August 01, 2022
Monday's training camp practice down in South Philly was the first time all the summer that Eagles players had shoulder pads on. While that's still a far cry from old-school, live tackling action, it brought a whole new element for the team's offensive and defensive linemen. It was hard to evaluate trench play during the first week of training camp in such a light environment, but the guys up front now have more of a chance to showcase themselves.
First-round pick Jordan Davis made the most of that opportunity at the NovaCare Complex. The winner of the Chuck Bendarik Award for the best player in college football in 2021, the rookie stood out at practice and not just because he's hulking over his teammates at 6'6" and 340 lbs. He had some fierce bull rushes in 1-on-1 OL vs. DL reps. During 11-on-11 team work, Davis helped collapse the pocket from the interior and force a "sack" on Jalen Hurts (players obviously can't tackle the QB for real in practice).
I asked Howie Roseman last week about the team's emphasis on bringing in interior defensive line talent the last few offseasons with the Javon Hargrave free agent signing and the drafting of Milton Williams and Jordan Davis. Roseman indicated that looking around the league, they're seeing how disruptive up-the-middle pressure can be for opposing quarterbacks. That's a big reason the Eagles traded up in the draft for Davis back in April and while it's super early this summer, Davis' pure talent and strength are undeniable.
"He's really athletic, strong, powerful, quick guy. He's fitting in really well. He's got a really bright future and I'm excited to see what he can do," starting left guard Landon Dickerson said about Davis after Monday's practice. Dickerson and Davis were both unanimous All-American players in college at Alabama and Georgia, respectively, where they battled against each other. Other than former college teammate and fellow rookie Nakobe Dean, no Eagle may know Davis' game better than Dickerson.
Davis looks he's adjusted quite well to the pro level already. When asked what that adjustment has been like, Davis said, "Just learning the scheme. [In] college we read blocks a lot and now I just have to learn how to go, going forward, working my hands... everything's just going forward, not reading going side-to-side... The playbook is good. It's easy to pick up. We had an extensive playbook at Georgia, so it's kind of, ya know, easy to pick up. Now it's just about how to go forward.
"That's why I try to be adaptable... Everyone's, like, helping me out.. [Fletcher Cox], the older guys, even [Jason] Kelce."
In defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon's system that will use a variety of mixed fronts between 3-4 and 4-3 looks that have defensive linemen shifting around, Davis doesn't anticipate any issues there when it comes to his play style.
"We had a variety of fronts at Georgia. I basically played it all," Davis said. "I would say here I'm playing 4i, from 4i down, so I'm learning it all, trying to be cross-trained... I want to be interchangeable."
That "4i" alignment would mean that Davis is a 4-technique linemen across from an offensive tackle with an inside shading (hence the "i") towards the offensive guard. Like Davis said, he did a bit of everything at Georgia, lining up as a true nose tackle right over the center (0-tech) to playing a more traditional 4-3 defensive tackle role as a 3-tech over a guard.
"No matter what, wherever they stick me, primarily nose, but, ya know, I'm learning it all," Davis continued on.
Versatility is the backbone of Gannon's defense. Davis isn't just a two-down player like some detractors claimed during the pre-draft process. The dude can succeed all along the line in any situation. I don't know where Davis will first be lining up come Week 1 against the Lions, but I know he'll be giving opposing offensive linemen headaches when he gets down in that four-point stance.
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