On Tuesday morning, defensive coordinator Bill Davis took to the podium to meet with the media before the team's training session. Among the topics discussed, Davis hit on what he believes has been the defense's downfall and how he expects the team to come out against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Here are four takeaways …
1. On What's Held The Defense Back The Second Half Of The Season
The Eagles were a top-10 defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed heading into the Week 7 matchup against Carolina, but things went south from there. The Eagles went on to allow at least 38 points in four different games and, according to Davis, the biggest issue has simply been inconsistency across the board.
"I think we're all responsible," said Davis. "We just had a good meeting with the players and everyone has to look at themselves. It starts with me, defensively. I've got to look in the mirror and say why did we start in an area that we were excited about in the first half of the season, and the thing that keeps coming back to me is consistency.
"When you have the ability to play good defense and you show that, then you know you do have talent and you have coaching and scheme, but the inconsistency part of that is what let us down this year. I'm the first one that has to make sure we get that consistency right - consistency in tackling, scheming it to where the guys are in position to make plays and then getting out of the way to let them make plays."
2. On The Ability Of The Inside Linebackers To Cover
Davis was asked about the performance of inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans throughout the course of the season. According to the defensive coordinator, the responsibility to perform at a higher level falls on the shoulders of every position group, not just the linebackers.
"It's something I have to look at and I have to look at it hard because I do believe in the players that we have. I believe in the positions that we put them in," Davis said. "The other night it was the pass defense that really hurt us in that room, and I have to help them get the technique down and understanding leverage and knowing where they are at and winning one-on-ones in pass coverage.
"Collectively, as a unit, I can say that about every position group, that there are inconsistencies in the play that contribute to the failure or success of the team and it's my responsibility to figure those things out and get it right."
3. On Jordan Hicks' Impact And Kiko Alonso's Play
Sticking with the inside linebacker theme, Davis spoke about the role that Jordan Hicks' midseason injury had on the rest of the group as a whole. While Hicks had proven himself as a playmaker, Davis explained, his departure wasn't the sole reason why the defense couldn't stay afloat.
"We're very excited about Jordan and the way he was playing and contributing to the defense, but I don't say that's one point where it turned on us and without Jordan we can't succeed," Davis said. "There's no way we'll go there. We have a lot of capable, good players that I have to put it better positions and they have to make the plays when they're in position."
While Hicks made a bigger impact than many people expected in his first season with the Eagles, Alonso never quite reached the expectations fans had for him. Davis believes that a full offseason with the Eagles will go a long way for the Oregon product's confidence.
"I think he'll make a big leap. I really do," said Davis. "I think having last year off with no football and starting this year coming off the injury and thinking about it in a new system, and there are no excuses here for Kiko – everyone's got to do better and play better – but I do believe in my experiences that the second year in a system of making the calls and hearing the calls and understanding all the little details of what's being asked of him, I think that will really help Kiko and not having an offseason of thinking of an injury rehab, he's thinking about how can I play better."
4. On The Regular Season Finale
The playoffs may not be a possibility for the Eagles any longer, but Davis believes that the Eagles will come out as motivated as ever, thanks in part to tremendous tone-setters inside the locker room.
"This is a mature group with good leadership," Davis said. "In the NFL, it's one week at a time with all you have and you play for your teammates and you play for each other and you go out there and compete because that's what you do and that's how you're wired.
"We've got a hell of a challenge in stopping the New York Giants which is a very potent offense. They've got weapons. They've got stats. They've got a great scheme. They've got a quarterback that can make all the throws, and does, and if he gets hot, you're in trouble. So we've got to make sure that we go in there and we will. It's a good group that will fight all the way to the end. We'll cross the finish line going full speed. No one will pull up, no one is letting go of the rope and no one is going to coast in or mail it in. This is a prideful, tough group and it's got good leadership."