If you look just at the stats of Billy Davis’ 4 years as a Defensive Coordinator, there is no way you would think he’d get another shot. But he did get hired. Chip Kelly chose Davis to be his DC. Many of you hate the move. I’m ambivalent. Chip chose him.
In a way, that’s the most interesting question. What we think of Davis is irrelevant. Kelly is betting his professional future on the guy. How many of you would be willing to bet your job on one of the candidates you preferred over Davis? It is easy to play armchair GM (I do it everyday), but actually rolling the dice on Davis and knowing that you’ll suffer the consequences if he fails is very different.
Chip Kelly is a lot of things, but dumb isn’t one of them. He sat down with Davis and talked. Kelly came away impressed enough to consider him a finalist for the job and eventually hired him. Davis must have done a good job of selling himself and his ideas so that Kelly could overlook the stats.
As outsiders, we can get wrapped up in numbers. We obsess on results. There are times when you need to be able to look inside the numbers and understand what is actually going on. Arguably Jim Johnson’s best coaching job was 2003. The Eagles finished 20th in the league in yards allowed. The defense struggled to come up with sacks or takeaways. What was so great?
JJ was dealing with a sub-par pass rush due to injuries up front and the secondary was even worse. Bobby, Troy, and Dawk combined to make 27 of 48 possible starts. UDFA Rod Hood became the #3 CB at times. FS Clinton Hart started 9 games and made key plays. Mark Simoneau, as the MLB, won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October. Somehow Johnson took this collection of players and got them to finish 7th in the NFL in scoring defense.
I’m sure Kelly did his research. I’m sure Davis had his explanations. Obviously Chip bought what Davis was selling. Could it turn out that Kelly got suckered and made a terrible decision? Sure. It could also turn out that Kelly liked what he heard and felt Davis was the right fit for what he wanted.
What does Chip want?
We know he wants to attack and be aggressive, but that’s a generic quote. Oregon was a 4-3 team when Kelly took over, but then had the defensive staff switch to a 4-3/3-4 hybrid. They got very creative and played multiple looks and styles. Here is an Oregon defensive tutorial on their system.
Last night I watched parts of 3 Billy Davis games from the 2009 season. I saw many of the same things by the Cardinals that you’ll see in the Oregon video.
The Cardinals played 4-3, 3-4, and 4-2-5. They occasionally got exotic with a 2-4-5 look. The Cardinals used a variety of players. There would be times with a big NT lined up directly over the Center. There would be other plays with a smaller NT and a shade alignment, allowing him to attack the C’s shoulder and try to get upfield. LBs were all over the place. DTs were DEs. DEs were LBs. Very creative stuff. After watching those games, I can see why Kelly had interest in Davis. In terms of ideas and styles, they are similar.
One thing that really stood out to me was the way Davis used versatile DBs. His one good defense was the 2009 Cards. They had Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, and former Eagle Matt Ware. All of those guys are big. Wilson probably goes about 230 pounds. Ware is 210. Rolle is 205, maybe a bit more. Davis used his big DBs creatively. They lined up deep, in the box, in the slot, and in LB roles. Rolle was the real X-factor because of his ability to be a CB/S/LB and do those things reasonably well. Wilson struggles in coverage. Ware is a limited athlete. Rolle was cut by the Cards after 2009 (Salary Cap issues) and I think losing him really hurt the defense.
Having the big, versatile DBs allowed Davis to be creative and disguise coverages. Rolle could line up in the slot. He could then cover or blitz. Rolle could line up as a LB and then jump over to the slot and let that DB blitz. There were mixtures of man and zone coverage. When things worked, it was impressive. Quick sidenote…2009 was DRC’s best in the NFL. He played well in the 3 games I watched. It was funny to see him so confident, aggressive, and active. He did a solid job as a tackler.
Derek from Iggles Blog posted a link on Twitter yesterday to an article on Billy Davis and the Cardinals defense. Davis will tell you he runs the 4-3 under with some tweaks. One DE stands upright and is called the Predator. This makes it look like the 3-4.
Trying to figure out which Eagle will go where is confusing. The LDE is a DT/DE tweener. That role might be ideal for Fletcher Cox. Trent Cole could be the Predator. I’m just not sure where Brandon Graham fits in. Maybe he is the Predator. There will be times in the Nickel to go 4-2-5 and have a pair of pass rushing DEs. One interesting thing about watching the Cards was the lack of outside pressure, even against single-blocking. Davis has never had the benefit of a good outside rush.
The Eagles need a NT and a SAM to make this thing work. Antonio Dixon and Jamar Chaney are here and can challenge for playing time, but you cannot count on either guy as the answer. Dixon hasn’t played much since 2010. Chaney is highly erratic. He shows big time talent on a few plays, then spends a quarter looking bad. I don’t think we need special talent at either spot, but we do need functional starters. I’m real curious to see what they do at NT. I don’t think we need a massive guy, but also don’t see a Jay Ratliff type being the answer.
After watching Davis defense in action, I came away feeling a bit better, but still nervous. Coaches that try to be multiple and do everything have very mixed results. You need hybrid players to make a hybrid scheme work. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton could be key pieces here because they can go DE or DT. Cullen Jenkins too, but he’s a short timer.
I’m very curious to see what we do in the secondary. Davis seemed to play a lot of man coverage. Using the franchise tag on DRC and taking a CB in the first couple of rounds might be key. Brandon Boykin is fine in the slot. Nate Allen could fit into this. Kurt Coleman and the small Safeties might be hurting.
I can see why this idea appeals to Kelly. As an offensive coach, you want to know what you’re dealing with so you can attack it. If the defense is multiple, you’re not sure what you’re getting from game to game, drive to drive, or even play to play. The last 4 Super Bowl champs all did very creative stuff on defense: BAL, NYG, GB, and NO.
There is still plenty of room to be skeptical of the Davis hire, but I do at least feel better now as I think I understand Kelly’s thinking. Can’t wait to hear these guys talk to the media so we can hear them explain some of their ideas.
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The Eagles hired Alabama OL coach Jeff Stoutland yesterday. I’ll cover him in more length in a day or two. I think this is an outstanding hire. He developed big time talent into big time players at Bama. They had an absolutely dominant OL this year.
More than a few fans have started to wonder if the Eagles will draft stud OG Chance Warmack, from Bama, with the #4 pick.
No. Way. Great player. Not worth #4. We’ve got too many other holes.
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Report is out now saying the Eagles hired John Lovett to be the DBs coach. He was at Texas Tech in 2012 and has been all over the place for the last 35 years. He has limited pro experience, but should be a solid DBs coach.
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Sheil Kapadia did an All-22 post on the Davis defense by taking a look at Seattle, who runs a similar scheme. Good stuff.