Philadelphia Eagles Defense Transformation
By Bret Stuter
Oct 12, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass under pressure form Philadelphia Eagles defensive endFletcher Cox
(91) and defensive end Vinny Curry (75) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eagles Defense Transformation: Defensive Line
Behind defensive ends Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart, and nose tackle Bennie Logan and Beau Allen, the Eagles have amassed a very young but athletic front force. The defensive line in the Eagles version of the 3-4 is responsible for two gap assignments. Said plainly, the linemen are responsible for two running lanes and the blockers for each. When the Eagles 3-4 is working, the linebackers are making the sacks and the tackles because the line has clogged the lanes.
But the linemen are not simply there to clog things. This defensive line is fast, can play sideline to sideline, and can make drive defeating tackles for losses. And they can sack a quarterback as well. Vinny Curry enjoyed his first multi-sack game as an Eagle by dropping New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning twice in their 27-0 of the Giants.
The Eagles defensive line were a surprising strength in 2013, and have gotten better this off-season. The starting trio of Cox, Thornton and Logan combined for 128 tackles and six sacks last year. In just six games, the same trio is at 68 tackles with no sacks. That places them on pace for over 176 tackles in a full season. That’s incredible.
While the front three have improved, so has the entire squad. Curry, despite platooning, already has four sacks in six games. Bair has one. There has been some thought whether the Eagles are more suited for the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense. After this off-season, the defense is definitely a 3-4 now. And as the year evolves, it will get better.
Billy Davis has been a member of a number of organizations, and he’s served in many roles. His career has been expansive, having been a member of eight NFL teams. But with each front door of opportunity that had opened previously, success slipped out the back door. In his career, Davis had yet to find that point of success, that one career moment that sets his defense in the upper echelons of the NFL. In fact, the only person more desperate for success on the defense than the players, may be the coordinator himself.
"“I’m determined to prove my worth as a coordinator in this league, determined to be. I feel like I’ve done that as a linebackers coach and now I’ve got to get to where I’m mentioned in the top part of the coordinators. That’s my personal goal. I’ve got to get to that point, and in the process bring a great defense to Philadelphia.”"
Bill Davis is one of the “Cowher” tree – with names including Dom Capers, Chan Gailey, Dick Lebeau, Ken Wisenhunt. Bill Davis success has not yet approached the success of others in the coaching tree. But his plan is similar to that of others: put the offense out of their rhythm.
"“I know this: to take an offense out of their rhythm is probably the No. 1 thing that the great defensive coordinators that I’ve studied under and talked with [do]. Taking away what they do best and getting them out of what they do best on offense, because offense is really rhythm.”"
The Eagles had some connection for Davis, as he was the linebacker coach for the Cleveland Browns while Pat Shurmer was the head coach. But it wasn’t Shurmer who opened the door for Davis, it was Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer who called Chip Kelly and put in a good word for Davis. In the interview, it was clear that Bill Davis was the right guy at the right time for these Eagles. He was not the least intimidated by the scope of the work that lay before him:
"“There’s not stability anywhere. So am I confident? Absolutely. I’ve got everything down to where I know all the mistakes I’ve made and how to overcome them this time around.”"
It has taken the Eagles eighteen years to get a shutout. That has been through many very very good defenses of the Eagles and against some less than proficient offenses. As the team gains more experience, the defense will become better still. To win in this league, the defense has to make plays. The 2014 Eagles defense is transforming into a force to be reckoned with.
And that day of reckoning just happened for the New York Giants.