Q. Are you still going with CB Bradley Fletcher as a starter?
BILL DAVIS: We haven't made that decision yet. What we're going to do is look at it all week, and then at the end of the week we'll make a decision on how and what groupings we'll use to defend these guys in the secondary.
* Q. Is it a little bit more of looking and seeing at practice?*
BILL DAVIS: We're looking at all of it. We're looking at them and we're looking at us, and we're just going to, at the end of the week, make that decision.
* Q. So CB Nolan Carroll II has got a shot to start then?*
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, they all have a shot. They really do. They all have a shot.
* Q. How are they splitting snaps today at practice?*
BILL DAVIS: Well we are going to roll them like we always do. There really isn't a problem with rolling them. If I answered that question, then I'd be answering the other question, wouldn't I? That's a good follow‑up. Almost had me.
* Q. Who is all of them, though? Who besides Carroll?*
BILL DAVIS: Well, you've got CB Brandon Boykin, you've got Nolan, you've got all of them. All of them are in the mix, like they always have been, though. We always rep it out that way.
* Q. But you have never used Boykin outside --*
BILL DAVIS: Not in a game we haven't, no. Part of the reason is that a lot of times you have four corners that are up on game day, so when I go to dime package, they're all in.
* Q. So is there a chance that Boykin could start outside?*
BILL DAVIS: A chance, but again, a lot of times all the corners we have are out there on the field at the same time, so therefore we need the nickel and dime spots, and we're facing a Giants team that uses more three-wide receiver sets than anything. So all the corners that are up will be playing a lot.
* Q. On that second deep ball to Redskins WR DeSean Jackson that Fletcher got beat on, what was the coverage? It looked like you had seven guys drop there, but what happened where Fletcher got singled up on him?*
BILL DAVIS: There were a couple times that happened. The whole game plan was either to pressure and have the post-safety stay over the top of DeSean, unless somebody else was in a more stressful situation, or split the safeties and double. So we moved in and out of that the whole game. On the one that he got vertical on, we also had an outside backer who was on a receiver into the boundary; they had a nice scheme, so they pulled the post-safety, and Fletch lost it at the line of scrimmage. Really that's where he has had the most struggles the last couple weeks was at the line, and he lost the battle at the line, and then they had a good throw and catch outside. The post-safety couldn't help because we had an outside backer that was in more stress.
Now, the time we picked it off was where we didn't have it and Nate [S Nate Allen] did a great job of getting over the top, and we made a play on it.
* Q. You've faced some talented wide receivers the last couple weeks. How much of a nightmare is Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.?*
BILL DAVIS: He is really improving. I'll tell you what, the first time we played him ‑‑ and this is a different offense we're about to face than the first time -- he had been out for a while. But now he ‑‑ and he was just getting his feet wet at the time -- is a main part of what they do and who they look for in the passing game. He's a talented young man. We loved him coming into the draft, and he's grown into exactly who we thought he would be.
* Q. Talking about the confidence of Bradley Fletcher, does it show itself at the line of scrimmage? Is that somewhere where it can kind of show up in his play?*
BILL DAVIS: Well, I think it's the whole down. I think it's the whole ‑‑ from the start to the finish. Bradley Fletcher has a lot of good football he's played for us over the last two years, and him and I have talked a lot about the confidence issue, and right now if you just go back to our Giants game from a year ago where they threw probably 10 verticals on us, I think about five or six went to Fletch, and he made unbelievable plays at the ball on vertical routes, and I just need to get him back to that place. That's what we were trying to do over the last couple weeks. You just can't yank and jerk all these guys. There are not a whole lot of players that you have options for anyway, but you can't just bail on a guy right away, and sometimes maybe you wait too long, maybe you don't do it quick enough, maybe you do it too quick, and it's a fine line, and you've got to make that call. That's what we as a group did, and hopefully we can get Fletch back around to where he's playing the ball that he has played for us.
* Q. If you had wanted to bail on him, so to speak, earlier, would you have had to talk with Chip Kelly before making that final decision?*
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, we all do everything together. We talk about everything all through the week. We are a collective unit here; we make all decisions together. There's no topic ‑‑ you've got to remember, we sit in this building all day every day watching every practice snap, going over every meeting and talking about everybody's strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of the day, we collectively make all those decisions.
* Q. Doesn't someone have to have the final decision?*
BILL DAVIS: The head coach always has the final decision at all times. I don't know where you're going with the question.
* Q. I just wasn't sure about the autonomy you have over the defense, scheme and personnel decisions.*
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, we work together on it. It really is collective. I don't know how you make decisions in your world with the guys above you or not, but we collectively, with all our experiences, put our minds together and then say, 'Hey, what's the best move for the Philadelphia Eagles?' and we make those decisions then.
* Q. Was there ever a consideration to basically change your approach and just zone it up more on defense, or always have safety help or ‑‑*
BILL DAVIS: You can do that. Everybody is constantly going through moving in and out of where you place the help. You may place the help with the extra rusher. You can sit all day in a split-safety coverage and the run game and the middle‑of‑the‑field completions start hitting you. Everything takes something away, and everything gives something up, or there's a weak spot to every defensive call and every offensive call. Every protection has its holes. Are they going to keep the tight end or get the extra guy out? Defensively, are we going to rush the extra gap, are we going to bracket, are we going to double, are we going to zone over the top? Right now, overall, we're about a 60 percent middle-closed and about a 40 percent middle-open defense, and that's who we are with a lot of our pressure package; that's where we've been, and we've been successful with that, and we've had some bad games with that.
I try to move through a game making calls and giving help where needed. Like I said, this game was to bring five and get the ball out quick, put the lean post-safety over the top of DeSean or double DeSean or zone over the top of him, and he had two nice plays on us when the middle of the field was closed, and they had it. They [also] had five or six shots that they wanted that we had covered. So they made a play, we take the hat off to them, and we didn't make enough plays to win that game.
* Q. At outside linebacker, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin played every snap. It was the first time there was no rotation at the position. Why did you choose not to get Marcus Smith II in there, and do you want Smith to get some game reps this week?*
BILL DAVIS: There were a couple things that went in. Early on we did not have many snaps in the first half: the offense possessed the ball for most of the time, so early on we didn't make that rotation, because there's separation. There's separation in talent. Now, the more it's clustered, the more we play everybody. The more there's separation, the less we make rotations.
* Q. How did Graham grade out in his first start of the season?*
BILL DAVIS: Brandon had a nice game, he really did. He put a lot of pressure on that quarterback. He really did move him off his spot a couple times and really got after the quarterback well and set the edge well in the run game.
* Q. Chip Kelly mentioned yesterday that Marcus Smith has been inconsistent at practice. Have you seen any indications over the course of the year that his inconsistency will eventually turn into consistency and that it will click for him?*
BILL DAVIS: I do believe it will, and part of the reason, and I've said this up here a couple times now, the difficulty of moving from outside to inside [linebacker] and then trying to retrain your eyes and then now back outside, there's a reason for the inconsistency, also, and some of it is us moving him from in and out and out and in. The other part of it is he just has to settle in and play the hand he's dealt and make the most of it.
* Q. But presumably there are other players, perhaps, who would handle that better than he has. I mean, even if you had another rookie linebacker moving outside and inside, rookie linebacker X might handle it better than Smith.*
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I can only talk about Marcus in that situation. The rest of it -- I don't know who that X player is.
* Q. Emotion is a very big part of defensive football. Is it difficult to get your players to an emotional peak in a game that doesn't have playoff implications?*
BILL DAVIS: Not this group. I mean, we have one mindset, and we've had it every week, and we come up here every week and say the same thing: We're going to win a ballgame, and they all count, and they all matter. If we're playing a football game in New York, we're going up there and they're going to get our absolute best with all the emotion we have. It isn't about what comes after it. It's about us going in there and trying to get our 10th win.
* Q. Was the defense better at the end of this season than it was at the end of last season?*
BILL DAVIS: In a lot of categories, yes, and in a very important one, the deep pass, the vertical ball, the plus-20 [yard] passes, we're not. I've got to get that fixed. We're not better in our penalties and our discipline, so those are two areas that have hurt us, that we have to get corrected, that we have to make sure that we look at every aspect of why it's happening, like we have all year, but the deep pass ball has got to stop, and that's what's giving up yards and it's why our points [allowed] aren't where they need to be. There are a lot of aspects of the defense that have vastly grown: The run defense, you know, our run average per attempt is high, our takeaways are in the top five, our sacks are in the top five, our opponent completion percentage is in the top five. But the one that matters most is points, and that's the one we've got to get down, and right now we're not doing that. That's a product of the deep passing game and the penalties.
* Q. Are you happy with some of the schematic changes you've made this year in terms of having more base defense and having [inaudible] play the slot and more the dime?*
BILL DAVIS: I'd say the dime is probably our biggest asset that we've had, and I think it's part of why the opponent completion percentage [is down.] We're in the top 10 in third-down percentage; we really are. I mean, we have a lot of elements that are positive and have moved in a forward direction in a big way. The problem is the vertical passing game.
* Q. When you have something that stands out so much over everything else, there has got to be one or two things ‑‑*
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, we looked at it all year, and schematically, I'm telling you ‑‑ Are we splitting the safeties, who am I giving help to, who's having those issues, is it schematic, is it calls, is it timing of calls, is it technique at the line, is it technique deep, is it underneath coverage, is it the supporting the deep coverage? There are so many things we're looking at and we're racking our brains and trying to figure it out and solve the problem and we have been all year. It's kind of like the turnovers on the other side. You put all your focus on it and you're trying to fix it. We've got to find ways to fix it, and we will. We will.
* Q. How is DB Jaylen Watkins coming along and how do you see him progressing?*
BILL DAVIS: Jaylen is a versatile player, and I think first and foremost he has a good corner skill-set, which is what we all ‑‑
* Q. As an outside corner?*
BILL DAVIS: The outside corner, he does, but the nickel role and the dime role are two roles that he could fill, also, and he's an intelligent young man that he could possibly play safety. We're starting him in the corner world, and then we'll slowly ‑‑ and we're training him in other places because when he is active, and he was active the other night, he possibly could go in at nickel, dime, safety or corner, and that's a testament to his football intelligence. He's just not there yet. It's like a lot of rookies. We're throwing a lot at him, and he's done a great job trying to absorb it, but he hasn't separated himself to where he belongs in the starting conversation yet. But I'm hopeful that some day he will.
* Q. Do you think you'd be okay with Watkins in Carroll's role next season if you ended up moving Carroll outside?*
BILL DAVIS: Well, I need more body of work for him. Honestly, we need the offseason, we need the preseason and all those things to look at. But there's no reason why you couldn't project him into where he could go out there and play, I think, right now, from what we've seen. But it was mostly preseason that we saw that in.
* Q. When you slice everything up with Marcus Smith, seeing him last summer in OTAs and the like, did you expect more from him this year than you've gotten? Regardless of the position switch, did you expect more from him than you ultimately got?*
BILL DAVIS: Over time I've learned to kind of cool it on the expectations of rookies, no matter where they come, first round, last round, because you can really bury a guy that you shouldn't bury who's a sixth- or seven-round pick or a free agent that really, if you go with an open mind, he shows you through his practice and what he does every day that he deserves to be in the conversation to play more. So I don't get overly excited about first-, second-, third-round picks. I don't get underwhelmed with the lower picks. Everybody comes to us, now they're an Eagle, now we evaluate them on what you do in our building, in our meeting room, in our weight room, in our training, and Marcus is where he's proven to be throughout the year by his actions and his play on the practice field.
* Q. If you guys decide not to start Bradley Fletcher at outside cornerback, would he still play in dime packages?*
BILL DAVIS: All those things we'll talk about at the end of the week. It's a big collective ‑‑ we'll get it done and then make all those decisions. Even that specific question I can't answer because I don't know the answer to it yet. We're going to watch this week and ‑‑ again, there are only four corners on the roster and a fifth with Jaylen.
* Q. Obviously in the game you had no choice because once you go to dime package you're stuck ‑‑ that's what I'm asking.*
BILL DAVIS: Okay.
* Q. Of the seven rookies, five are on the defensive side of the ball. You're really only getting one of them playing somewhat significant snaps, DT Beau Allen. As a class, are they slow developing, or is it more a product of your overall depth?*
BILL DAVIS: I wouldn't say that. I think all of them we have an open mind with. I think they've all worked hard and are getting better. Have they been good enough to crack the starting lineup? The answer to that is no. Can they eventually? The answer is yes.