PHILADELPHIA -- The first three games of the regular season are fraught with unknown peril for defensive coaches.
They study opponents’ preseason tape without knowing what it means. Is that the offensive scheme to expect? Is that how they plan to use a particular player or are they playing possum? You can’t be sure, so you prepare and plan as best you can.
“Like last year, when I kept saying the Washington (season-opening) game would show us our starting point, it’s the same thing this year with Jacksonville,” Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We know what we would like to see and what we hope happens, but the game will tell us who we are and what stage of development we’re in.”
Davis thinks the Eagles have an inherent edge because they practice against Chip Kelly’s no-huddle offense all summer long. That makes them ready for one of the more substantial surprises an opponent could throw at them. Davis has a plan to rotate all his players in order to keep them fresh throughout the game.
“We have to be built that way because we’re a no-huddle defense,” Davis said. “There’s always that in place. How much it actually gets activated kind of is a feel: How long are the drives, how many drives do we have, what’s our play count? There’s a lot of things that happen there.
“We practice against that every day, all day. The tempo will not faze our group. It doesn’t change what we do. If they do, we’ll play to it. But we practice against it every day, whether we want to or not. So what are they going to do to their defense? We’re a no-huddle defense and that’s part of it. If they’re going to 'tempo' us, you’d better make sure you’re in great shape.”
The Eagles have added a dime defensive package to offset opponents’ passing attacks. But the Eagles won’t know until the game starts whether the Jaguars plan to lean on their running game or let quarterback Chad Henne air it out.
“These guys have shown a lot of multiple offensive sets and schemes,” Davis said. “I don’t know if they keep it tight to their vest in the preseason or not. The first three games, you really are on high alert to handle anything that comes your way. You don’t know what they’ve been working on all offseason and what they’re ready to unleash on you.”