Davis was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco and Arizona, where he implemented the 3-4 in both cases. Neither of those defenses were exceptional by any means, but it would seem Davis has the experience. Would it really have been smart to bring in a college coach to pair up with Chip Kelly?
Still, the hire brings mixed feelings. You’d generally like to see some degree of success on someone’s resume. But again, the success of a defense isn’t necessarily a result of the coordinator. The 49ers, the Cardinals, and the Browns have been pretty dismal teams throughout the last decade (with the Niners coming on as of late and the Cardinals improving as well).
The 3-4 could mean this rebuilding phase takes a little longer. Our players will have to learn a new system. Especially affected by this in my opinion is last year’s rookie class, who started out learning Juan Castillo’s defense, then ended up learning Todd Bowles’ system, then now they will learn Billy Davis’ system. Hopefully Chip Kelly can bring some stability and consistency for our players so they can develop the necessary skills.
How do our current players fit into the 3-4? We know we have Trent Cole, who will most likely move to OLB. Cole has been a guy who played with his hands in the dirt as a 4-3 DE throughout his career. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
How about Demeco Ryans? Where does he fit? As we know, Demeco Ryans was chased out of Houston because he didn’t fit into the 3-4.
Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox seem to be able to make the best transitions. Graham has the speed and size to play a rushing linebacker role, and Cox could play DE in the 3-4.
The biggest problem is getting a nose tackle. That is the anchor of the 3-4 defense. You need a guy who can hold his own in the middle and command a double team, freeing up the linebackers and not opening up lanes. The Eagles will have to draft one or go after one in free agency.