Continuing our dusting off the cobwebs series, let's look at the defensive side for a moment.
I've been struck by the number of times new defensive coordinator Billy Davis has said something like this:
"What we’re doing here is we’re taking that Wide-9 4-3, and we’re moving in the direction of the 3-4. But where we stop is yet to be determined by the players we have."
"I think there's a versatility in the three four defense that you like, but, again, I think when Billy [Davis] said it, we're going from a wide nine to a 3-4. When do we get to a 3-4, I don't know. We may have to stop at being a one gap over and under defense depending upon still making an evaluation of what our guys can do."
In the Eagles Almanac, Sheil Kapadia and I co-wrote an article that dove into some of those over and under fronts, so I won't re-hash that here. But let's take a look at some pictures. First, here's the base Eagles defense from 2012 that we all loved so much:
A second look against a similar formation from the Giants:
No surprises. But now take a look at the way the "3-4" 49ers defense was lining up in nickel situations against the Packers in the playoffs:
Or a random nickel snap from the "3-4" Cowboys:
These weren't unusual alignments for these teams. According to Football Outsiders, the 49ers only lined up in their base 3-4 defense on 34 percent of their snaps. They were in the "nickel even" alignment shown above 33 percent of the time.
The Cowboys, not playing with as many leads, weren't quite as balanced. They showed a 3-4 look 45 percent of the time and nickel with a two or four-man front 22 percent. (The Eagles were almost 50-50 in base and nickel overall last year, basically all in four-man fronts.)
We all fervently hope Trent Cole and Brandon Graham can make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. If they don't, at least on passing downs we can send in Boykin for Sopoaga and tell them "stand up, but otherwise pretty much do the same thing you've always done."