Eagles work on transitioning to 3-4 defensive scheme

Rich Schultz

Under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis, Philadelphia is looking to become more versatile defensively.

The Philadelphia Eagles are in the midst of an offseason of change. While most of the attention focuses on new head coach Chip Kelly and the fast-paced offense he'll be running, a big schematic transition is also underway on the defensive side of the ball.

The simple version is that new defensive coordinator Bill Davis is in the process of switching the Eagles' gears from a 4-3 lineup to a 3-4 based unit. But, as Davis says in a report from Jeff McLane of Philly.com on Friday, it's an ever-evolving process in Philadelphia, and the look of the Eagles' defense isn't set in stone yet.

Eagles' blog Bleeding Green Nation: Trent Cole: "Nothing wrong with change"

Yes, there's a fundamental transition taking place from the 4-3 to the 3-4. But as Davis says in the report, the defense is going to reflect the players on the roster, rather than vice versa:

"Multiple is the best way. 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."

Kelly has, as McLane writes, given complete responsibility of rebuilding the defense over to Davis. The report notes that pass-rushers Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are working out as outside linebackers and, though pass coverage could be foreign for players typically used to careening into the quarterback as fast as possible, Davis thinks the new position, and playing upright, is becoming easier for them over time this offseason.

Philadelphia's defense ranked 15th in the league last season, allowing an average of 343.2 yards per game. Their 27.8 points per game allowed was tied for 29th in the NFL, and they allowed 126.3 yards on the ground per game -- good for 23rd in the league.

Not surprisingly, Davis and the Eagles are focusing on rush defense, too. As mentioned in the report, that includes a bigger defensive line with more emphasis on slowing the run. This is in part because the secondary will ideally have less of a role in run support in Davis' scheme. Davis also said that he plans to use blitzes and fake blitzes from all over the field, using anyone on the defense, adding that he's spent lots of time studying Jim Johnson, the late former Eagles defensive coordinator. The 3-4 is the Eagles' basic defensive blueprint, but how Davis gets there seems to depend on how the roster responds to the changes.

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