Sure looks like Kelly wants a 3-4 defense

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
10:05
AM ET
The latest name to surface in the Philadelphia Eagles' hunt for a defensive coordinator is that of Cleveland Browns linebackers coach Billy Davis. Tim McManus reported Sunday that Davis' name was one to keep an eye on, and our man Adam Schefter reports Monday morning that Davis interviewed for the job Sunday. New head coach Chip Kelly said in his introductory news conference that he hadn't yet decided whether to keep the 4-3 defensive alignment the Eagles currently run or switch to a 3-4, but Davis is the latest coach whose candidacy indicates a preference for a 3-4. Davis is a former defensive coordinator of the 49ers and the Cardinals and ran a 3-4 in each of those stops.

Personally, I believe a switch to a 3-4 defense would indicate that Kelly views his task as a relatively long-term build. The Eagles have a very good 4-3 defensive line, and while some players (such as Fletcher Cox, who would make a nice 3-4 end) likely could make the transition easily, it's hard to see how the switch would play to the strengths of anyone currently on the Eagles' defense. Switching to a 3-4 takes a couple of years, as recent examples in Washington and Green Bay have shown, and the first season would be spent figuring out which current players could handle it and which would have to go. Can Trent Cole and Brandon Graham become stand-up outside linebackers? Would the Eagles have no more room for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, as the Texans did when they switched to a 3-4?

Those are some of the questions, and if Kelly installs a 3-4 under any coordinator, the Eagles and their fans will need to be patient with him while it takes effect. The Eagles likely would struggle with the transition in 2013, and unless they find a better solution at quarterback than they currently appear to have available to them, they can't count on the offense to simply outscore people. Rebuilding doesn't have to take long in the NFL, but it appears as though some sort of rebuild is what you can expect to take place in the early part of Kelly's tenure in Philadelphia.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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