Defensive coordinator Billy Davis knows the results have been ugly. After last week's 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Eagles have now allowed the most yards in the NFL and the second most points. So Davis has no misconceptions about the challenges that still lie ahead for his unit.
"We took a whooping," Davis said Tuesday. "That's what happened. We did not play good enough to win, obviously. Those games are tough to swallow. But you move on from them. I mean, you're running into some of those games sometimes, and you have to learn from your mistakes and move forward, and right now we're at a stage of four weeks of live football that we've tested the defense in. We are not where we want to be."
All along, Davis' job has been to rebuild a defense that not only ranked 30th in points allowed last season but that is transitioning from a wide-nine 4-3 scheme to, eventually, a two-gap 3-4. The Eagles are not yet at the arrival point on that spectrum, but, despite the relative leakiness over the last few weeks, there is hope on the horizon.
"The fundamentals, the techniques, the understanding, the players playing with each other, it is moving forward," said Davis. "The results did not show in that game obviously, so I'm asking to you trust me even though there are not the results. But the guys know through the daily work that the techniques, it will turn. It will turn. It hasn't turned yet. It's not where we want it to be, but we'll continue to put our heads down and work, and I really believe it will turn.
"We've got the talent. We just have to get them playing together within the scheme. I don't care what you run. A wide nine or a 3 4 two gap. Every player playing his technique, they're all attached to each other. The defensive lineman's technique are attached to the linebacker's technique or attached to the safeties. When you have inconsistency in any one spot, the defense breaks down. It doesn't matter the scheme, it matters the techniques within the call, within the scheme are played as 11 as 1 we always talk about. That's what we have to get to, and we're not there yet. That's probably what shows up more than anything else is an inconsistent spot here or there where the technique didn't fit the other one and somebody's got to make up for the person that's not in their gap or assignment. It is moving in the right direction. It is better each week. As far as that goes."
In his quest to turn the defense around, Davis said that he had two main focuses – first, to get the players to rally to the football and tackle with efficiency. Second, he wanted to limit the big plays that haunted the Eagles over the last few seasons. In that aspect, the Eagles have succeeded thus far. They've only allowed four plays of 30 yards or more this season, which is tied for fifth in the league this season (the defense allowed 28 and 26 such plays in 2012 and 2011, respectively).
"When we took this project on of putting the new techniques and the new defense in, the first thing we said was we were going to run to the ball," said Davis. "We were going to fly the ball to our effort. Next thing we were going to stop the big plays. We were going to play deep to short. Stop the extra yardage plays from happening so we can play a tighter defense. Now the understanding of the zones that we're playing and some of the mans, the guys are getting a good feel. We're deep to short, and we can tighten some of those zones down a little bit if needed without sacrificing the deep ball or the bigger plays."
One player who has come under scrutiny the last couple weeks is linebacker
"I think Michael is like a lot of our players," said Davis."We're very inconsistent now in applying the techniques and understanding of the overall scheme. So we have days and stretches of plays where all of them are very exciting to watch them as they're getting it. Then we have these lulls where it's not where you want it to be, and they're a little bit out of whack. And I think Michael just fights through that as we do a lot of our other players."
This week, the task for the defense is to halt the progress of a new Manning. The book on Eli Manning, according to Davis, is that he, along with wide receiver Victor Cruz, will threaten the Eagles' ability to prevent big plays.
"It's a big challenge because Eli is one of the best deep ball throwers," said Davis. "He launches a beautiful fade ball or deep ball down the sideline, and Victor Cruz, that's part of what they do well. So I think we have a huge challenge in keeping, again, it's a matter of staying on the top shoulder of the receivers and making sure we're in need of the advantageous position on the deep ball."
Despite their variety of weapons on offense, the Giants rank 30th in the league this season with just over 15 points per game. Against both the Broncos and San Diego Chargers, the Eagles defense was occasionally victimized by plays being changed at the line of scrimmage by the opposing quarterback. Last week's opponent, of course, is perhaps the league's best in that regard. How does Eli stack up as a pre-snap play adjuster?
"I think he has the ability to change plays and he does," said Davis. "I don't know, because I'm not in their playbooks. But Peyton runs the offense and calls the game from the line of scrimmage. He's in and out. There is no play called, he tells everybody after he gets his look. I think in New York it's a little different. I think there are play calls that are called in with a couple of options for Eli to switch in and out of, I believe."
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