Defining the Eagles' new defense

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
5:25
PM ET
Reporters got to talk with Philadelphia Eagles assistant coaches Thursday, and one of the more popular interview subjects was obviously new defensive coordinator Bill Davis. There has been much talk, since the Eagles hired Chip Kelly as head coach, about the Eagles switching from a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4, and Davis seems to think the best way to describe it is as a gradual change in that direction. Per Jeff McLane:
“‘Multiple’ is the best way,” Davis said. “I know you guys are tired of that answer. I know you want to hear one or the other or something. What we’re doing here is we’re taking that wide-nine 4-3 and we’re moving in the direction of the 3-4, but where we stop is yet to be determined by the players we have.”

Davis said Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, who played defensive end in the Eagles' 4-3, have been adjusting to the role of standup outside linebacker in a 3-4. But it definitely sounds as though Davis is prepared to use 4-3 fronts as well as 3-4 fronts as the transition takes place in 2013.
"Right now in this phase, it's a no-padded phase, so we get to test them in a different movement things and different positions," Davis said. "And then sometime during training camp the system is in place. Everybody out there has a system that runs four-down, three-down. ... So you use them at different times, and how much we use any of them will dictate who we're playing and the offenses we're trying to stop that week, and first and foremost, who [our] guys are and what they do best."

Ultimately, it appears as though Kelly's Eagles teams will run a 3-4 defense. But it's going to take some time to transition to that, and rather than simply wade in and impose a new system and formation on personnel that may not fit naturally into it, Kelly and Davis want to spend the offseason assessing what they have and the best way to play defense with that in the meantime. It makes sense. The extent to which it works will depend on their ability to teach and the players' ability to learn and incorporate the new stuff once the games begin.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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