In honor of last night’s performance by the Eagles’ defense…
<Whistle> “Un-football-like conduct!” Penalty will be 16 games of struggling to stop opponents.
Alright, alright…I know…bad joke.
But damn, the penalties last night were out of control. It was beyond ridiculous how many flags were flying…on both sides!
Penalties have been just part of the problem for the Eagles’ defense. The rest of it has been their overall ineptness at stopping their opponents. Yes, it’s preseason. But yes, it’s concerning.
The continued trend of being unable to get off the field — particularly on third-downs — is becoming increasingly troublesome now that we have witnessed two games and only have three weeks to fix things before the season opener.
Hell, Cary Williams evens feels a little concerned, but did leave some room for hope:
Cary on Eagles D: “If I said it wasn’t a concern, I’d be lying. …But you also have to take into consideration we’re not showing everything.”
And therein lies part of an explanation for the wretchedness we’ve seen on defense these past two weeks.
Cary is certainly on to something there and his second sentence is part of why we should back away from the proverbial cliff in regards to the defense. In these first two preseason games, Bill Davis has kept the scheme vanilla for the most part.
There hasn’t been much stunting or blitzing and no devising of any game plans.
Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, Davis has been mixing in backups with the first team guys in order to get a better evaluation of particular players.
Here’s what Davis stated after last week’s game:
Yeah, third down wasn’t a good night for us. But one of the products of that is I really am trying to evaluate. It’s harder than you think to hold to base four-man rushes and coverage calls to evaluate a four‑man rush and evaluate our coverage.
I knew halfway through that we were struggling on third down, and we were losing different one‑on‑one battles, but you can go to the pressure package, if you want. But it takes you away from the evaluation process. So the whole goal is to evaluate and grow the players, and that’s what we’re working on right now. It hurt a little bit on third down.
That philosophy continued against the Patriots. Davis is using this time to evaluate players in one-on-one situations in order to see where they’re at and whether they can simply “just play.”
And here’s what he said (after last week’s game) in regards to getting the twos and threes against the ones:
We’ll try to do that a little more Friday night but we’re also going to try to do it in practice against New England, so we can see our twos or threes against their ones. It’s easier to do it there than in the games.
The hard part about the games you don’t know how many more reps are left. How many three‑and‑outs are going to happen. Or the other night we had a 16-play drive we didn’t want, but all those young guys got a lot of reps, so that goes back and forth. So against New England in practice, we’ll definitely be moving the roster around for evaluation purposes.
So, because this is the philosophy, we certainly can’t expect to see a well-oiled machine out there on the field. Davis is putting player evaluation above the effectiveness of the unit as a whole.
And that, hopefully, will benefit the defense as a whole once the season begins.
While it looks concerning right now when we watch them in game action, we have to take these factors into consideration. It may not excuse individual players from losing too many one-on-one battles, but it does put perspective on the unit as a whole.
Perhaps we can think of this defense as being in “beta testing mode” right now. When the final product rolls out into production and the games count, we’ll see just how much this unit has truly improved…or how much it hasn’t.
If you’re looking for some hope in regards to the defense and want to see the glass as half full, this is about the best we can cling to right now.