You're in a unique position, you're going to be playing against read option teams this year, but your team is going to run it a lot. I would imagine there's been a lot of give and take between you and Pat [Shurmur] and Chip [Kelly] about how you're going to defend it and how you think other teams are going to ‑‑ there's been a lot of talk about hitting the quarterback at every opportunity to dissuade teams from running the read option. Do you think we're going to see a lot of that, either from you guys or other teams this year?
BILL DAVIS: I think we lose sight of the fact that we are all trying to hit the guy with the ball, and when you talk about read option and the quarterback carrying the ball more, well, he's going to be hit naturally more. I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary.
If you sit in the pocket all day and we hit you from there, you're going to have the normal amount of hits. If you run the read option, the quarterback, there's a lot of ways to run the read option where they block the guy that would make the quarterback keep the ball, so they can really dictate a little bit on the offensive side how often he actually keeps it.
But when you run the read option and he is a ball carrier, he's treated like a ball carrier; he will be hit more often. Simple, for the fact of the read option. Now, as far as practicing against it, I think we have a heck of an advantage because we have a whole offseason of watching it, talking about it, and it's one thing for coaches to know the answers to stop the read option; when the players understand the options and you get to practice it through the off‑season, you feel more comfortable about defending the read option.
For instance, last year in Cleveland, we are about to play RG3. He didn't play that game, but we were preparing for it and it was a whole out‑of‑the‑box thinking of trying to stop this read option, as opposed to the conventional NFL.
Here, we see it so often, we talk about it more, the techniques are geared for it, we have a little bit ‑‑ it's hard to stop but we have a better familiarity.
A lot of the discussion about it is hitting the quarterback after he executes a fake and how far teams will take that this year to get a hit on a quarterback.
BILL DAVIS: I think he'll be hit more often when they run the read option, but to the degree that it makes them not run it is really in the offensive coordinator's hands and each franchise's opinion on how much in harm's way do they want to put their quarterback. Back in the spring when you were talking about getting the defense way from the wide-nine toward the two‑gap 3‑4 or wherever you would land, you said September would still be fact‑finding mode.
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I'm very anxious for the Redskins to show us who we are and where we are. It is going to be ‑‑ I don't know what's coming. The truth will be at the end of that game, we will know defensively how far along we are.
We're coming up against a top rushing offense in the NFL last year, fifth in scoring, one of the top offenses out there. They are very talented across the board. They played all 16 games together last year which is a huge advantage to play in a system, and we have to face that, and we have got to face it using an overhauled defense with new techniques that we have taught.
We learned in the New England game, we came out there to try to get ahead of ourselves and play above the technique and it hurt us and hopefully we'll come out Monday night and play to the techniques that we have worked the whole offseason on.
No matter what I wish for or what I want, doesn't matter. The game will show us who we are. As fast as this offense is, how much pressure is that going to put on your defense to be in that same shape, or is it going to be a quick three‑and‑out and you're back on the field, not a lot of time?
BILL DAVIS: It's a great question. From the very beginning, we have talked in the Eagles locker room and our meetings rooms defensively about, it's not the Philadelphia Eagles offense that is no‑huddle and up‑tempo. It's our whole team.
The defense has to be in equally great shape to handle the no‑huddle offense, because we are running it; so we pride ourselves on being in that great condition, and we can no‑huddle all game. Our defense is just as ready for us to be a three‑and‑out or a three‑and‑in. If it's half a sip of Gatorade and you have to go back on the field, so be it. That's who we are as a team and it's a positive, not a negative.
Is there more pressure on you than anybody other teams because you're going so quickly?
BILL DAVIS: I think pressure comes in how you view it, I really do. The collective mind‑set in our defensive mind is it's not going to be pressure because it's who we are preparing for. It's what we are preparing for. It's how we are getting ourselves in shape. We're ready for it.
I've been with a lot of teams that you're on the sidelines trying to get your corrections done and the guy gets you some Gatorade, and, defense back up, has been a negative. I think we have the mindset right now, how quick it turns around. This offense can go three‑and‑out or three‑and‑in, and we score a touchdown and we are back out no matter how do you it.
So I think we are ready for it, we talk about it. I think our mental outlook is in the right place.
Do you know who your best pass rushers are?
BILL DAVIS: I think we'll find out but I think the guys that have the history of it: The Trent Coles, the Connor [Barwins], Brandon Grahams. I think Mychal Kendricks has a skill set for rushing a little bit. [Fletcher] Cox, Vinny Curry ‑‑ it's kind of showed itself through their history and what the stats have shown over the last couple years. In the preseason, we had a couple nice sack games. Do you want to get them all on the field at one time? Will we see that?
BILL DAVIS: I think the nature of the defense, if you're active on the roster, you're probably going to get on the field, especially on the d‑line, especially when you talk about the no‑huddle and your group being in shape. That's a natural progression of who we are as a team that the d‑line definitely will roll through, and backers, they are all play. It will be a rotation, definitely. Probably more so than you've seen. Robert Griffin III hasn't played the entire preseason, so do you have to emphasize to your team you're going against a kid who had a great season last year or a kid who is coming off an injury?
BILL DAVIS: Well, the fact ‑‑ he's done a great job rehabbing from a major injury, and the fact that he's back starting is a tribute to him.
The offense has not changed a whole lot. It's got a little different dynamic with him because of his skill set. He's one of the top quarterbacks in the league. With him, we are preparing for a healthy RG3 and all that comes with it and that's the only way we can prepare defensively.
I'm sure that if they deem that he's healthy, they are going to run the offense like they ran it last year and had the success where they won the last seven games of the season with him running this offense.
So we anticipate that what they did well and what they had success with last year is probably what they are coming at us with.
Outside linebackers, Chip referenced yesterday that Connor was the only one that was a drop backer. What does that mean for your defense?
BILL DAVIS: Well, he's the one that's dropped the most. We have cross‑trained Brandon Graham in that same drop backer and we have got Casey Matthews from the inside that can he play outside, too.
We have got depth there, but it's just not in the roster of outside linebacker spot. We have Vinny Curry that can play some aspects of it. We have enough flexibility in the scheme of how we can go in and out of the 3‑4 alignment that if we were have to something go wrong or something there that we needed some depth, we are prepared for any contingency and we have a plan for anything that may happen. Can you rush Barwin given he's your primary drop back guy?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. The drops that we give the outside backers are very rarely anything that has to do with vertical. It's all about a 15‑by‑15 box that they live in. What you're asking, it really presents some problems with the offense, too, when they are trying to run the ball and block those guys with the receivers.
There's a lot of things that go into it. I know when you think of Trent Cole and coverage and everything and everybody thinks about dropping vertically and deep, you say, that doesn't fit, and I understand that.
So the things we'll ask them to do are in a smaller box than what you would ask other linebackers to do, if that makes any sense.
Are you suggesting that ‑‑ playing at safety, what do you plan on doing at safety?
BILL DAVIS: Nate [Allen's] a starter. We named Nate the starter and we'll roll early and as I see fit, really. I'll get a feel for it and Nate will play and Earl [Wolff] will play. I want to keep growing him as a young safety but I think Nate, we'll start with Nate and see how that works out and Patrick [Chung] will be the other one and it will be a rotation basis. Earl will definitely play in the game. How much or how many reps, that will be a feel by what's happening in the game. The free safety look, you showed some of that in the training camp ‑
BILL DAVIS: Yes, we have got a couple different packages that we have not shown yet that also entail three safeties. You saw last year, the game in Cleveland ‑‑ regardless of what RG3 can do, but that second dynamic ‑‑
BILL DAVIS: It's actually the first dynamic. This offense is built on the run. They were the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL and a lot of it was RG3s rushing but [Alfred] Morris had an unbelievable year. He's a hard downhill runner, and what is there is what he gets. He gets what that blocking scheme gives him and then some, because he's such a downhill runner. It all starts with their run game. We have to stop their run game to have a good game.
I assume you've watched film tape on their preseason ‑‑ reports that Morris looks quicker.
BILL DAVIS: He looks better, yeah. He actually does.
You talked about not knowing ‑‑ what are your realistic expectations for this defense?
BILL DAVIS: Well, I know this: Wherever we start against Washington, good or bad or somewhere in the middle, it has to continue to get better by the 16th game.
This season has got to be about this defense getting to where everybody wants it to be, and really, what I say by the Washington game is our starting point and I don't know where along the scale we are, but wherever that is, that's the ground level, and we have got to take it a lot higher than it is, even if that's a great game against Washington. I think no matter how you break it, there's no excuses involved, there's no ‑‑ we are at stage one of a coaching staff of a scheme and of a major overhaul, of a defense.
And we have got to communicate better ‑‑ before we even go in, those are the things that you have to learn and grow with, how you communicate. What are the little nuances of your adjustments with what they are giving you.
For instance, the Washington Redskins have had 16 games with every player playing together within the scheme. That's an advantage. You take the Pittsburgh Steeler defense, that's almost 20 years of a defensive scheme that's been employed and the players now it inside and out.
We still have that learning curve we are going through and we are going as fast as we can, but still, there's the steps that you have to take, and again, that's why I'm saying, Washington will tell us that starting line.
Sounds like a pretty big project in terms of transitioning to the 3‑4. What should fans expectations be for the defense?
BILL DAVIS: I know this; this defense, from what they have shown so far, our effort to the ball is getting better and better every week. I think that's one of the biggest things, if you have 11 men running to the ball, usually good things happen. Usually turnovers increase. Usually the tackles, the big plays, decrease, so we are running to the ball well.
The techniques, and that's the foundation, we have done a lot of good work on and practice, it looks like it's really coming and then in the game, when the speed picks up, it kind of goes away a little bit and we have got to get it to show up on game day, and it's techniques ‑‑ that's the foundation.
That's the biggest switch we have made from a wide‑nine gap, go get it, to thicker, playing, reading, more patient linebackers, not running through; everything's different. Safety is not in a box, safety is a little bit back farther.
So all those foundation things are really what I'm looking at the hardest; [I'm looking at] where are we in the foundation, where is our communication level. I don't want to see anybody running free. There should be no free miscommunication. I'll play one defense if that's what we can play and communicate through.
So we are at that stage, and that's what we are looking hard at and then physical defense; physical, aggressive defense, even if it's within one call, is really what we are looking for to start with, and then build everything from there.
When asked about the pass rushers, and you said the guy's track record, Connor [Barwin] only had three last year, Trent [Cole] had a down year ‑‑ do you feel like you've got a good stable?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I do, I feel like we have good pass rushers. Yes, I do. I'm very confident in what they can do in the matchups we are giving them. I think the scheme will help get some matchups that are favorable for us and those are the things that we'll be looking to do, and the last couple weeks, our sack production with all kind different players has been up, and I'm encouraged by that. We just have to get the turnovers and the big plays.