Getting a Feel for the New Defense

Posted: February 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 44 Comments »

We’re all moving into a brave new world now.  No, this isn’t an order to read Huxley’s book.  I’m talking of the shift to the new 3-4 / 4-3 hybrid defense.  Let’s  take a look at some fronts run by Bill Davis during the 2009 season.

Base look vs 2 TEs

The Rams are in a 2-TE set.  The Cardinals have 3 DL.  Because of the 2 TEs I’m not sure which OLB is the Predator. I think it would be the player to the far right.   He’s lined up more like a DE.  Notice how the NT is shaded to the left of the C.  The DL to his right (Campbell) is lined up over the G.  In a conventional 4-3 this DL would be lined up over the OT.

8 man front vs 3rd-1

This is an interesting look.  The Colts have 22 personnel (2 RBs, 2 TEs).  This is a run formation.  Even more so due to the fact that the FB is a DT (Eric Foster).  The situation is 3rd/1.  As in the first image, the NT is shaded to the outside of the C.  One DL is over a G and the other over the OT.  The Cardinals are running an 8-man front.  They have 3 down linemen, 4 LBs, and SS Adrian Wilson all in the box.  Because of the alignment, this isn’t a standard 3-4.

4-2-5 look vs Indy

I’m calling this a 4-2-5 look.  The LB over the TE is going to be a pass rusher in this look.  Notice that the DE to the far left is lined up out wide.  The DTs are both head up on OGs.  There is no NT in this look.  You can see SS Adrian Wilson walking down into the box.  He is a hybrid defender.  He’s got limited cover skills for a Safety, but is 230 pounds and can blitz and play the run as well as most LBs.  Or better.

* * * * *

Trying to project Eagles into these roles is tricky.  I think Fletcher Cox would be natural as the LDE/LDT.  That is the Darnell Dockett role in the top 2 images.  Cox has the athleticism to take on OTs as a pass rusher if needed.  He can anchor vs the run.  He can slant to the inside and shoot gaps.

I have no idea what Bill Davis wants at NT.  Bryan Robinson (approx 6-4, 305) is the guy here.  He’s a 1-gap type.  The Cards drafted massive guys, but had bad luck with them.  Drafting Star Lotulelei would be interesting for this role.  Jesse Williams of Alabama would also be an interesting fit.

The RDE/RDT would be Cullen Jenkins/Cedric Thornton.  Depends on who the coaches prefer.  The other guy would be a backup.

As for the LB/DEs…Brandon Graham and Trent Cole are going to have to prove they can handle the roles.  I did some reading on Davis and he likes to have guys stay left and right, not switch strong and weak sides.  That means you aren’t getting a SAM and Predator.  You need guys who can handle both roles.  Maybe Davis would change that or maybe he thinks Cole and Graham are athletic enough to get the job done.  It isn’t like those guys would be covering Rob Gronkowski 40 yards downfield on a regular basis.  I’m really curious to see how this all plays out.

* * * * *

I’ll post thoughts on the final coaching staff on Saturday.  Wanted to get this up first since I think we’re all highly curious about what the defense will look like.

I’ve got another set of images to post in the next few days.  We’ll take a look at the Cards in some different situations.

Jimmy and I will be recording a new podcast on Saturday.

_


  • SleepingDuck

    No matter what happens this season, it’s going to be interesting to learn about the offense and the defense from the All 22.

    • http://twitter.com/corry_k Corry Henry

      It’s a good time to be an NFL fan.

    • Ark87

      Yeah, both sides of the ball will be very different from what we’ve seen over the past 14 years. Even the skeptical (like myself) have to be excited to see some new x’s and o’s

  • goeagles55

    I did some reading on Davis and he likes to have guys stay left and right, not switch strong and weak sides. That means you aren’t getting a SAM and Predator. You need guys who can handle both roles.

    That’s interesting. I don’t understand what the benefits to that are. Why not always have your better cover guy as the SAM and better rusher as the Predator? What is there to gain from keeping guys on one side of the field?

    • Iskar36

      Tommy can probably answer this a lot better, but the obvious difference I can see is that it gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of who to rush and who to keep in coverage. It also forces the defense to guess where the extra rusher is coming from. The obvious down side is that it is hard to find a guy that can do great at both things. Most likely you will have to give up some pass rush ability to gain some coverage ability, and vice versa.

      • austinfan

        Less pre-snap shifting, guys get comfortable playing on one side.

        • A Roy

          My thoughts exactly. No chaos when they shift the TE and then put someone in motion. I also got to thinking about how much easier it might be for me to cover going to my right versus my left. Tommy, how much attention do scouts pay to right/left handedness for DEs, OLBs and CBs?

          • Iskar36

            I don’t know about how much they pay attention to handedness in terms of which hand do they write with, but they definitely focus on different qualities when looking for a RDE vs. LDE or a SAM vs. WIL in a 4-3 (I would guess similarly in a 3-4 for a ROLB vs LOLB). In terms of CBs, I know some teams will keep a player on a certain side which would suggest to me that they look for different qualities in the RCB and LCB, but that one I am less sure about.

      • http://twitter.com/Hutcheson Dustin Hutcheson

        Less shifting means better preparedness for the hurry-up offense.

        • D3Keith

          Which makes me ask, do you think Chip is so far ahead of his time that he’s also interested in building a defense that could stop what is, in effect, his offense?

          If you see the NFL going hurry up, read-option, etc., then it would be incredibly wise if you’re building a defense from scratch, and have a year or two of leeway, to teach things that will eventually put the D on the curve, as opposed to behind it.

  • deg0ey

    Looking at the down linemen in that second picture, it looks like the NT is shaded over the shoulder of the C, the ‘end’ on the left (as we’re looking at it) is over the outside shoulder of the G and the ‘end’ on the right seems to be slightly offset to the outside of the T.

    It also looks like the alignment in the first pic could actually be the same as that but it’s tricky to tell because of the angle.

    Isn’t that pretty much the same alignments that our DL played with before Washburn rocked up and moved the ends way out wide? A 4-3 NT is supposed to shoot the A-gap and draw double teams from the C and G, which frees the other 3 guys up to be 1-on-1 with their blockers, right? So we wouldn’t necessarily need to pick up a new NT at all; we could just use whoever played that position in the 4-3 (Landri or Patt?)

  • austinfan

    Some thoughts:

    Chip’s high powered offense will put a lot of stress on stamina on defense, so forget someone like Jenkins who’s big and fat, or someone with motor issues who’ll want to take plays off, he’ll be taking lots of plays off.

    I think Graham and Cole will compete for the predator spot, neither is athletic enough to drop into coverage on a regular basis and the predator is primarily a pass rusher (think Clemons on Seattle). Cole may get first dibs in 2013, and get cut in 2014.

    A more interesting question is what do you do with Curry? Do you bulk him up to play the “3” or slim him down and play him at SLB? If you have someone like Cox lined up over the RT, then you don’t need a conventional 3-4 SOLB, you can go with someone smaller and quicker (Hill on Seattle).

    Do they keep Patterson and Jenkins for a year (cutting Vick and Aso will free up a lot of cap room) for depth? A lot of rookie DL just aren’t physically ready to start, especially the first half of the season. Patterson could fill in as a one gap NT, he’s not really strong enough even when he bulks up to anchor, but can penetrate and make plays at a lighter weight.

    Dixon would have to get in much better shape to play NT, and you’d be going more two gap with him, not sure if he’s really quick enough to get penetration.

    Still, the 4-3 under requires less immediate roster turnover than a pure 3-4, and allows a lot more flexibility in terms of shifting to other formations without major personnel chances within a game.

    • deg0ey

      What about Thornton as a 1-gap NT? Haven’t really seen enough of him to know what he could do there, but if we’re after someone that’s primarily looking to make plays in the backfield then he could be an option, no?

      • Anders

        I think Thornton could be the answer. If I remember right he played it last year and showed flashes of promise

        • austinfan

          He’d be a good bet at the “5” spot, not a great pass rusher, but is getting stronger and has the size to play that spot. Though I see him more as the 3rd DE, won’t surprise me if they draft or sign a DE, Desmond Bryant for example.

          • Anders

            I would love Desmond Bryant for the 3 spot (weakside DT) and then have Cox at the 5 spot.

          • holeplug

            I really think you want Cox on the weakside next to your predator. Hardly anyone could block him 1on1 as a rookie and thats what the position will give him.

          • Anders

            If we got Bryant in FA, we would care about the strong or the weak side by the DL. Both Bryant and Cox can play both 3 (WDE) and 5 (SDE). Then plug a guy like Dixon at the 1 or sign Knighton cheap from Jax and we got a potential dominating DL for years.

    • eagles2zc

      If Okeafor can fill the OLB/DE role in Davis’ scheme, then I’m feeling more optimistic our current roster has the answer. The foremost concern now is where Kendricks would ideally fit

      • holeplug

        Kendricks should be fine on the weakside next to Ryans. He won’t have blockers coming out him since they will be covered up so he will be free to roam and make plays.

        • D3Keith

          Sounds great, but also sounds like the pre-Ernie Sims optimism.

  • http://twitter.com/corry_k Corry Henry

    Tommy (or anyone who’s looked this up…), we’ve all seen the statistics for his past defenses and I don’t think any one of us is impressed by that. During your research, have you found whether it was poor play design, lack of talent, or bad luck (injuries)?

    While I honestly don’t know what to expect, I’d be lying if I had much faith in Davis given his past statistics. I’m hoping he’s learned a lot in his last two stints and won’t make the same mistakes (assuming it’s on Davis and not something else).

    • BreakinAnklez

      As I believe someone had mentioned earlier…JJ didn’t have great stats coming before Andy hired him either..doesn’t mean Davis will have a similar result

      • Iskar36

        RE: JJ didn’t have great stats before coming to Philly.

        Here are JJ’s numbers in his two years as a DC in the NFL. He had a few other jobs as DC in college, but I didn’t include those.

        Year…………YDS……PTS………..TO
        1996…………22………18…………..26
        1997…………10……….26………….22

        He certainly didn’t post incredible numbers by any means, but top 10 defense in terms of yards isn’t bad. The points allowed and TOs were not good though. Without looking at his college success, I think he would have been viewed at the time as more similar to Donatell than to Davis.

        • Anders

          Its funny he had an year where his yards was better than points when all JJ stressed was pressure, TO’s and allowing less than 17 points

        • BreakinAnklez

          Eagles finished this year 10/ypg away from being Top 10…numbers can be deceiving

    • deg0ey

      When he took over as 49ers DC in 2005, they had the #1 overall pick (Alex Smith) and then went on to have the 32nd ranked offense as well as Davis’s 32nd ranked D; that was a bad team with bad players, so it’s more than a little harsh to hold it against Billy.

      • http://twitter.com/corry_k Corry Henry

        I’d probably be more excited if he had more success. 3 of the 4 years he was a DC, his defenses were ranked 30th or worse in points.

        Of course, that’s not to say he won’t do a good job this time around because statistics can be made to say anything. I’m just curious to know what were the circumstances of the team. Was it, as you said, just a bad team? Were there injuries? Basically, were there any extenuating circumstances that made his defenses perform poorly? I know next to nothing about the guy and hadn’t heard of him until his name was dropped as a potential DC.

        Just trying to get a feel for the coach. The defense sounds like it could be a good system, I’m just curious if Davis is capable of teaching it. Time will tell I suppose.

  • nopain23

    I know the front is important but how are we going to address the mess in the secondary. Do we double up in the draft on safeties? i like that kid Jonathan Cyprien. A possible RD 3 target for us. Do we have any guys of vaue we can trade for draft picks. i’m thinking Cole, Watkins. We can trade Cole to a team that needs to win now say denver/atlanta for say a 4RD maybe 3RD( wishful thinking on my part)
    Watkins is a former RD1 pick. Might be able to get a 5RD or 6RD pick as he may thrive in another system. If Luke and Star are gone at 4 i say we trade back to the 10-20 and pick up an extra RD2 and RD3 pick.

    • Mitchell

      I really like cyprien as well. The only knock on him was top end speed but I guess we’ll see later this month. I also like tj McDonald from USC. Kids pretty big and I dnt know if he can compare to a guy like rolls with another 15 pounds added. Pretty sure he’s taller though, just a thought.

    • http://twitter.com/Sattymike Michael Jorden

      At safety I’d be interested in a younger FA SS and a draft pick in the 3rd or 4th for FS Maybe William Moore from ATL paired with T.J. Macdonald?

      At corner I’d like us to trade back in the 1st or use our 2nd for the best CB available. We could franchise DRC for a year, or let him walk and sign a stop gap like Sheld Brown to see us through to 2014 draft.
      Just thinking out loud. Very interested to see what moves the Birds make. Lot of options for good players this off season.

      • nopain23

        Let DRC walk. No stop gaps.We need to start developing our own young talent ASAP. Just look as the job Pete did out in SEA. It’s an exciting time to be an eagles but we have to be honest with ourselves and realize this is a 2-3 year building preocess. I just want to see agood team out there in the next 2 years and possible contend for a superbowl in year 3 of the kelly regime. Oh not a fan of T.J. takes a lot of poor angles. Nate Allen had a bad case of that..

        • Cliff

          But what about the argument that DRC had his best season under Davis?

          • nopain23

            How much are you willing to invest to find out if Davis might be able to push the right buttons? DRC might be looking for top DB money.That’s 8-10 million a year. Noway I pay a headcase like him that kind of money.Too much of a risk.

          • Cliff

            I’m not pro or anti DRC, but I wouldn’t classify him as a “headcase.” I’m also not sure he’ll get offers in the $8-10 million range.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.n.richwine Daniel Norman Richwine

    Similar to what I expect from the offense, scheme is far less important than execution. the coaching staff will have to tweak their schemes to allow.for the unique talents of their players. You have to know what your best players do better than anyone else, then design the defense/offense in such a way that they get to do those things as much as possible.
    Lawrence Taylor would never have been special if he were always covering tight ends. Brian Dawkins had a knack for hard hitting and big play making, and JJ’s genius was tweaking his defense to let him do that alot.
    I have faith that Chipper will get this done on offense, but time will tell on the defense.

    • A_T_G

      A good point, although it is going to be tricky to design a defense around leaving receivers running free and missed tackles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565087931 Jeppe Elmelund van Ee

    Tommy,

    Can Ray Ray Armstrong be our Adrian Wilson? He has the size, but I don’t know if he has the physicality. He should be a late round pick, maybe even UDFA

    • TommyLawlor

      Need to watch tape on him.

  • ACViking

    Re: Eagles’ Current D- Personnel

    Looking at the players Davis used at OLB in SF and AZ, they were taller than any LB the Eagles have at LB present by at least 2-3 inches. [At inside LB, Davis regularly used guys in the 6’1″ area. So that would be Ryans and, if size matters, Kendricks would slide inside.]

    As T-Law wrote, whomever Davis puts at “Predator” he will not be switching sides based on the formation. So let’s just call him the ROLB.

    In AZ in 2009, for example, Davis’s OLBs were Clark Haggans and Chike Okeafor. Haggans was listed as 6’4″ 243 lbs. Okeafor was 6’4″ 265 lbs.

    Interestingly, Okeafor spent the first 8 years in the NFL with SF and Seattle as a DEFENSIVE END. And even his first season in AZ, in 2008, he played DE.

    But then in 2009 — when Davis became AZ’s DC — the 6’4″ Okeafor, at age 33, became Davis’s ROLB — or “Predator” — playing predominantly a stand up DE. (The stat’s I think show that Davis’s ROLB blitzed well over 90+ percent of the time . . . or all but about 3-4 plays per game.)

    At LOLB, Davis put the 6’4″ Clark Haggans — who’d spend 8 seasons with the Steelers as true 3-4 LB with the Steelers . . . on the LEFT side.

    Looking at the Eagles, Trent Cole is about the tallest potential ROLB — or “Predator” — on the Eagles’ present roster. Cole’s listed at 6’3″ 270 lbs and may be a tad shorter. Okeafor was 33 years-old his first season as the “Predator.” And — like Cole — Okeafor had played almost exclusively in 3-point stance before 2009 (at least that’s my impression).

    Brandon Graham is listed at just 6’1″ 265. His experience in college and the NFL is predominantly if not entirely as a LDE playing in a 3-point stance.

    Graham’s not the kind of “long” OLB that C-Kelly had a Oregon and that Davis has used in his schemes.

    And, as T-Law mentioned in the past, if you put Graham at LOLB in Davis’s scheme, he may have problems working in space trying to cover the TE. So Graham — despite not being as long as Kelly wants — may be battling Cole for the ROLB spot.

    Maybe this points to the Eagles grabbing a DE/OLB with their first pick, and trading down if there’s a taker, because there seem to be a boatload of DE/OLB’s who’d fit the measurables Davis had with his OLBs at AZ.

    Guys like D-Moore of TX A&M, D-Mingo LSU, D-Jordan Orgeon, B-Woerner FSU.

    And a guy I think T-Law really likes: E-Z Ansah of BYU. (What would an Eagles rookie class be without a BYU guy?)

    Those guys are all 6’4″ or more and, except for Jordan, listed at over 240 lbs.

    Of course, a NT may be in order. Unless one of those DE/OLBs is just too good to pass on.

    As for me . . . I just want the meanest, nastiest, most athletic guy on the Board — O or D — when the Eagles pick.

    If that’s OT Eric Fisher, then take him.

    If it’s E-Z Ansah, take him.

    If it’s the German kid, take him.

    Take someone who’ll come here with some serious attitude and make opposing players feel like they used to when Trotter was in the middle.

    • austinfan

      I never make mistakes, I get confused at times, however.

      Haggan makes more sense at SLB, and Wright (not Hill) is the SLB for Seattle, at 6’3 246. Curry played some LB at the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts, he had a sub 7.0 cone drill, so he’s agile, but that might be a stretch even if he dropped 10-15 lbs. However predator is going to be crowded so it won’t surprise me if they try him there, they might also look at Butler from Dallas in FA. Depends how they value coverage skills v pass rush skills.

      Ansah’s future would be as a DE, not SLB, and not sure he’s worth it before later in the 2nd rd, he’s not the next JPP.

      I’m not sold on any of the 3-4 rush LBs:

      Mingo – 40 games, 14 sacks, 15 stuffs, 11 PD
      Jordan – 39 games, 14.5 sacks, 14.5 stuffs, 2 PD
      Collins – 39 games, 19 sacks, 23 stuffs, 3 Int, 18 PD
      Collins also showed the biggest improvement the last two years.
      Production isn’t everything, but lack of production is a red flag, especially when you’re talking a high draft pick, I want a finished product, not an athletic project.

  • ICDogg

    Reading about all of this it seems to me the critical need is to have a really good strong-side linebacker, otherwise the whole thing falls apart. For the nose you can do what they’ve been doing for years, rotate in the Pattersons and Landris of the world. Not saying that’s optimal, but I’m saying that they wouldn’t fall apart like they will if they don’t have a “SAM” that has that tough combination of skills to find: tough against the run, but able to keep up with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Find that and fix the secondary and all of a sudden we have something.

    • D3Keith

      You mean like Moise Fokou?

      Boy it’s really a shame you can’t indicate tone of voice as you type.

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