I said after the game that the biggest disappointment for me was Bill Davis, the defensive coordinator. Put simply, the defense was SO BAD at times, that a response of “let’s try anything because it can’t possible be worse than this” was warranted. I still have to go through the All-22, but at the moment, it seems like Davis wasn’t nearly as creative as he could have/should have been.
At 1:42 pm on Sunday (early in the game), I tweeted this:
As Eagles players have since confirmed, Rivers was consistently identifying the Eagles defensive alignment and pass-rushers pre-snap, then making the corresponding adjustments. I’ve repeatedly stressed that I’m not a scout, nor do I have any professional experience. The fact that I (and many spectators) quickly saw an issue should tell you how obvious it MUST have been to Davis.
Frankly, Rivers’ comfort level was so obvious that it should have warranted an immediate adjustment. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen (at least not to the extent it should have.)
In that vein, I paid particular attention to the defensive snap counts from Sunday’s game. Seeing as it was competitive the entire time (as compared to game 1), I thought it would give us a really good idea of what Chip Kelly’s current roster hierarchy and player usage philosophy is. It’s likely, of course, that Davis has full control of the defense, though I haven’t confirmed that. Regardless, what I saw was, in light of the performance, unsettling.
- Jeff Maehl played 5 total snaps (3 offense, 2 STs). Maehl is not a defender. However, given the Vinny Curry controversy, it’s very fair to question if 5 snaps of Jeff Maehl is worth an active roster spot. That suggests to me that either Chip is being really stubborn, or the Curry inactivity is the result of an “attitude” or “example-setting” rationale. Everyone knew going into the game that the pass-rush was going to be vital to success. Passing over Curry for Maehl (who was barely used), looked bad then and much worse now. It’s possible that Curry wouldn’t have helped at all (I think he’s being overrated by the general fan base); but he DEFINITELY would have helped more than Jeff Maehl (and several others).
- Jordan Poyer played just 7 snaps, all on STs. Given what we know about the Eagles CBs and what happened during the game, it’s clear that Poyer has ZERO trust from the coaching staff. If he couldn’t get on the field in game where the Eagles lost a starting CB and were getting absolutely shredded with the pass, then when can he play? If at this point, he is solely a STs player, we again have to question the value of his roster spot. Granted, STs have been very good so far, so obviously they’re doing something right there. If this continues though, we might have to revisit the “overweighting STs” storyline.
- Geathers played 14 snaps on defense, Square played 12. I haven’t yet looked at their individual performances, and I assume they were just as ineffectual as the starters. However, could they really have been any worse than the starters, who weren’t getting anything remotely resembling pressure?
As the game progressed and it was clear the defense was not going to stop SD absent some good luck, wouldn’t it have made sense to rotate backups/young players into the game more frequently? They gain experience and/or make an impact on the game. The veterans get a breather and/or a message that their performance simply isn’t good enough. As I said before, what’s the downside? The veterans/starters couldn’t possibly have believed they “deserved” to keep playing.
- One Caveat, though it doesn’t excuse Davis. Rivers used a lot of quick throws and three-step drops. In that case, it’s nearly impossible to pressure the QB, there simply isn’t enough time. The counter-move is to drop more players into coverage. Ideally, you’d hide players at the line, disguising them as pass-rushers, then have them drop underneath the short passing lanes in hopes of either cutting off passing lanes or forcing an interception. Pending All-22 review, I didn’t see Davis try this often enough, and when he did, there was no adequate disguise. Of course, dropping players into coverage assumes they’ll actually know to COVER…which apparantly is not an entirely reasonable assumption (see Eddie Royal’s hilariously open TD grab against an Eagles D rushing just 3 players).