of keeping us all on the day. So right now, it's about growing this team right now and what happens after that, I'm not even ready for Chicago yet. I'm on today and everything we have coming at us for today.

    How is LB Brandon Graham in practice? How does he compare to last year at this time?

    BILL DAVIS: I can clump him into the whole group and Brandon's understanding how to play outside backer is light years ahead of what it was this time last year because he's got a whole season of doing it, all the words are comfortable to him, all the calls are comfortable. He's playing faster and looking good. All of them are really in a different place today than they were last year on this day.

    You talked about the mental aspect of just knowing where he's supposed to be and what you're supposed to do, and then the physical of actually being able to do it, is he doing it up to your expectations?

    BILL DAVIS: Yes, absolutely, and again I can't wait for Chicago. I can't wait to see him in Chicago with a lot of reps in a row.

    Chip talked about different play calls in practice for 1s, 2s and 3s. Do you have to be careful when you evaluate guys to rush because of that, and how tough is that to get a read?

    BILL DAVIS: Not only in practice but in the preseason games when you go to call a game, you have a choice of blitzing on a third‑and‑long or running a four‑man rush with coverage. You're going to run the four‑man rush with coverage so you can see if a pass rusher can rush the passer. When you overload or blitz, protection break downs happen all of a sudden, [LB] Marcus Smith has three sacks in a preseason game but he's unblocked versus a four‑man rush, he's got to beat a tackle to win. You have a better evaluation when you keep it simple. Your cover guys have to cover a little longer when you're only rushing four, so you are saying, how good of a cover guy is he in a preseason. So that same mentality goes to practice, I truly want to see if we can rush the passer and we have, let's say, Marcus on [LT] Jason Peters, if I blitz it, could change a protection. If I run the four‑man rush, I get to see and get the kid better. So in that area, it does kind of dictate how you call.

    Is there a new emphasis in the edge, in terms of how that plays out, what do you see ‑‑ what's the emphasis from you?

    BILL DAVIS: The officials came in and they were great. They spent time with us in all our meeting rooms and on the practice field and they explained in detail the way they are going to call it, the way they are told to call it and the way they are being graded on calling it. Our players had some great conversations; okay, if I do this, if I do that. We got a great understanding of what the league is asking, how the league is asking them to call it and we are working hard on adjusting and playing to those rules to where we minimize any flags we may get in the preseason. The flags are coming. They told us that 20 times, the flags are going to rain down in the preseason until the game gets adjusted and how to play it, and we'll adjust to and hopefully we get there faster than our opponents get there.

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