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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Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
 
Don’t worry about the role.
 
Just pitch.
 
That’s Adam Morgan’s mindset this spring.
 
“I’m just trying to show whoever needs to see it that I can be an asset to this team,” the left-hander said after his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Saturday (see story). “I’m just keeping it simple that way. I’m not trying to go out for that fifth (starting) spot. If the fifth spot opens up, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want to put me in the bullpen, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want me to be the backup catcher, I’ll be the backup catcher.”
 
The Phillies have plenty of candidates for backup catcher.
 
And the top five spots in their starting rotation, barring an unforeseen development, are accounted for.
 
But there is a way for Morgan to make this team.
 
“He’s definitely a bullpen candidate,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin is on record as saying he’d like to have two lefties in what likely will be a seven-man bullpen. It might not work out that way, but that would be Mackanin’s preference.
 
Morgan is one of what appears to be four candidates along with Joely Rodriguez, Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett. Ramos and Burnett are experienced major-league veterans in camp on minor-league contracts. Rodriguez is the only pure lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Morgan, of course, is on the 40-man roster, but he’s mainly been a starter in his career.

There’s a long way to go in spring training and it would not be surprising to see general manager Matt Klentak add to the list of lefty relief candidates with some type of pickup before the end of camp.
 
But for now, it’s just these four.
 
Morgan, who turns 27 on Monday, started and pitched two scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday and will likely continue to have his innings stretched out throughout the Grapefruit League season, just in case he’s needed as a starter.

Ramos and Rodriguez both pitched an inning Saturday. Ramos allowed a hit and a run. Rodriguez had a clean inning. Burnett was tagged for two hits and two runs on Friday.
 
Morgan made 21 starts for the Phillies last season. He also made two relief appearances and finished the season with a 6.04 ERA. He was sent to Triple A in July and returned in mid-August. He made nine starts after returning and pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs in four of them.
 
During his time in Triple A, Morgan started throwing a two-seam fastball or sinker. He’s continued to throw it this spring and believes it will help him.
 
“I learned to trust the two-seamer last year and that’s what I hope to keep moving forward with,” he said.
 
Will it take him to the Phillies’ bullpen?
 
He hopes so. He got a taste of relieving last season and liked it.
 
“Oh, yeah, I loved it,” he said. “Every time the phone rang down there, I was on high alert. It was awesome. It’s a rush.
 
“But wherever I land, I land. I’d be willing to play anywhere on this team.”

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

Instant Replay: Villanova topples Creighton, clinches Big East title outright

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA – Sophomore transfer Eric Paschall scored a team-high 19 points – including five dunks – and Kris Jenkins added 15, as No. 2 Villanova pulled away late to beat No. 23 Creighton, 79-63, and clinch the 2017 Big East Conference regular-season title outright.

Paschall, starting during Darryll Reynolds’ injury absence, shot 8 for 12 from the field and added six rebounds.

Creighton’s last lead was 45-43 six minutes into the second half, but a Paschall slam and Jenkins’ first three after five misses sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 59-49 lead with 8 ½ minutes left. Creighton got no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Paschall’s career high is a 31-point game for Fordham against NYIT on Nov. 14, 2014.

Villanova again struggled from three-point range but had tremendous success attacking the basket, especially in the second half of the final game at the Pavilion for two years.

The Wildcats shot just 17 percent from three (3 for 18) but 69 percent from 2 (24 for 35) and repeatedly got to the foul line in the second half, when they were 14 for 18.

Jenkins again struggled from three (1 for 7) yet still finished with 15 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Josh Hart shot 7 for 11 for 16 points and added seven rebounds and three assists.

Villanova opened a streaky first half by taking a 7-0 lead, but Creighton hit four straight threes in less than two minutes and led by three. Villanova then went on a 17-2 run and led by as many as 10 points before Creighton finished the half on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 33.

There were seven lead changes in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Villanova finally pulled away and outscored Creighton 36-18 over the last 14 minutes.

Mikal Bridges added 11 points and eight rebounds for Villanova, while Jalen Brunson had nine points and three assists.

Freshman Dante DiVincenzo came off the bench to contribute nine points and four rebounds for Villanova.

What it means
Villanova improved to 27-3 overall and 14-3 in the Big East, clinching the conference title outright. Entering play Saturday, only Villanova or Butler was in position to win the conference title, with Villanova holding a magic number of one.

Villanova, which lost to Butler on Wednesday, has now won 12 straight games immediately following losses (15 if you carry over to the next year).

The Wildcats last lost consecutive games at the end of the 2012-2013 season, when they fell to Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals and to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Creighton fell to 22-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big East. The Bluejays are 4-6 since an 18-1 start.

Stat of the day
Marcus Foster had 25 points and eight assists, becoming the first player with 25 points and five assists against Villanova since Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds (and five steals) in a 93-72 win over Villanova on Feb. 28, 2011 at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

Turning point 
Villanova led by one at 48-47 when Jenkins finally buried a three for a four-point lead.

Moving out
This was Villanova’s last game at the Pavilion for about 20 months. Villanova will play most of its home games at the Wells Fargo Center next year while renovations are made to the Pavilion.

Villanova is 293-62 all-time at the Pavilion, which opened in 1985. That includes a 131-12 mark since the start of the 2004-2005 season.

By the numbers
Khyri Thomas scored 17 points for the Bluejays … Creighton was 7 for 14 from three in the first half but 4 for 13 in the second half ... Villanova has won six straight against Creighton since a 101-80 loss in February of 2014 when Doug McDermott scored 39 … Reynolds, Villanova’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 per game, sat out a fifth straight game with a rib injury.  

What's next
Villanova has a week off before facing Georgetown at the Verizon Center in Washington at noon Saturday. Georgetown is 14-15 overall and 5-11 in the Big East.