Coming off the heels of a season that was historically bad for the Philadelphia Eagles‘ defense, it’s little wonder that the team under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis Jr. is looking to distance itself from last year’s unit.
After allowing opponents an average of 343.1 yards and 27.75 points per game, Davis and co. certainly would like to turn the tide at the start of this season beginning on Monday night against Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and the Washington Redskins.
But Davis admits that this defense is searching for it’s identity.
“We are at stage one of a coaching staff, a scheme, and a major overhaul of a defense,” Davis Jr. said. “Before we even can win, we have to learn how to communicate better. What will the nuances of our adjustments be? The Washington Redskins have had 16 games playing together as an offense in a scheme, we still have that learning curve we’re going through and we’re going as fast as we can but Washington will tell us that starting line.”
It’s a shocking admission that just four days from kicking off the season, Davis has little idea of just where his defense stands.
“Our movement to the ball is getting better than ever. That’s where turnovers happen and big plays are eliminated,” Davis explained. “The biggest switch we’ve made is from a wide-nine gap go and get it system, to being patient as linebackers, safeties staying home and finding out where we are as a foundation is what I’m looking hard at.”
Granted, there are plenty of moving parts with this defense that is undergoing a transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 front and will be leaning heavily on the likes of Brandon Graham and Trent Cole to adapt from playing defensive end to outside linebacker this season. Davis explained Thursday that they will not be asking Cole and Graham to drop back vertically, but rather create a 15-by-15-yard box that each player will be responsible for.
“It’s foreign to you at first, when you start thinking ‘now I’m playing linebacker,’ but I’m playing all around,” Cole said Thursday. “Having the endurance to get your legs underneath you having to run around like that for a good amount of time is the most important for me. I think I’ve transitioned well and I’m excited for this game coming up so I can showcase what I can do playing both linebacker and defensive end.”
The Redskins certainly present a tough task right out of the gate. Washington finished with the league’s top rushing offense last season, due in large part to Griffin, but also Morris’ 1,613 yards as a rookie had something to do with it.
It’s certainly an early test for a defense still trying to find it’s footing.
“I think it’s good to get them early in the season,” linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “That’s how I’d like it to, get these guys out of the way and then take it one game at a time from there. We’re excited to play them and we’re ready to get rolling.”
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All quotes obtained first-hand.