It's only June, but the Eagles' secondary has already improved in one key area: communication.
Bill Davis is heading into his second season as defensive coordinator, and assuming he finishes the year in his position, he will be the first Eagles defensive coordinator to complete two consecutive full seasons since Sean McDermott in 2009-10. Defensive backs coach John Lovett made it clear Monday at the NovaCare Complex that simply running the same system and hearing familiar coverage calls will make a difference.
Actually, it already has.
There has been better communication on the practice field and better quality questions in meetings.
“They’re more comfortable with all of the calls and the communication that happens,” Lovett said. “Because every time you make a call there has to be communication between the safeties, the linebackers and the corners, so everybody is on the same page in terms of who we’re covering.
“Last year, sometimes I don’t think our guys were comfortable with much communication, so we had to limit what we gave them so they could play fast and play well.”
And two newcomers on defense, Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll, are doing their best to openly communicate and learn the schemes as quickly as possible to capitalize on the continuity.
Jenkins, signed as a free agent in March, is the team's most experienced safety. The Eagles are asking a lot of the sixth-year pro who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Saints. They need him to not only add playmaking and coverage ability to the secondary, but also veteran leadership.
Labeled a "great communicator" by Lovett, he's already made an impact.
“Malcolm has helped us a great deal,” Lovett said. “Just his personality, his work ethic and his professionalism have really helped. I think showing up has really pushed a button. Him and Nolan Carroll have both pushed buttons of other guys on the team. Everybody in my room seems to be preparing a whole lot harder and a whole lot better.
“Whether it’s just because of Malcolm or it’s [the] second year, guys are working a lot harder to get communication down or work harder on techniques.”
Carroll, a fifth-year pro, was added as a more low-key free-agent signing -- but don't tell that to head coach Chip Kelly.
"We didn't think he was an under-the-radar signing," Kelly said last week. "We had him targeted very early as a guy we wanted to bring into this organization."
Carroll last year with Miami piled up 43 tackles and picked off three passes. Lovett said he’s “thrilled to death” to have Carroll, who has “added competition in the room.”
“It’s made Cary [Williams] and Brad [Fletcher] prepare harder, work harder and play better,” Lovett said. “They’re all working really hard, they’re all competing and they’re all doing a great job. I’m so happy he’s here, and I’m so happy for all of them that he’s here.”
For all the changes in the secondary since Kelly's arrival, one key holdover remains: safety Nate Allen, who re-signed in March for one more year.
A second-round selection in 2010, Allen has played under a different coordinator in each of his first four years. Lovett said the continuity will help Allen “10-fold,” as he battles for the starting spot with Earl Wolff.
“I know when you have different coordinators, you have different calls and a different style defense,” Lovett explained. “How you call things and how you term things is different, and how you’re asked to play a particular type of coverage is a little bit different.
“This will be the first time since he’s been here he’s going to hear the same calls two years in a row and probably get coached the same way for two years in a row.”