Initial Thoughts on New Eagles Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis

Initial Thoughts on New Eagles Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis

After several weeks of radio silence, Chip Kelly and the
Eagles finally hired a defensive coordinator on Thursday, and naturally the Philly
faithful were not inspired by their choice – not that anybody can blame them.
Billy Davis is not a sexy pick no matter how the team tries to dress it up.

Of course part of the problem is there weren’t a lot of
attractive matches out there in the first place, which in this case meant a
coach who possesses instant name recognition, but is also still considered a star
in their profession. In other words, most fans weren’t going to be happy no
matter who the Eagles wound up with.

Let’s face it: the general public probably wasn’t going to get
excited for 49ers defensive backs coach Ed
Donatell or Ravens linebackers coach Ted
Monachino, perhaps least of all for Georgia defensive coordinator Todd
Grantham. Those were the other candidates the Eagles reportedly were to be
interested in though, which should tell you something about the availability of
renowned defensive assistants this offseason.

None of which amounts to much of a sales pitch for Davis,
either. The best anybody can really tell you is essentially the same we said for
Kelly after he was tabbed for the head job, which is every important coaching
hire in the NFL carries some risk. We can attempt to put minds at ease however
by answering a few of your burning questions.

Why did the Eagles
wait so long?

Obviously there was legitimate interest in one or multiple
staff members for either of this year’s participants in the Super Bowl. We can
confirm Donatell at least was not given permission from the Niners to interview
with other teams, and he sounded an awful lot like the favorite at one point.
Whether or not Monachino or anybody else was contacted is unclear.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Davis wouldn’t have been
awarded the job anyway, it just means there was somebody else the Eagles would
have liked to speak to.

Why did the Eagles
assemble the rest of the staff first?

For the most part, they haven’t. Only one position coach has
been hired thus far – Jerry Azzinaro at defensive line coach – and he comes
from Oregon’s staff. Naturally the head coach has some say in the defensive
coordinator’s staff.

No, this isn’t anything like Andy Reid hiring Jim Washburn,
an apparent crackpot who ran his own scheme entirely independent from the rest
of the defense. Azzinaro presumably will answer to and work amicably with Davis,
and I seriously doubt his presence had anything to do with any candidates who
may have turned the Eagles down.

Openings remain for linebackers and defensive backs coaches. Update: Reports now saying Kelly's staff complete as of Friday.

Why did the Eagles
hire somebody with Davis’ track record?

As was already alluded to, the apprehension over the Davis
hire is completely understandable. He spent the past two seasons as a
linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns – not exactly a model of defensive
or organizational stability – and his two prior stints as a defensive
coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals were both
abysmal.

As for his tenure with the Niners, it’s important we take into
account the time period during which Davis was with the organization. His first
season there was 2005, the same year San Francisco owned the first overall pick
in the draft. This was a depleted franchise in terms of talent, and no
defensive coordinator could have changed that, so it’s probably fair to give
him a pass for those seasons.

What happened in the desert is a bit more of a mystery, as Davis
enjoyed the luxury of several of the key pieces that formed a solid Cards
defense in 2012. Then again, when Kurt Warner retired following their ’09
run, Arizona regressed to the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL, and also finished
31st in time of possession. Those numbers tend to reflect poorly on defenses as
well, as opposing offenses gain additional opportunities. Up until then, it was
a middle-of-the-road unit.

It’s best to practice caution when judging coaches based on
their earlier work. After all, when Reid hired Jim Johnson to take over the Eagles
defense back in 1999, he was just a linebackers coach for the Seattle Seahawks,
coming off an unsuccessful stint as a defensive coordinator in Indianapolis.

What type of defense
will Davis run?

That remains to be seen, but it’s widely assumed any
standard 4-3 scheme is out the window. Kelly has always been a 3-4 guy, and
given he brought with him a defensive line coach versed in the alignment, it
seems he tipped his hand in this regard. Most of the candidates the Eagles were
rumored to be targeting had 3-4 experience as well, Davis included.

However, there is already a great deal of speculation Davis
could utilize a hybrid defense known as the 4-3 under. To the naked eye this
alignment might look like your typical 3-4, but it’s played with four defensive
linemen and three linebackers nonetheless. Simplest terms: it’s not as
predictable as a typical 4-3 defense, but may not require quite as much specialized
personnel to operate. More on that later.

One thing is for certain though, and that is the Eagles’
defense will take on a vastly different appearance beginning this season. That
literally cannot be a bad thing.

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Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

CLEVELAND -- Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-115 in overtime on Saturday night despite missing starters Tony Parker and Pau Gasol.

Leonard scored six in OT, including a game-sealing dunk with 4.9 seconds left, as the Spurs regrouped after a late collapse in regulation.

David Lee, making a rare start in place of the injured Gasol, added 14 points as San Antonio improved to 18-4 on the road.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 29 apiece for the Cavs, who had the last shot in regulation and had plenty of opportunities in the extra five minutes. Cleveland still had a chance to tie it in the final second of overtime, but Kevin Love missed a 3-pointer (see full recap).

Lillard, McCollum carry Portland to OT win over Boston
BOSTON -- Damian Lillard had a three-point play with 47 seconds left in overtime and finished with 28 points to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to a 127-123 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, snapping their four-game losing streak.

CJ McCollum scored 35 points to lead Portland, which lost in the closing seconds in Philadelphia on Friday night. Lillard added seven assists.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 41 points, his 14th time this season with 30 or more points. Marcus Smart and Al Horford each scored 17 for the Celtics, who have lost two straight after winning 13 of 16.

Thomas nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 to play in OT, pushing Boston ahead by one, but Al-Farouq Aminu was fouled on the next possession and hit both free throws to move Portland back in front.

Lillard then drove the lane, was fouled and hit the free throw. Mason Plumlee had a short jumper in the lane and a free throw in the closing 24 seconds (see full recap).

Booker scores 26 as Suns edge Knicks 107-105
NEW YORK -- Devin Booker scored 26 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left, and the Phoenix Suns beat the New York Knicks 107-105 on Saturday night.

Carmelo Anthony's attempt at a winning 3-pointer rimmed out as Phoenix snapped a two-game losing streak and handed New York its second loss in a row.

Eric Bledsoe added 23 points for the Suns, while P.J. Tucker and Marquese Chriss each had 15.

Anthony led the Knicks with 31 points, Derrick Rose had 26 and Kristaps Porzingis scored 14 (see full recap).

Dekker scores career-best 30 leading Rockets past Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Sam Dekker scored a career-high 30 points, James Harden added 29 points and 10 assists and the Houston Rockets leaned on their usual 3-point offense to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-95 on Saturday night.

Eric Gordon added 21 points as the Rockets built the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before easily coasting home.

Dekker, making his first career start in place of the ill Ryan Anderson, made 12 of 19 shots, including 6 of 11 from outside the arc. Houston shot 51 percent overall and 38 percent from distance.

Marc Gasol scored 32 points and Mike Conley added 15 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the third time in the last four.

Memphis struggled shooting the entire night, finishing at 37 percent and unsuccessfully tried to follow the Rockets' long-range attack but converted only 9 of 34 from outside the arc (see full recap).