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Defense Aims For Bounceback

Posted Aug 14, 2013

It was the little things that added up to some big mistakes for the Eagles D last week: foot placement, hand placement, how the players used their eyes. So much learned in practice went out the window when the bright lights turned on ...

So, it is with great anticipation that defensive coordinator Bill Davis greets this preseason game against Carolina. He wants to see improvement. He spent the week talking to his team and teaching his players and preached urgency and the "want to" necessary for any defense.

There is no panic inside the Eagles after the defensive struggles against New England. Instead, there is the understanding, collectively, that the tackling must improve and the alignment must get better and that the sense of playing for the man next to you supersedes individual gain.

So says Davis, who has stressed the basics all week since watching the tape of the preseason opener.

"We do need confidence in the scheme, in the techniques and in each other," said Davis. "We've got to come out of this game with a better feeling about counting on each other and everybody being where they're supposed to be and that's the step that we need to take."

Davis ran just a small sampling of the scheme against New England that he plans to run in the regular season, so it wasn't a "scheme" thing. It was, Davis said from his office at the NovaCare Complex, a situation where some players came off the ball trying to make "the big play" and in doing so, "screwed up five others."

What happened against New England is in the past, though. Chalk it up as a learning experience against the NFL's best offense in 2012 and against a quarterback (Tom Brady) who is as good as any. The Eagles, remember, have overturned their roster, changed the scheme and introduced a new language here, so mistakes are going to be made.

And the fact that the Patriots opened the game with a 62-yard run and back-to-back touchdowns certainly provided some shock value to the players and the coaches, and some concern among the fans.

Game 2 against the Panthers and versatile quarterback Cam Newtown will provide another excellent test from which to measure the defense's progress.

"We have to evaluate correctly. That is the main job we have right now, to evaluate and find the best players for this roster. In order to do that, I have to keep the scheme relatively simple and rep what they know the most and get them to play those techniques so we can evaluate their skill sets."

The good things Davis saw against New England, in general, began with a secondary that contested every pass and made only one coverage bust (New England missed an open receiver in the end zone). The spacing among the front seven was fine. The effort was there.

The tackling?

"Nowhere near where it needs to be," said Davis.

The Eagles are integrating some younger players into the mix, so it's likely that defensive tackle Bennie Logan will see some major reps, along with safety Earl Wolff. Second-year man Vinny Curry stepped up against New England. Some younger defensive linemen will get on the field.

Davis also expects that cornerback Cary Williams will play after missing the New England game and he will add to the aggressiveness and physical nature of the defense.

It's a critical game for everyone on defense in light of last week's matchup, and in the big picture of whittling a roster to 53 players. No question, there is a sense of urgency. Reporters have questioned players all week. The fans have expressed themselves.

The players know they need to play with confidence and tenacity.

"The film was the truth and we need to make plays and play better football," said Davis. "They know it. They're going to be fired up. I hope they're mad. I know I am. I hope they're embarrassed.

"It's a learning curve. It's going to turn for us. When it turns, it's going to be fine. When that turn comes for different guys, I don't know. That light is going to go on and you will see that improvement. You will see it come together."

Game 2 is here. The defense is in the spotlight and it's time to have some success and develop some confidence.

"The only way to get that swagger and that confidence is to have success on the field," said Davis. "I'm looking forward to seeing how we react against Carolina."

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