Was Hiring Defense Coordinator Bill Davis Right Choice for Philadelphia Eagles?

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Was Hiring Defense Coordinator Bill Davis Right Choice for Philadelphia Eagles?
Nearly halfway through his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, the jury is out on whether Bill Davis was the right choice as defensive coordinator. Photo courtesy of Matt Rourke/AP (via Philly.com)

Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. But sometimes stability is taken for granted.

Both statements are relatable for Philadelphia Eagles fans who practically volunteered to drive Andy Reid to the airport after 14 seasons as head coach and no Super Bowl trophy to show for it. Now they get to witness him presiding as the head "Chief" of the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL

That was never the case for one of his first hires, the late Jim Johnson, who held the reigns as Philly's defensive coordinator from 1999 until his death in 2009. His personable nature and relentless blitzing schemes, which resulted in 26 trips to the Pro Bowl for his players, made him eternally embraced in this town. 

Since then, it's been a mini revolving door of replacements which has led to Reid's successor, Chip Kelly, to select Bill Davis as his first defensive boss. 

Was hiring Bill Davis as defensive coordinator the right decision for the Eagles?

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Kelly can only hope that Davis turns out even remotely as successful in the role as Johnson was. Seven games into the season, though, it's not looking very hopeful. 

In Davis' defense (see what I did there?), he did not inherit much to work with. The unit is also transitioning to a 3-4 defense without the necessary personnel to do so. Even so, their most recent showing against a typically dynamic Dallas Cowboys offense was its most impressive to date. 

Since it's still early in the game to definitively determine how successful Davis will be in his latest stop, we can at least rattle off what we do know:

 

The linebackers should improve

Five of Davis' previous NFL stops have included the job description of overseeing the linebacking corps. Considering the Eagles have put less emphasis into that position than any other for what seems to be decades now, this could indicate that the tide may be changing in that regard. 

 

He can handle the pressure

It's not Bill's first rodeo. This is now his third shot as a defensive coordinator, after two-year stints with the San Francisco 49ers (2005-06) and the Arizona Cardinals (2009-10). Unfortunately, his squads ranked 30th or below in points allowed in three of those four seasons. So it's likely his skin has thickened enough to handle any additional abuse he'll receive from Philly fans and media alike. 

Currently, the Eagles are ranked 28th in that category so...that's progress, right? 

That said, there are areas that Davis can focus on without having to wait for an anticipated talent overhaul in the offseason:

 

Be more aggressive

According to the spinmasters on the Eagles' site shortly after his hire, Davis' schemes would be all about the attack. Two months in and we're still waiting for him to release the hounds.

Blitz packages are sporadic and often ineffective. The team has just 15 sacks through seven games and no individual has more than three. This has left too much time for the opposing quarterback to find open receivers going up against an already suspect secondary. 

And the zones implemented have exposed vulnerabilities in the mid-range coverage, especially on critical third downs. Just ask Jerry Rice (no, wait—that was Donnie Avery). 

 

Expand the rotations

If at first (and second, and third) you don't succeed, try, try again. However, if certain players continue to fail, it's perhaps time to let others try, as well.

Therefore, why not see what a Vinnie Curry—who has a couple sacks and a pass deflected in limited action—can do with more playing time? How about rolling out a Colt Anderson—who's tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles—as a starter one time and see what happens? Can he really be much worse than what's out there now?

Philadelphia Eagles' Defensive Rankings (Through Week 8):
Total Yards Allowed 32nd
Total Points Allowed 28th
Takeaways T-15th
Opponent 3rd Down Conversation Pct 23rd

ESPN.com

As the Eagles approach the halfway mark in the season, there is still much to familiarize themselves with: New coaches, new system, et al. 

However, if the newest defensive coordinator doesn't provide a new level of stability by season's end, there could soon be much contempt for him in a city which is all too familiar with that emotion. 

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