Davis, Can You Spare A Dime? Eagles show the long awaited dime package
On the last day of July 2014, Defensive Coach Billy Davis felt the time was right to give the newly conceived “dime” package some time on the practice field.
Thankfully, phillymag’s Sheil Kapadia caught it and wrote up a succinct mention of it in his Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations for July 31, 2014.
1:02 – During 7-on-7, the Eagles show a dime package. I haven’t seen this previously: It’s Williams, Fletcher, Boykin and Carroll, along with two safeties and Mychal Kendricks. Given how good Carroll has looked, this could end up being a nice option in third-and-long situations or against specific opponents. – Sheil Kapadia
This is something that has been anticipated since the 2013 season end. In fact, in a recent interview, Davis had already all but announced the dime package:
“I think last year you saw the base foundation of the defense and what we have added and grown. We have kept our foundation and we really had some bridge concept coverages we’ve added, some run calls we’ve added. We’ve grown it in a way that we didn’t take away what we did last year, the guys understand what we did, and we just saw some holes and maybe where game plan tools we didn’t have, we’ve added them in the off-season. We’ve worked on them and continue to work on them here. So we think we’ve grown the package without changing the package at all. We’ve just given ourselves more tools.” – Billy Davis
Why is this important to these Eagles? Well, we’ve discussed the fact that the Eagles found it virtually impossible to get middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans off the field in 2013. While part of that reason was his leadership quality and no alternative to calling the defensive plays, the other reason was simply the fact that the Eagles did not have a package that did not have Ryans in the middle.
On a team with new scheme and players learning or relearning 3–4 assignments, the defense had to focus on basic defense. In short, no baskin robbins 64 flavors until they had mastered vanilla. By the time the playoffs arrived, the Eagles had a good vanilla. Unfortunately, their defense was easy to scheme against with its limits and the Eagles lost.
So back to the drawing board. In the off-season, the Eagles were able to view and diagnose what teams did to them. They watched as passing teams gave clinics in isolating players who were not comfortable in pass coverage for big gains. They were powerless to stop teams from doing exactly what their own offense did – create mismatches and exploit them. But once diagnosed, the coaching staff and personnel office did not shrug their shoulders nor proclaim the mantra-esk “that one’s on me”. They went out and got personnel who could help.
So far, the Eagles are practicing the defenses that gave them fits last season against the offense. And simultaneously, the defense is working on strengthening its pass defense. It’s a good plan. Work two sets of weak muscles to build strength.
Moreso, the experience with the Denver Broncos in 2013 still offers beneficial lessons nearly a year later to these Eagles. They have to defend up to 5 receivers in a play. How do they do that?
The dime package. From the base nickel package so named because it boasts five defensive backs, the dime package exchanges a linebacker for a sixth defensive back. In personnel terms, out goes middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and in comes cornerback Nolan Carroll.
This give the Eagles a better chance of defending passes. It also lessens the burden on one of the Eagles’ key defensive players. On a team hopeful to return to post-season action, taking steps to have all players peaking at the same time would certainly be a goal worth string towards.
If you think it’s not a big deal to face a nickel versus a dime package, think again. Dime packages are superior passing defense to the modern day NFL quarterback. Per a ProFootball Focus March 19, 2013 article, four defensive backs allow opposing quarterbacks on average a 74% completion rate. But in a dime package, that average completion rate falls to 64%.
Without the risk of the Eagles fielding more defensive backs, their opposition could simply load up the field with four and five WR sets and simply throw to the open receiver. That pretty much describes the Eagles road loss to Denver.
The nice by-product of the dime package is that it rests Ryans. With the arrival of Malcolm Jenkins, and with the role of play calling being practiced by Mychal Kendricks, the Eagles had the opportunity to explore non-DeMeco packages. The production of Nolan Carroll (who is in heated competition for a starting role) gives hope that the Eagles will use a dime on passing down situations.
Another nice by-product is the fact that it gives opposing quarterbacks one more variable to consider. If the offense brings in a five receiver set, the Eagles can counter with six defensive backs and maintain the advantage. It also gives the Eagles new options on that front four. Do they go with Barwin, Cox, Thornton, Cole? Or do they mix in Graham, Cox, Logan, Curry? Or do they go Cole, Cox, Curry, Graham? There are a myriad of variations to experiment with once they’ve decided on the defensive backs. In any case, it’s a nice change.
What it comes down to is change. In the off-season, the Eagles retooled their pass defense. With new faces, and now new looks, they now have a designed response to fix one of the league’s floundering pass defenses of 2013. Speaking of change, Davis can you spare our defense a dime?