In Chip We Trust

Posted: February 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 68 Comments »

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.

Why?

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Sheil Kapadia did an All-22 post on the Davis defense by taking a look at Seattle, who runs a similar scheme.  Good stuff.

_


  • Ark87

    You stole my spin Tommy! But yeah I agree with that much. There is something special about this guy to get as many shots as he’s gotten.

    • TommyLawlor

      Wait til Davis moves him to the Adrian Wilson role.

      • Ark87

        I thought he was going to be the Antrelle Rolle so that Nick Foles could be Adrian Wilson. Gotta use all that talent!

  • holeplug

    Cox will be a monster in the 3 technique. Cole/Graham can battle for the predator spot. Key is gonna be finding a strong side linebacker. Nobody on the team can do what that position requires.

    • ICDogg

      Yeah, we need some help there.

    • Anders

      As I have said multiple times. I really would love for us to draft Dion Jordan to be that guy.

  • JEinOKC

    After reading/listening to your thoughts on potential DCs for the past few weeks, I’ve gotta believe that- even though Billy doesn’t bring with him much excitement- you are pretty happy that the Eagles didn’t go out an poach a college DC the day after NLI signing day

    • TommyLawlor

      Yes. Wasn’t real keen on adding a college DC.

      • A Roy

        My response looking at much of this coaching staff falls somewhere between ho-hum and yuck. Then, I look back at the Andy Reid hiring. We didn’t have the immediately available information then that we do now. If we had, my response would’ve been somewhere between yuck and ho-hum.
        We need to give Kelly some slack. He wasn’t working from within the NFL with a ready list of guys he wanted to work with. By the time his decision was made, the field was somewhat limited. I suspect more than one of the assistants will be much better than expected and more than one will be gone fairly quickly.
        The benefit of having a staff assembled ad hoc is that Kelly has no special loyalty to half these guys. If Davis, for example, doesn’t work out, perhaps Lovey Smith doesn’t get a head coaching gig next year and is available. I don’t expect this team to challenge next year anyway.

        • D3Keith

          Hear here. Not holding out for Lovie, but the rest of this makes perfect sense. There were eight other teams hiring, and some Super Bowl coaches blocking hires, so you work with what’s available. And you hire a guy who can coach your preferred scheme.

  • D-von

    Seems like Star Lotulelei would be a good fit for NT. Not to big but not to small. However, I rather have Ezekiel Ansah as a Leo-Predator/DE hybrid and John Jenkins in the second. Still the Eagles have most of the parts they need to run a 4-3 under scheme in the front 7

  • over the top

    Really like the fact that a number of the D coaches have been a D-Cord in the past. You have to have a good understanding of the whole D to reach that level

    • http://twitter.com/n3th3rman Christopher Miller

      Oh how quickly we forget

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.sengstock.7 Justin Sengstock

    “Trent Cole could be the Predator.” That sentence alone guaranteed this post’s brilliance!

    • TommyLawlor

      Does sound good, doesn’t it?

    • A_T_G

      With DRC Running Man, Nick Foles more Rocky than rocky, shady and Bryce as our New Jack Hustlers, and Cox penetrating in a ‘ Does Dallas role, we could be in for a lot of action

  • P_P_K

    I’m not freaking out about the Davis hire but, c’mon, it’s hard to get too excited about the guy. One thing that seems obvious to me but I don’t remember seeing anyone else post, is that Billy was available all along. If Chip was truly excited about him, the hire could have happened awhile ago.

    • TommyLawlor

      I do think Chip had interest in a SB coach. Either the coach used back channels to say no or it was Harbaugh denying us the chance to interview Ed Donatell.

  • http://twitter.com/daniel_suraci Daniel

    Tommy — goofy question.

    With all the mock drafts coming out– one thing I was never clear on. Are mock drafts trying to predict what each team *will* do or what each team *should* do?

    • TommyLawlor

      Great question. Some of each. You can sometimes tell by the comments what the author is going for. Other times you have to guess.

      I mostly try to guess what will happen.

      • Anders

        For me it seems most of the nation mock drafters use the need approach and not what they think will happen

  • Iskar36

    I have major doubts about Davis as I expressed in my post yesterday, but as I hope I made clear, I don’t think Kelly or the FO is full of idiots. These guys are all intelligent and it is clear that their process was carefully thought out. This was not a panic hire, and while Davis may not have been their first choice (I think that is a fair assumption considering the delay), I don’t think at any point they viewed him as a bad choice. Clearly Davis sold them that he could be a successful D coordinator in his interview, and the only question that remains is whether or not Kelly and the FO’s evaluation is correct.

    • TommyLawlor

      Fair points.

    • D3Keith

      The way I see it is the hire is less about the coach’s past results and more about does he share a philosophy with Kelly and can he execute what Kelly wants executed.

      It appears that Kelly’s hands are all over every hire on staff, and that D-coordinator is no different than the other hires. They are brought on to teach and coach to Kelly’s vision. I can’t be mad at that.

  • ian_no_2

    One Eagles Nation
    Under Chip,
    Indivisible,
    With conditional mid round draft picks
    For Winston Justice
    And all

    • TommyLawlor

      Nicely done.

  • D-von

    Eagles announce their full staff

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ll put up a full post later tonight. No major surprises.

      • D-von

        Cool. When are you and Jimmy K making another podcast?

  • austinfan

    Points, Davis will be given a chance to build this defense, whether he succeeds, in two years they should have a young core of defensive players who can play in multiple defensive formations. If Davis gets them to play well, he’s build is reputation, if not, the next “Fangio” can come in and try to take them to the next tier.

    Seattle is more of a two gap hybrid system, I think Davis and Oregon are more one gap – though Davis tried to make it work with Bryan Robinson at age 35 at NT, one reason he “failed” in Arizona (though his 2009 defense was as good as what Horton fielded in 2011-2012 with better talent). They brought Dan Williams in to play NT in 2010, but he didn’t take the job until 2011
    “Williams has struggled with weight and conditioning ever since the Cards took him 26th overall in 2010.”

    I think given the film on the Oregon NT, what they want ideally is a “smaller” high motor guy, probably in the 310 lb range with good athleticism, not a big blot out the sun NT or a talented guy with motor and conditioning issues – in fact, take any DL off the board who has motor and conditioning questions – because with Chip’s offense a DL starter who can’t play 50 snaps is in trouble.

    • TommyLawlor

      Actually Richardson has much bigger motor questions than Star.

    • http://twitter.com/PhiIs_Goodman Phils Goodman

      While I don’t think NT has to be a blue-chip talent (just look around the league at starting NTs — they are often drafted late and paid little), but I’m starting to fall in love with Sylvester Williams as a prospect. I think he could be drafted in the 20-40 range.

      He reminds me a lot of Albert Haynesworth (in a good way — people forget how used he used to be), and I could see the Eagles use him in this scheme as an attacking one-gap interior lineman the same way Jay Ratliff used to be for the Cowboys.

      What immediately jumps out at you is how explosive and powerful he is right off the snap.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRAchTitGx4

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_i83nxv84w

  • Mac

    Question: will T. Cole play better with dreads?

    • TommyLawlor

      I’m going to use the Magic 8-Ball to gather information before answering this.

      • Mac

        Haha, excellent. While you’re at it grab your nephew (if memory serves correct you have one) and watch the spongebob episode with the magic conch shell.

  • ACViking

    Re: attacking defense

    Seems like a wise draft decision would be to get the best player — with the best motor — on the defensive side of the ball.

    Doesn’t matter what position because the Eagles need help everywhere.

    Get young, hungry kids with an edge to their game and a . . . um . . . attitude on their shoulder.

    Get tough and athletic on defense and Bill Davis will be a genius.

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

      Do you have any early favorites?

    • D3Keith

      I would back this, although I’m eager for OL at No. 4, and then defense. I think the offensive skill positions are stocked well enough to compete in Kelly’s first year, QB included. And FA and late-draft moves can always be made there.

  • ACViking

    Re: Ryan Nassib vs. Attacking Defense Theory

    If the Eagles trade down, maybe he’s the guy.

    Rumors floating around.
    _______________

    T-Law,

    Was Nassib impressive at Sr Bowl? How was he on medium range & long passes? (Read he was “floating” long ball — not in a good way)

    ________________

    No matter what, though , stock up on tough, nasty, athletic defensive guys . . . who can shed blocks . . . and play 50 plays per game.

    That includes CBs and Safeties

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

      Maybe we are trying to stir up some interest in our #4 pick? Russ Lande has Nassib as his number one player in the whole draft. Even though I don’t think you can find anyone who supports that notion, he did foresee Richard Shermans success, as he had a first round grade on him the year he came out (Sherman was drafted in the 5th)

  • planetx1971

    I Have been hopeful & optimistic as possible through this whole process. But this hire is CONFOUNDING. Just the fact that all we can come up with is “Chip is smart ” says it all. For all his faults Andy is “smart “. Look at his D.C.’S since J.J. Kelly needed someone MILES better than this. People get too wrapped up in #’s.?? Maybe because they are IMPORTANT! People sure tout them when a D is top. 5! Write it down, this was a COLOSSAL screw up. I’m praying I have to eat crow but i’m SUPER dissapointed. In Kelly :(

    • ACViking

      A few observations.

      1. Your reaction is shared by a lot of people, obviously.

      2. On the other hand, as T-Law immediately pointed out, Jay Glazer — who’s very plugged into good NFL sources — has Billy Davis down as a “good hire.” That counts.

      3. Also, Davis runs an attacking style defense. Kelly ran the same type at Oregon using the same kind of hybrid formations. So it’s fair to infer Kelly was looking for someone with some experience in that kind of defense.

      4. Think of Davis’s selection the way you would a draft choice.

      In the 2012 draft, if the Eagles’ had the 4th overall choice, and were will to pay, they could traded up to get Robert Griffin. I think Kelly would do that in a heart-beat.

      But in the 2013 draft, there’s not a QB who’s close to Luck, Griffin, or Tannehill.

      Some years, the available talent at the top of the draft’s just not there.

      So I look at Davis’s hiring as one of those situations.

      5. Plus, CK’s a newbie. So he wants an experienced guy running his defense . . . and not someone up-and-comer.

      This Eagles defense, as of today, is thin on talent and loaded with holes.

      Not a good situation for some who’s never handled the job before, I assume.

      6. CK brought Shurmur aboard to be his quasi-alter ego on the offensive side. I take it that CK trusts Shumur’s judgment. I’d assume that includes a plus-grade on Davis.

      Bottom line . . . Davis was the best pick available. CK did what you’d want him to do in Rd 1 of the draft.

      • planetx1971

        Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me AC. I’m positive that as a typical lifelong Birds fan I had an emotional knee-jerk reaction. I have been just SO excited for this announcement for a while now and when I heard his name I felt like I was opening an x-mas present expecting my Red Rider BB gun and it was the pink bunny pajamas from my crazy aunt instead….

      • Iskar36

        I’m going to be a bit nit picky here, but I think it is an important distinction and gets at the truth of this situation. “Davis was the best pick available” is not an accurate statement, or at least it is certainly a highly debatable statement. What I think you should have said is “Chip Kelly believes Davis was the best pick available.” We all have our own opinions on Davis that are based on being fans and being outside of the discussions within the league. But I think the fact that other coaches around the league have hired different DCs suggests that not everyone agrees that Davis is the best DC available. Other coaches and front offices have intelligent people working for them as well, and in their assessments they found and picked the guys they each felt was the best available. We hired CK because we think he can successfully make these kinds of decisions, and he can make them better then others around the league, so in that sense, I trust and hope he is right about Davis. Really, we will only know Davis was the best pick available when/if we see him run a successful defense in the next few years.

    • bentheimmigrant

      Fair. But who else could he hire with a proven record? Lovie said he was HC or nothing, and after him there was no sure thing out there. So in Chip we trust.

      • planetx1971

        So wait, you’re telling me that Vince Lombardi isn’t ‘t available at the moment? Bummer…. :(

  • planetx1971

    BTW I love you’re site Tommy and read it faithfully EVERY day. Thank you for all your hard work!

    • ACViking

      Dude . . . what about all the rest of us?

      No. You’re right.

      We’d all love to see T-Law live his dream and get hired to scout.

      Next to that is Megan Fox. (Priorities, T-law, priorities.)

      He’s a damned gift that keeps giving.

      • Anders

        Im surprised some bigger site havnt hired him yet. His top 100 board is always very accurate.
        If I ran a major scouting site/Eagles site, I would have hired Lawlor several years ago.

        • A_T_G

          Shhhhh!

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

            Exactly :-)

      • planetx1971

        Oh you rock too AC no question. I tear through you’re analysis and immense knowledge of NFL history like Lawlor in a Megan Fox factory! :”)

        • A_T_G

          Now that factory I would like to see featured on a How It’s Made.

          • planetx1971

            YOU AND I BOTH! And I would certainly love to be considered for the quality control position(s)! :))

    • P_P_K

      There’s no doubt that many of us recognize the rare talent we have in Tommy. Guys, enjoy him while we have him. T-Law, enjoy us while you can. Someday you may been on a bigger stage with different parameters and pressures.

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

    Do any of you guys think that we can find a place for Mathieu in this defensive scheme? I’m struggling myself, but would really love to add him in the 5th or later.

    Also for our SLB position I have the following candidates:
    Dion Jordan, 6-7
    Alex Okafor, 6-4
    Michael Buchanan, 6-5

    All three are long and sleek, can cover at least adequately, are superb athletes and have early ties with the FO. Jordan being from Oregon, and Okafor and Buchanan got interviewed at the Senior Bowl

    • Mac

      I think he may be a smaller more ballhawky S/slot cb kinda like Rolle.

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

    Tommy,

    You said earlier that DE/DT Richardson had a bad motor. This is from Daniel Jeremiahs latest mock:

    “I’ve never graded an interior DL with a better motor than Richardson”

  • bdbd20

    Predator. Won’t happen, but we can dream.

    • holeplug

      Really ran bad to have a top 5 pick sandwiched between Luck/RG3 year and Clowney and what looks like a loaded QB class in 2014.

      • http://www.insidetheiggles.com/ CalSFro

        Don’t lose hope…there’s every chance we might suck again next year!

  • phillychuck

    I have not seen much discussion on here about what seems to be the major complaint on other Eagles sites–that the position coaches on D were hired before the coordinator, and that the same methodology screwed us up last season. Any thoughts?

    • Flyin

      I asked Tommy about this 10 days ago. This was his response…

      “This is all very curious. Since Chip isn’t going after elite DC types,
      these guys may not have a problem with the staff already being in place.
      I don’t know how much say JJ had in Andy hiring Spags, Rivera,
      Frazier, etc.

      This is going to be Chip’s staff. And I don’t have a problem with it being done like that.”

      • phillychuck

        Thanks–I missed that in the comments back then.

  • http://twitter.com/JackfinBauer Jack Bauer

    Just found this on possible NT Brandon Williams out of Missouri Southern. Tommy I know you liked this kid at the Senior Bowl. I think he passes the character test with flying colors.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGSMeSZXQdM&feature=player_embedded#!

  • Eric Weaver

    Tommy, would Sean Smith be an ideal DB for Davis?

  • Baloophi

    That FishDuck tutorial video is something else! A vocal performance for the ages. I especially enjoyed the silky smooth transition from a discussion of defensive tackle body-types to a commercial for a booster-owned company that specializes in waste recycling forms… I’m no business analyst, but that seems like an awfully limited niche.

    It’s also fun to see Casey Matthews looking somewhat competent on the field, and there’s even a cameo by Cliff Harris:

    “Oh, Cliff. You will always be the cheese in our nachos.”

    • A_T_G

      I don’t know, waste recycling forms to be a cyclic, business-generating product.

      “Hey, the recycling is piling up, fill out those forms to have it taken away.”
      (Later)
      “Hey, good job taking care of that recycling, we won’t need those forms anymore,you can put them in the bin.”
      (Repeat)