- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Right? Michael Vick has dominated the news coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles over the past 24 hours, and for good reason, but there's a lot more going on with the Eagles than the quarterback situation. There's the defense, to name one incredibly significant other thing, and new coach Chip Kelly and new defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke Monday about what that defense might look like:
"I'm not caught up with labels," Kelly said. "Because I don't think it's going to be a ladies-and-gentlemen defense. I think it's hopefully going to be a defense that creates a lot of turnovers and gets the ball back to our offense."
Davis has worked mostly with 3-4 defenses. He said 15 of his 21 years coaching in the NFL were with odd-man fronts. When he was the defensive coordinator in Arizona from 2009-10, Davis ran a 3-4, but it was called a "4-3 under" that implemented some 4-3 principles.
Kelly confirmed that he prefers a 3-4. More NFL teams have been switching to an odd-man front because of its versatility. The fact that Kelly hired inside and outside linebackers coaches suggests that he will have a defense suited more to a 3-4, and one that employs linebackers of a different skill set.
It certainly does, but just as is the case with the Kelly offense, the Eagles and their fans must enter this new arrangement with the hope that Kelly isn't wading in with definitive formulaic ideas and principles. What will determine whether Kelly is a successful NFL head coach is the extent to which he can be nimble and innovative and creative -- whether he can determine and implement the best ways to use the personnel at his disposal. I don't get the sense he plans something like the Mike Shanahan makeover in Washington, where Jim Haslett was brought in to oversee a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and the personnel was overhauled over a two-year period. The Eagles have a lot more good players on their roster right now than the Redskins did then, first of all, and second of all, the point of Kelly is to try something that hasn't been tried before, right?
You don't hire the hot college coach just because he won a bunch of games in college. Winning in the NFL is totally different than winning in college. You hire the hot college coach because you see in him a willingness and ability to do things differently, to implement new ideas and thoughts and mesh them with the old NFL way of doing things. The Eagles want to move their program forward and build something that sets the new trends rather than reacts to them. If they didn't believe Kelly was the man for that job, then they shouldn't, and likely wouldn't, have hired him.
So, I'm eager to watch what unfolds with the defense over the coming months, and whether the Eagles line up with three down lineman more often than four is not the most interesting aspect of it to me. I'm eager to see what they decide to do with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. I'm eager to see what kinds of defensive backs they get to augment the front. I'm interested to hear and see and report on the fresh, new aspects of the Eagles' defense, because I have to imagine there are going to be plenty of them. If this is just about shoehorning 4-3 personnel into a 3-4 scheme and getting rid of the guys who can't handle it, that's not going to be very interesting or very effective. And I highly doubt it's what the Eagles hired Kelly to do.