Good Teachers

Posted: June 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 36 Comments »

I have written a lot about the coaching staff this year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The offensive staff has a lot of talent to work with. Plus, Chip Kelly is an offensive guru and Pat Shurmur is a veteran NFL offensive coach. That group should be okay. The defense is the bigger mystery.

Someone on Twitter was asking me about the Eagles ability to run a complex defensive scheme. This person was of the mindset that Eagles players were dumb and had struggled to handle the schemes of Juan Castillo and Sean McDermott. I thought I had covered this already, but to be sure, let’s close this subject out.

Let’s start with schemes.  Sean McDermott did want to run a complex scheme. He was a first time Defensive Coordinator and like so many young coaches, he was dying to try out all of his ideas. McDermott wanted to be creative and multiple. He dropped Trent Cole into coverage more than we’d ever seen. He had Trent line up like an ILB and blitz up the middle. McDermott had some very creative ideas.

Castillo was more basic. The Wide-9 is based on the DL attacking up the field. Blitzers confuse the situation. There were twists, stunts and loops, but it was still generally 4 DL rushing the passer. The problem with Castillo is that he had some odd ideas on the back end. Think about it. How many defenses have the SLB as the key player? And the Wide-9 put a lot of pressure on the DBs to support the run. Castillo then did some odd things in terms of coverage. Shouldn’t we all have been worried when he said the SS and FS would switch names, but not positions?

Now think about the players. McDermott was dealt a crushing blow when Stewart Bradley tore his ACL. The 2009 team had no stability at MLB. Omar Gaither had the brains, but not the ability. Joe Mays didn’t have the brains or discipline. Without a solid MLB to run the defense, the group is going to make some mistakes. There was also no Brian Dawkins. In his place were Sean Jones and Macho Harris. One was a veteran new to the team and the other a rookie. Quintin Mikell was there at SS, but he had new guys to work with.

The next year Disco Stu came back at MLB, but wasn’t the same physically. He had Moise Fokou and Ernie Sims around him. Fokou was young, Sims was dumb. FS was another rookie, Nate Allen.

Castillo also had LB/S issues. He tried to push rookie Casey Matthews in at MLB. Didn’t work. Jamar Chaney took over and was all over the place. Rookie Brian Rolle played WLB. Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou split time at SAM. Allen was the FS and then rookie Kurt Coleman was the SS. Lots of youth and change.

In 2012 Castillo finally had a veteran MLB in DeMeco Ryans. There was a rookie at SAM, Mychal Kendricks. Chaney and Jordan split time at WLB, which hadn’t been their spot in a few years. Allen and Coleman played most of the year.

From 2009-2012 there was a lot of change, youth and pedestrian talent on the field in the LB and S spots. I focus on them because the DL is generally attacking and the CBs are generally covering WRs. The combination of change, youth and pedestrian talent really hurt those defenses.

The final aspect to consider are the assistant coaches.

Let’s not sugarcoat it. McDermott had bad assistants. Andy Reid had lost some great coaches. He tried to replace them with young coaches who were on the rise. Unfortunately, Reid chose poorly.

Castillo had a great DL coach in Jim Washburn. He had young assistants in Mike Caldwell and Mike Zordich. I think those guys could be good in time, but working with a new DC like Castillo and Washburn’s Wide-9 front made life difficult on them. Young coaches aren’t going to teach an odd system very well. They need something a bit simpler or more conventional where they can draw upon their playing days.

Todd Bowles, a good coach, joined the staff in 2012. He did a good job with the DBs for the first 6 weeks. Things fell apart when he was promoted to DC and he could no longer focus on the DBs. Also, he tried to change the coverages that the LBs and DBs played. Midseason switches like that are difficult to pull off. Bowles didn’t and the awful play from the DBs showed.

So why will things be different this year?

Yes, the Eagles are running a complex system. But they have better pieces in place. I don’t necessarily mean talent. I’m talking about fit.

Isaac Sopoaga can be a 3-4 NT. He’s done that. He also can play DE if needed. Both Cox and Thornton played DE at times in college. They have the size and skills to be good 3-4 DEs.

DeMeco Ryans has played ILB in a 3-4 system. He is a veteran player. He’s also healthy. Mychal Kendricks has the skills to be a good ILB in the 3-4. He played ILB as a Senior in college. Kendricks also played in a complex college scheme.

Connor Barwin was brought in to be the SAM. He played that spot in a similar scheme for the Texans. Brandon Graham and Trent Cole do have to adjust to new roles.

The CBs both have size and are physical players. Those are the traits that Bill Davis is looking for. As for Safety…Patrick Chung is a veteran SS. He has played behind a 3-4, 4-3 and hybrid fronts. FS Nate Allen returns. He’s new to the scheme, but is healthy and entering his 4th year as a starter.

The players aren’t perfect, but there are no Ernie Sims out there. No rookies are projected to start. This group has better experience than previous defenses. I also think the talent is better at S/LB.

Maybe most important of all…these players have good teachers.

Bill Davis is running the defense. He has been in the NFL for 20 years. He has experience as a DC.

Jerry Azzinaro is the DL coach. He is good at that, but also helps with installing multiple fronts and creative looks.  Has some small school DC experience.

Bill McGovern is the OLB coach. He coached Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly at BC. He knows how to teach LBs. Veteran coach who also has some DC experience.

Rick Minter is the ILB coach. He’s done it all…great assistant, great DC and even a HC. He ran the Ball State defense in 1990. They finished 2nd in the nation in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed. They were very good the next year as well and that got him the DC job at Notre Dame. The Irish played great run D under Minter and went 21-2-1 in his 2 years. They pitched 3 shutouts and won both bowl games. That got him the Cincinnati HC job. He spent the last decade mostly as a college DC. He didn’t have any great defenses, but coached some solid units and put out some good players. And Minter knows hybrid defenses. He can coach the 3-4 and 4-3. Also has 4-3 Under experience.

John Lovett is the DBs coach. He has been a DC and DBs coach. He was at Miami from 2009-2010 and put plenty of guys in the NFL. He produced NFL talent in stops at Clemson, Auburn and Ole Miss.

Buddy Ryan built a terrific defense when he was here. That group had talent. But they also had good coaches. Jeff Fisher and Wade Phillips were the DCs for Buddy. You had a defensive genius running the team and smart DCs running the defense.

Sean McDermott and Juan Castillo were first time DCs. They had no guru like Buddy to lean on. Sean and Juan were on their own. Neither guy had a strong veteran staff. And they sure didn’t have a staff that was well-versed in teaching the scheme that was being run. Both Sean and Juan were creating their own systems. How can other guys teach something you are creating?

Davis built the Eagles playbook based on what he and the assistants knew. All of them have experience running a defense. They are veteran teachers who have produced good players and good units at the collegiate level. There is the X-factor of adjusting to the NFL, but the basics are the basics. Azzinaro can teach players how to shed blocks. Minter and McGovern can teach LBs how to read plays and make tackles. Lovett can teach guys how to cover and balance run/pass D. We’ll see how well the staff adapts to life in the NFL, but I think this defense will be more fundamentally sound than any since Jim Johnson was here and honestly it may go back to the early days of JJ and Reid.

The defense won’t be a top unit until the right players are in place. It is possible we could find out we already have those players, but I think that is an extreme longshot. I like this group, but don’t see them turning out to be a great defense. The secondary still needs work and there are front seven questions to be answered.

I’m not enamored with the system we’re running, but it has grown on me. The most important issue for me is that the team did hire the right coaches to teach the scheme. This staff has a lot of 3-4 and hybrid defense experience. If you want to be creative and complex, you must have the right teachers. I think the Eagles accomplished that.

We’ll have to wait and see on the talent.

* * * * *

Oregon got their NCAA punishment today. It was light.

Chip Kelly was given 18 months of show-cause. This means that a school can’t hire him for the next 18 months without having to get NCAA approval based on some special circumstances. I certainly hope he’s still here in 18 months.

The NCAA was very reasonable with this decision. Didn’t overly punish the current Oregon players. They focused on Kelly. That was the smart thing to do.

* * * * *

The Pats released TE Aaron Hernandez today after he was arrested. We don’t know the charges yet, but this doesn’t sound good for him. It could be that he’s going to be charged with murder or as an accessory to murder.

I was shocked when they cut him. Didn’t see that coming.

I doubt any team touches Hernandez until they find out what’s going on with him legally.


36 Comments on “Good Teachers”

  1. 1 Eric Carranza said at 3:29 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    hernadez charged with murder n 5 weapons charges

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 3:33 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Just watched that. Crazy. Shocking day. Tons of evidence against him.

  3. 3 Eric Carranza said at 3:36 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    charged 1st degree murder n held without bail, then theres also the other thing with him allegedly shooting someone in the face

  4. 4 Flyin said at 7:39 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Actually shot him in the arm and bullet found it’s way to his face… losing an eye, has been reported.

  5. 5 phillychuck said at 10:57 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    How does a multi-millionaire get to the point where he even considers shooting at people? With that much dough, doesn’t just about anything slide off your back?

  6. 6 Flyin said at 11:15 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    You would think!?! The world is full of idiots. These idiots really live in a different world. And it’s scary. You never know when you may cross paths with a crazed person. Having young kids raises it to another level.

  7. 7 CrackSammich said at 4:20 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    In the ESPN Boston coverage, it almost sounds like he had a prearranged alibi with his sister, the way those texts read. Goooood luck, buddy.

  8. 8 ACViking said at 3:38 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Re: SOLB as Key Defender


    You’re right that SOLB is never a position around which a defense is built — with one exception that I can think of.

    That would be Bud Carson — starting when he coached defense under the legendary Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech. (Carson succeeded Dodd in 1967 as GA-T’s HC.)

    Carson obviously is well remembered in these parts for his 1991 defensive triple-crown masterpiece with the Birds. For those who don’t remember or know, Carson made was the Steelers D-coordinator during their great SB run in the ’70s. (He’s the coach who put HOF DT Joe Greene at an angle in the A-gap facing the center.)

    Even before HOF MLB Jack Lambert arrived in Pittsburgh, Carson had already developed a defensive scheme built in part around the great skills of HOF SOLB Jack Ham. In 1979, Carson was with the Rams — on their way to the SB — and, as DC, he turned SOLB Jim Youngblood into a Pro Bowler.

    In 1989, Carson became the HC of the Browns. He moved Clay Matthews from the weak side to the strong side. By that point, Matthews had spent 11 years as the WOLB for Cleveland. But he was best LB on the team, and — I assume — Carson’s defense highlighted that position.

    With the Eagles, starting in ’91, Seth Joyner began his great run as the Eagles SOLB. He’d been good under Buddy. But he became a real star with Carson.

    One of Carson’s G-Tech players and later junior assistants was a guy named Jim Carlen, who eventually moved to UWVa as head coach in 1966. He left WVA for TX-Tech and then So Carolina as HC.

    In 1982, after losing his HC’ing job at USCarolina, he became the D-Coordinator for the Steve Sloan at Duke. While there, Carlen built the defense around his SLB — a kid named Mike Junkin, who was the 5th player overall taken in Rd 1 of the 1987 draft as an OLB by the Browns. (Junkin didn’t pan out there.)

    Tom Landry on the other hand made the MLB the centerpiece — as most other coaches did like Paul Brown, Lombardi, Halas, Stram, Shula, Dutch Van Brocklin, and so many other through today. (Van Brocklin used the Falcon’s first-ever No. 1 pick in 1966 on an MLB named Tommy Nobis, who but for some bad knees, would be in the HOF).

    Bottom line (and a bit of understatement) . . . Juan was no Bud Carson.

  9. 9 TommyLawlor said at 3:50 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Good history lesson.

    Interesting question, though, is whether Carson built his D around the SAM or simply did a great job of developing and using those players. No question that he had some great SAMs over the years.

    I’d really love to know exactly what Juan had in mind, but I shudder at the thought of him trying to explain it to me.

  10. 10 Neil said at 4:39 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    I doubt this is new to you Tommy, but I think it explains what happened fully and is more for the benefit of others.

    Juan built a system around an overshifted front four. That leaves the SAM protected from the guard by a DT. It’s the same situation/concept as your typical playmaking WILL, like what Kendricks will be doing in the under. Juan’s was a poor scheme for a lot of reasons, but I’m not sure this is one of them. I think that had more to do with too much run responsibility for the secondary and inexperience making gameplans and playcalls for Juan. Over defenses have been good for teams such as the Vikings who have their best linebacker at SAM as well. It is rare, but I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the scheme or finding good fits for it or what. By running this scheme, you’re banking on the dline being able to win battles without any benefit of misdirection or disguise.

  11. 11 ACViking said at 4:14 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Re: Aaron Hernandez v. The NFL Commissioner

    Hernandez’s team has cut him loose, swallowing a big cap hit.

    The question — strictly from an NFL point of view — is what will Commissioner Roger “The Hatchet” Goodell do?

    Will he suspend Hernandez before trial, plea bargain, or other disposition?

    I suspect — despite Hernandez being held without bail at the moment — that the Commissioner will summon him to NYC. When Hernandez doesn’t show, Goodell will suspend him for “non-cooperation.”

    Ravens MLB Ray Lewis is headed to the HOF.

    Once upon a time, he was living in the Fulton County Jail after being charged with murder. Lewis later pled guilty to obstruction of justice, testified (weakly) for the prosecution at trial, and never did a day of meaningful “suspension time” as an NFL player.

    Seems to me that if Hernandez was the shooter but only an accessory, and his lawyers can show the D.A. that his case is just one of obstruction, then he has a decent chance for the same kind of deal as Lewis.

    (Money, not fame, will do that for you in the criminal-justice system.)

    At that point, what does Goodell do? Suspend Hernandez? Because if he does, then Ray Lewis had no business playing in the NFL after Goodell became commissioner.

    The “Lewis Precedent” — for better or worse — should mean something.

    And cudos to Mr. Kraft of the Patriots for cutting ties. There’s more there than we know. But the team’s decision speak’s plenty.

    On the other hand, if the Raiders’ Al Davis were still alive, Hernandez would all but know he’d have a place to go if the criminal process ran its course in the next year or so.

  12. 12 TommyLawlor said at 4:27 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Don’t agree with some of your logic.

    Goodell couldn’t ban Ray Lewis for something from January 2000. He took office 9/1/06. Too much time had passed. And Ray had kept his nose perfectly clean and completely rebuilt his image, for what that’s worth.

    I doubt Goodell does anything with Hernandez until after the trial. No team is going to sign Hernandez so punishing him accomplishes nothing. if he goes away for 15 to 25 years, his career is over.

    What does Goodell accomplish by doing anything with Hernandez? The big reason Goodell became so active was to try and get the NFL better PR. I think the best PR move here is to do nothing.

    If Hernandez does somehow beat the charges, Goodell can then suspend him for 8 games or something like that for conduct detrimental to the game…for even being involved with the situation at all.

    Maybe you guys feel different. I’m just trying to be logical here. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other.

    It sure sounds like Hernandez is going away for a long time and this will prove to be somewhat of a moot discussion.

  13. 13 ACViking said at 4:35 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Don’t disagree with anything you wrote, T-Law.

    Some of what I wrote was tongue in cheek . . . especially calling Hernandez to NYC.

    But my point was to highlight what I think about Goodell.

    As for Lewis, he got a sweet-heart deal from Tagliabue. Goodell would never have done that.

    The question — if Hernandez gets out of this mess — is what Goodell does. And whether the Lewis Precedent is worth anything.

    More seriously, the whole situation is a tragedy. Just about all murders are. (Political murders — the CIA kind — run on a different course.)

  14. 14 TommyLawlor said at 4:56 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    It really is a tragedy. One person is dead and another young man is looking at spending a large portion of his life behind bars. Such a waste.

    Lewis was lucky. Heck, maybe that’s one of the things that made Goodell so strict when he did take over.

    I’ve got mixed feelings on Roger. I like some of what he does, but find myself disagreeing with his actions and words quite a bit.

  15. 15 Eric Carranza said at 6:01 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Sorry Tommy but I couldn’t help but make this meme lol does this make me a bad person

  16. 16 Michael Winter Cho said at 6:54 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Not funny. This is really a sad thing that happened.

  17. 17 Flyin said at 11:21 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Lighten up, Francis.

  18. 18 Michael Winter Cho said at 11:29 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    I know people get shot every day, but the details in this case just hit me a little harder. A guy got shot in the back of the head, tried to crawl to get away and got shot a few more times in the chest. The guy who probably did it just lost his career, his fiance, and his 7-month baby. Guess I just don’t find that humorous.

  19. 19 Flyin said at 11:41 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    I understand the horrific actions and consequences the victim’s family is dealing with, however I enjoy creative photo shop humor even if it is not the taste of the day. Could I offer you a Pelle off the Wallbanger?

  20. 20 Michael Winter Cho said at 12:05 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    You’re going to have to help me out here. I just found out about “Can I Haz Cheezburger” last year. Before that, I thought Photochop meant Dawkins flying at Tiki Barber. What is Pelle off the Wallbanger?

  21. 21 Flyin said at 12:15 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    A crude joke about maybe one of the best hockey goalies that ever lived. Played for the Flyers. He drove his Porsche drunk and crashed into a wall killing himself (was on life support for a while). Major tragedy in Philly sports!!!

  22. 22 Flyin said at 12:24 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    A “wallbsnger”is a drink. I think you can fill in the rest.

  23. 23 GEagle said at 6:49 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    I actually appreciate the humor…Its been a disgusting day, really sad…thanks for getting me to chuckle

  24. 24 ACViking said at 4:42 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Re: Serious Note About Hernandez

    Don’t discount the possibility of him walking away.

    The question will be how the prosecution frames what he allegedly did.

    But here’s a question or two the jury will want answered quickly:

    1. Where’s the DNA Evidence?

    2. Where’s his fingerprints on some incriminating evidence?

    3. Where’s the murder weapon?

    4. How’s the weapon connected to Hernandez?

    5. Where’s his clothing with gun-powder residue?

    6. And if Hernandez was guilty, why didn’t he flee when he had the means, manner, and time?

    There’s a lot of green (money and the pool table kind) between here and a conviction.

    And don’t put much stock in what any alleged co-conspirators or cooperators have to say. I’d guess their NCIC (arrest/conviction) records are not insubstantial.

  25. 25 Michael Winter Cho said at 6:56 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    ACViking, are you serious? The circumstantial evidence that has been released so far, if true, means he’s a felon at the very least.

  26. 26 Neil said at 7:46 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    I don’t think fingerprints are legitimate evidence. They’re not identifiably unique. This from wiki on fingerprints

    “Despite the absence of objective standards, scientific validation, and
    adequate statistical studies, a natural question to ask is how well
    fingerprint examiners actually perform. Proficiency tests do not
    validate a procedure per se, but they can provide some insight into
    error rates. In 1995, the Collaborative Testing Service (CTS)
    administered a proficiency test that, for the first time, was “designed,
    assembled, and reviewed” by the International Association for Identification
    (IAI).The results were disappointing. Four suspect cards with prints of
    all ten fingers were provided together with seven latents. Of 156
    people taking the test, only 68 (44%) correctly classified all seven
    latents. Overall, the tests contained a total of 48 incorrect
    identifications. David Grieve, the editor of the Journal of Forensic
    Identification, describes the reaction of the forensic community to the
    results of the CTS test as ranging from “shock to disbelief,” and added:

    ‘Errors of this magnitude within a discipline singularly admired and
    respected for its touted absolute certainty as an identification process
    have produced chilling and mind- numbing realities. Thirty-four
    participants, an incredible 22% of those involved, substituted presumed
    but false certainty for truth. By any measure, this represents a profile
    of practice that is unacceptable and thus demands positive action by
    the entire community.'”

  27. 27 GEagle said at 8:20 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Wonder if he does his “Make it rain” TD dance when he wins a pack of cigarettes playing 3 card Monte?

    Innocent until proven Guilty…But COME ON SON?

  28. 28 GEagle said at 8:42 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    My early favs of the assistants are Minter, Azzinaro and Stoutland

  29. 29 Flyin said at 9:46 PM on June 26th, 2013:


    Why do you follow Donovan on Twitter? How can you do that to yourself? Seek help!

  30. 30 GEagle said at 6:47 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    Wait McNabb has a twitter follower? from Philly at that?
    Tom why do you feel the need to punish yourself like this? lol…Is it some sort of Samurai thing? you brought shame on Eagles Nation for something we dont know about and torturing yourself with Donovan is some sort of Eagles fan version of Hara Kiri(samurai Suicide)?/?/
    Dont be so hard on yourself. We are here for you man. lol

  31. 31 awful waffle said at 9:53 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    Just wanted to say that while this defense may not be a top unit, at the very least, I’m glad our cornerbacks will tackle and size is something the coaches care about.

  32. 32 Flyin said at 9:55 PM on June 26th, 2013:

    If this defense shows they are on the same page with any consistency… I will be thrilled. Plus I think attitude will be another factor we haven’t seen in years.

  33. 33 Tumtum said at 12:07 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    Tommy, what is it about the 43 that you specifically prefer over 34 or multiple?

  34. 34 T_S_O_P said at 2:20 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    Buddy Ryan built a terrific defense when he was here. That group had talent.
    Built being the important word. Without free agency, it took time to build and delivered poor return in some parts as a result of lack of talent or drafted talent having not yet matured. I’m not sure if Davis is going to get away with players of the quality of Izel Jenkins or Mike Reichenbach, but in his favour, he may try and hide his worst players and he has Free Agency.

  35. 35 Eagles Wake-Up Call: The 'Compelling' 2004 Squad - Birds 24/7 said at 6:30 AM on June 27th, 2013:

    […] Lawlor of offers some thoughts on the […]

  36. 36 Iggles Blitz » Blog Archive » Mychal Kendricks in Year 2 said at 11:45 AM on July 1st, 2013:

    […] week I wrote about the Eagles coaching staff. I talked about how the coaches were veterans and good teachers. These guys might be new to the NFL, but they know football. They can teach technique. They are […]