More on the Defense

Posted: May 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

We have talked a ton about the LBs this offseason. Brandon Graham vs Trent Cole vs Connor Barwin vs Dion Jordan and who we should draft and who should play where. We have neglected the defensive line. Those guys have feelings. They want us to talk about them. They need us to talk about them.

So I remedied that with this week’s column.

I hope Clifton Geathers and Antonio Dixon can forgive us for not discussing them enough.

* * * * *

Jeff McLane wrote a terrific piece on Jerry Azzinaro the other day.  Azzinaro is much more than just a DL coach. He is the assistant head coach. That makes him a sounding board for players and other assistant coaches. He can then act as a liaison to Chip Kelly. Azzinaro is a sounding board for Kelly. He is a leader and an adviser.

Azzinaro isn’t the DC, but he is going to be key in designing gameplans and making gameday adjustments. Some DL coaches focus strictly on their players. Others are tacticians that get involved in helping to run the defense. Azzinaro has been a DC in the past. He was a major help to the Oregon defense upon his arrival. Kelly hired him to be a key part of the defensive staff here.

I think Azzinaro has other value. He is an old friend of Bill McGoven’s. He worked with Rick Minter for a year at Marshall. He has some history with Jeff Stoutland. A good coaching staff has some chemistry. The guys don’t have to be best friends, but there is a need for cohesiveness.

We thought Andy Reid built an “all star” staff when he hired Bobby April, Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn, but the overall staff had bad to awful chemistry. Nobody seemed to be on the same page. Jim Washburn proved to be a complete jackass.

I don’t think we have to worry about that with this staff. Many of the guys have prior connections. None of these coaches are superstars that come in with huge salaries or egos. Kelly wanted the right kind of coaches. He didn’t choose just resumes, but also personalities. He built a group that should work well together. If things ever do get testy…Kelly is the leader. Azzinaro is also a leader for the group.  I don’t see any problems lasting a long time. There will be no Juanita nonsense this year.

* * * * *

Alright, who is ready for some more Brandon Graham talk?  Tim McManus spoke to Graham and wrote a good piece. Graham is 260 and on the way down to 255. That is excellent and will help his conversion to LB. It sounds like he is really benefiting from Chip Kelly’s new methods.

“I see my body changing a lot,” said Graham. “I really didn’t know how dehydrated I was until they started doing that [sports science]. Now I’m hydrated, I’m moving a lot better out there, recovering a lot faster. If we keep it going, no telling how we’re going to be towards the end of the season.”

You know who really needs Kelly’s methods? Andy Reid. If he’d change his diet and sleep habits and all that stuff, he could get back to his dominant Andrew Ried days.

* * * * *

Former Eagles legend Steve Smith retired. Jimmy Bama raises a great question…will he go to the HOF? I don’t think any of us will forget the many great plays Smith had in 2011. There are so many that I have a hard time really choosing just one.

* * * * *

More on hybrid defenses? Yes. Ravens DC Dean Pees shared some quick thoughts prior to the Super Bowl on how the Ravens play a 4-3 out of a 3-4 alignment. Sound familiar?

Defensive coaches love the freedom and flexibility this gives them.


45 Comments on “More on the Defense”

  1. 1 OregonDucker said at 11:55 AM on May 30th, 2013:

    One point Tommy made is worth repeating: Azz likes to rotate the defensive line frequently. Because the offense is playing at such a frantic pace, you need to keep the big guys on defensive line fresh. At Oregon, the 3s were almost as good as the 1s and were required to play with the same intensity and brains. Typically, the first few games the 3s sucked (usually in the secondary however) but with playing time experience they improved immensely.

  2. 2 James said at 12:47 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Good stuff. Did you find that one particular player or position on the D-Line stayed on the field longer and was like a centerpiece to keep the defense playing consistent?

    Also did you see a major difference in the way Oregon played defense once Azzinaro arrived?

  3. 3 OregonDucker said at 2:03 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    “Azzinaro is one of the key figures behind the revitalization of the Oregon defensive line.”

    To answer your first question, I think he kept Dion Jordon (DE) and Issac Remington (DT) in the game for more plays. Dion was a BEAST.

    With Azz, the defensive line was more aggressive, made more plays (loss yards and sacks), and did not give up many big running plays, as in the past. The players loved this guy and they played hard for him and each other.

  4. 4 GEagle said at 3:33 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    you think there is any chance remmington makes our practice squad? or is he just not athletic enough?

  5. 5 OregonDucker said at 5:41 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    GEagle: I do think Remington makes the practice squad. Still, he has a lot to learn about the dirty trenches in the NFL- those offense guys hold, step on your feet, and grab your nuts!

    Dion is getting a bad deal with the Dolphins but remember Tannehill eventually caved. He should holdout to the last second but sign if it becomes clear that they won’t blink. Coming from Oregon, and I think he had shoulder surgery, are strikes against him in the negotiation – in the end he needs to play. So my advice is to look long term and leave these bums once he has a killer reputation.

  6. 6 GEagle said at 7:28 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Is Remmington athletic/strong enough in your oppinion?..It was tough to watch anytone other than Dion when watching Oregons defense(Im like his obsessed stalker lol)..and what extra energy I had went to Kiko..
    True but Tannahill was the 8th pick, and they didnt give up a ton trading up 9 spots to go get him. I just would seriously feel like Im being slapped in the face if Im being strong armed into giving up what the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th picks arent being asked to give up…My Motto for the next 4-5 years: “Cant Franchise him Forever” :)…If I was Howie, I would just troll the dolphins and call them every single day for the next 5 years offering them something for Dion…

  7. 7 OregonDucker said at 7:57 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Remington is certainly athletic enough but how he adjusts to the pro game is a question. As I implied above, you have to have a mean streak to play against a badass offensive lineman – one who will pull you down and spit in your face. Kiko and Dion have mean streaks.

  8. 8 GEagle said at 6:20 AM on May 31st, 2013:

    Awesome…thanks again

  9. 9 jamesbondage said at 3:37 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    sounds like JJ’s defense… i like it

  10. 10 ACViking said at 12:13 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Re: Reid versus the Smog Monster

    Look at the freeze frame on the video . . . No. 34 v. No. 22.

    That frame could well be the visual proof that, as Chip Kelly said, big guys beat little guys.

  11. 11 TommyLawlor said at 12:46 PM on May 30th, 2013:


  12. 12 Flyin said at 10:52 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Along with moving to a 3-4.

  13. 13 HipDaDip said at 1:14 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Hey Tommy, do you think there’s a risk of a “too many cooks” problem with Azz being an assistant HC? Somebody (you?) mentioned he seems to be in the process of being groomed for DC, and I’d worry that Chip would respect his opinion over that of Davis or overrule Davis in his favor. At first glance, Azz seems the kind of guy who would be conscientious about stepping on Davis’ toes, but that has to be a risk, right? Everyone seems respectful right now, but I would guess the authority issues wouldn’t emerge or be relevant until the D starts performing badly. I doubt we would have heard the term “Juanita” if the Eagles were on their way to the playoffs last year. I guess in the end, as long as Chip has the respect of the players and coaches then everyone will fall in line. Clearly I’ve been watching too much game of thrones. I think Chip is too smart to let this happen, but I didn’t expect it under Andy.

  14. 14 TommyLawlor said at 1:39 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I do not think Azz is being groomed for DC. He’s more valuable in his current role. He is important to Kelly, the staff, and the players, plus his DL. Chip chose him for a reason. Big role. Needs the right guy. Azz is the man for the job in terms of background, people skills, and personality.

  15. 15 HipDaDip said at 2:07 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I guess I’m not really understanding the division of labor. I thought a lot of the things you describe Azz doing would fall under the job description of DC. Is it possible that ‘dissecting the offense’ and ‘adjusting your defense to counter’ are different jobs, and Azz specializes in the former but wouldn’t take issue with how Davis decides to do the latter? Or is the distinction that Azz will limit his advice from the point of view of the DL and it’s Davis’ job to integrate it into a whole scheme?

    Also, I’m not sure I agree that some brilliant football mind is more useful as an assistant HC than a DC, but I think this goes back to not really understanding the distinction of the jobs. Is it that he can focus on teaching more than scheming?

  16. 16 TommyLawlor said at 2:30 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    The DC runs the defense. He calls the defenses on gameday. He oversees building the gameplan during the week.

    Staffs work together during the week. They watch tape together. The gameplan is a collaborative effort. Here’s a quick article with some info.

    Azz has power in regard to administrative stuff with the overall team. As part of the defensive staff, he’s just one of several voices. I’m sure Kelly told Bill Davis he wanted Azz to have a say in things, but I doubt he broke it down into specifics.

    Kelly hired the kind of guys that are likely to work well together. I don’t see any of these guys trying to be a HC. I don’t know that any are likely to get a DC job. These are good, solid Assts that should function well as a group. No agendas.

  17. 17 HipDaDip said at 2:32 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Thanks, Tommy! A paragon of insight, as usual.

  18. 18 GEagle said at 3:41 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    very excited about the “Lord of Bones” (aka Azz), and “The Voice” (billy D)..throw in former HC/coordinators McGovern and Minter…and you have a ton of well versed football knowledgte to collaborate on gameplans and adjustments..also like our secondary coaches..

    I will say the one coach that doesnt do much for me is WR coach Bicknell…Hope im wrong about him, and maybe he will be an asset..but I dont get excited for him like I do with the rest of the staff….Never heard a fan be excited about Shurmur, but I actually value what he brings to this staff and trust Foles and Barkley with him

  19. 19 GEagle said at 4:02 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I like that Kelly really didnt know Shurmur and Davis much prior to hiring them, and did so because of how he felt they meshed….I dont know if the Eagles organization is trying to give off the impression of Harmony within the FO and Coaching Staff, or if its genuine…but the ranting and raving about how well everyone is working together seemed to be genuine to me….and I never really recall them going out of their way in the past to put on this bogus harmonious front, so I cant just assume that all this Koombaya-ness (lol) is disingenuous….So far, everything seems so good. I dont want to be that jaded, negadelphian waiting for the other shoe to drop…I want to enjoy every single answer and decision that seems logical to me, day in and day out(after you hire an OL coach to be your DC, you cant take anything for granted lol)…and sooner or later a headscratcher that I dont agree with will occur, and when it does, I will keep it real and call him on it…but so far, so good, and until proven otherwise I will enjoy every day that I dont see a limit to how successful this man can become

  20. 20 TommyLawlor said at 4:23 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    The Dallas Cowboys draft board got leaked…thanks to sneaky bloggers. Very cool.

  21. 21 GEagle said at 4:34 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    niiiiice!!! Good to know that the Cowboys think we got a bunch of good players, although their judgment is worthless….This is the only franchise that can get away with having this info leaked…because there is no Philosophy, or strategy or structure behind anything that they do…so you cant even use this info to try and figure out what they will do in the future…You cant even try to predict what a team that passed on their 5th highest rated player at 18 will do…..If you want the same player as Jerry Jones more times then not you should probably ABORT, and go to plan B…
    Nothing Pales in comparison to Jerry Jones…as a fan of the 4 philly teams, can anyone think of another rival coach, or owner to any of our 4 teams that you are as happy to see in your divisions as you are with Ol Jerry? That dude is a GODSEND to Eagles fans lol…Snyder was also awesome to us for a while, but even a broken clock is right twice a day haha..

    Its a dream to have the hated Cowboys, led by Jerry, Romo and Garrett…I hope they remain Cowboys for atleast 5 more years

  22. 22 SteveH said at 4:55 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Eh, Shanahan lucked into having such an obvious all world talent like RG3 fall right into their laps. Without him they were in quarterback hell, and the rest of the roster is a middling one. I’m still high on Snyder as a owner, they won’t always get lucky.

  23. 23 GEagle said at 5:02 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Agreed…although Trent Williams is probably one of my top 10 favorite Non Eagles…love his filthy, dirty, meanstreak

  24. 24 MichaelFloyd84 said at 7:19 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Was it really luck that shanny got RG3? Or did he deliberately tank with Grossman and Beck in order to get a qb?
    More importantly, was it the correct decision? Sure looks like it

  25. 25 GEagle said at 7:28 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I dont think you can call it Tanking when Grossman is your QB

  26. 26 MichaelFloyd84 said at 7:53 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Are you serious? That fan base was up in arms that he did nothing to improve their terrible qb situation. Turns out he had the big picture in mind

  27. 27 GEagle said at 6:23 AM on May 31st, 2013:

    Yeah, but what QBs were available?..we brought Vick back. he probably wasn’t the best on the market, but no one was that much better then him, and he was significantly cheaper…who else could they have gotten that offseason besides Grossman? It’s not like AQUIRING top Qbs is easy…..I’m not tryin to stick up for the DEADskins, Fuck them!!!…lol just SAYIN…

  28. 28 Iamallthatisman said at 9:05 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I wouldn’t call him lucky.

    I mean if you want to sell your house, car, and gamble the next few years on a single venture, that’s fine.

    I think most financial analysts would call that silly.

    I don’t know why people think it was the right move.

    They weren’t a player away from competing, like the Falcons. It was stupid for the Redskins.

    And I love it.

  29. 29 MichaelFloyd84 said at 7:50 AM on May 31st, 2013:

    I think you guys are way of base. Or franchise would be in a much different state had he sucked a bit more and managed to snag Ryan Tannehill. Everyone accepts that taking is the correct policy in the NBA. With the way rookies are now able to contribute immediately why is it so hard to believe that ranking is the best option in the NFL too? While we sucked, but not quite enough to get difference makes the past two years the skins set themselves up for a decade by sucking just a bit worse and at the correct time

  30. 30 Iamallthatisman said at 2:08 PM on May 31st, 2013:

    I really didn’t say anything about Philadelphia in my statement.

    If Philly traded what Washington traded to move up a few spots to #2, i think everyone would be outraged at mortgaging the future on a single player.

    My statement was purely about someone calling Shanahan lucky, when he wasn’t. He gambled hard. And I don’t think it’s a gamble that pays off often enough to be worth making.

  31. 31 SteveH said at 4:41 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    This is too cool. It also helps prove the hypothesis that the Cowboys passed on Floyd when they had a chance to snag him at 18. What boobs. Why would you pass on your #5 rated prospect when you can have him at 18?! Madness!

  32. 32 GEagle said at 4:23 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    anyone hear a peep about Hunt?…I always forget about him…Whats the list of OLB’s? I know Miner said he has 7 ILB’s in his film room:
    Jason Phillips
    The Ugly Duckling
    Jamar Chaney
    …Who is in the OLB film room?
    who else am I missing? I know they gave Harbor a look, but thats not an every day thing…
    Wish I knew anything about Momah’s Charecter/agression/physicality…A guy like Dion was always an offensive player, switched sides and loved the physicality of playing on defense..I have no clue if thats the case with Momah or not..With that type of speed, if he is about to get cut as a WR, I would love to see how he looks on defense first. Kelly clearly knows what a WR converting to OLB is supposed to look like. Maybe Momah can remind Kelly enough of Dion when he made the switch..Even if he can never be an adequate rusher, his length would make him a weapon as a situational cover OLB…..Most players play about 3 positions until they find the right one that they will settle into as an NFL player..I would prefer him growing into a quality WR, but I like having a HC who thinks outside the box and will explore every way possible to turn rare talents into weapons and assets

  33. 33 TommyLawlor said at 5:36 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Hunt has been the backup ROLB so far.

  34. 34 GEagle said at 7:29 PM on May 30th, 2013:


  35. 35 T_S_O_P said at 5:19 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Cox was quite successful as a 1-tech at times last year in passing situations, a line of Cole and Graham outside and Curry and Cox inside on passing downs could be intriguing.

  36. 36 TommyLawlor said at 5:37 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    They used that look in the last practice. Ran some 4-2-5.

  37. 37 austinfan said at 6:17 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Geathers is the wild card, he has great physical talent, but hasn’t been able to translate to the field so far, but God didn’t make a lot of 6’7 340 linemen who can jump 30+ inches. Or have 38″ arms and 11″ hands and can still do 26 reps. He’s a freak, if he can learn to play with leverage he can be a dominating player, but after 3 years of NFL coaching, time is running out for him.

    Kruger needs a year in the weight room to get up to 285-290 lbs. I see them stashing him at the back of the roster. King will be stashed on the PS, unless he has a great preseason I don’t see anyone claiming him on waivers.

    Dixon has finally got into shape from all reports, and this system is a good fit, he’s strong, but has good size for both the “3” and “5”. He could be the “5” on run downs or even a NT.

    Thornton has made good progress, but needs to develop some basic pass rush moves, he’s got a good first step, but you need some options to do more than just penetrate and disrupt, you need to work clean and catch the QB.

    Logan will probably back up all three spots, and his PT will depend on both the guys ahead of him and whether he steps up in any of those roles to be more than just a depth guy as a rookie.

  38. 38 ACViking said at 6:42 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Re: Eagles Get THREE 1st Rd Picks in 2013 Draft

    T-Law posted the Cowboys’ draft board over at his (excellent) Eagles Blog.

    According to Dallas’ rankings — and on the assumption that someone has to get selected at every pick — the Eagles walked away with THREE 1st Rd choices.

    The Cowboys had Johnson, Ertz, and Barkley ranking in their Top 31.

    The Birds nabbed each . . . giving them three 1st-rounders this year.

    Yes, it’s a fairy tale. But it’s now my favorite draft story of the past decade.

  39. 39 GEagle said at 7:49 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    lets hope those idiots are right for once lol

  40. 40 GvilleEagleFan said at 10:01 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    Although I’d like this to be true, you’re misreading the board. The Boys only ranked 18 players as “1st round” quality players, most likely due to the fact that they picked 18th. Ertz and Barkley were graded as 2nd round quality prospects.

  41. 41 Flyin said at 10:41 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I think he is saying that if the Cowboys had 31 1st round picks… they would have selected all of there top 31 rated players in the 1st round. He’s a lawyer, so I’m sure he covered all his bases on this fairy tale analysis.

  42. 42 GvilleEagleFan said at 11:39 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    My issue was with his statement “The assumption that someone has to be selected at every pick,” because the draft board would reflect only the top 18 players they felt comfortable taking in the first. If they built the board with the assumption that they had all the picks in the first round, I’m sure there are some players they would have moved up or down due to context.

    I do think it adds some credence to the idea that Barkley fell because of a lack of QB-needy teams and depth of the draft at other positions instead of simply being a fourth round quality talent.

  43. 43 Flyin said at 11:57 PM on May 30th, 2013:

    I’ll let AC debate this.

  44. 44 Flyin said at 10:32 PM on May 30th, 2013:


    From your knowledge of Chip and Azz’s history, combined with the knowledge of the Eagles you have gained learning about the Eagles from insight from Tommy and other sources…and I know it is early…

    What do expect to see on the field come september and how the season will play out?

  45. 45 Jack Waggoner said at 12:30 AM on June 1st, 2013:

    Dean Pees’ name is a complete sentence.