When it came to units that shined last season, the secondary for the Eagles was certainly not one of them.
It seemed every week opposing players ran free for big gains and long touchdowns. That busted plays and missed assignments leaves many to believe that when the Eagles defense takes the field next year there will be plenty of new faces in the secondary. While it isn't yet known who is coming and who is going, those on the roster are working hard now to improve for next year. One of those players is David Sims.
Sims was brought in last season during the preseason after Howie Roseman liked what he saw from him in Cleveland. Sims, who was a star running back in high school and spent time as a trash man before making it to the NFL, has remained in Philly to workout and get ready to compete for a starting job next season.
I caught up with Sims this week. He had some interesting things to say about his play last year, the adjustment to special teams, and why he thinks the defense struggled last season.
Here is the transcript of the interview.
Have you gotten a chance to talk to Chip Kelly yet? What’s your opinion on the move?
I haven’t gotten a chance to meet him yet, but I plan on going in next week and talking with all of the coaches. I think it’s a good move. He’s a great coach. Everyone, including myself, followed him at Oregon. From what I’ve seen he’s a real good coach. He should bring some excitement to the team
Do you think the team feels relieved to have Andy Reid gone and the pressure that came with him being the coach?
I don’t think it was a pressure. It was my first year there and I didn’t feel it. I just kept thinking “he is my coach now and that’s all I can worry about.”
Did you get a chance to talk with anyone at the end of last year about your play before the offseason began?
I met with Howie (Roseman). Honestly he just told me that he knows I’m a great player that can contribute. He thought I played great in the game I started in and great in preseason with the Browns. He said that was one of the reasons he traded for me. He knows I can be a player in this league. He said I have good film. He’s going to show it to the new coaches, and to work hard during the offseason. He said I should come back ready to play.
What grade would you give your performance last season?
I am very critical of myself. I would probably give myself a “C” for my performance in the one game I started. I made a couple good plays but I missed a couple of tackles. I always look at the negatives instead of the positives. Things like tackling, I learned that when I first started football. I could have taken better angles. Reality is I thought that I should have played more last year. My first start was against Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, who’s about 6’6-6’7. He’s a great tight end. It was a challenge for me. But I was up for it. I wanted to prove myself and go in there to earn more playing time. But obviously it wasn’t good enough.
You saw some time on special teams last year, but not as a returner. How hard is it to adjust to playing special teams?
It’s hard because I never played special teams- and when I did play special teams it was always in the turn game. It’s a hard adjustment. It would seem like it’s easy and being that I’m a defensive guy and I could go down a make a tackle on kick offs or punt team, but it’s quite difficult when your not used to playing those roles. You have to work in the whole scheme of the punt or kick returns. If you mess up, you hurt the guy next to you (in terms of assignments). You could be a ball hawk, but if you get out of your lane it could open up a big lane for a kick return. It was quite difficult. It was a big adjustment.
As a unit it’s safe to say the defense did not have the year it would have liked to have. I talked to a number of players coming into last season that said communication was much better than the year before, and that made them hopeful. Do you think communication was a problem?
It was a communication problem, but it was also a leadership issue. We had a couple guys who would lead but no one who would take charge when things went down hill, like in practice or anything like that. The communication was a big part as well. The coaches gave us a game plan, but they can’t go out there and play for us. We have to go out there and communicate with each other. In practice the coaches would constantly talk about communicating with each other. But no would stand up and take command of everything.
Interesting you would say leadership, because coming into this year DeMeco Ryans was billed as a great leader. Was he?
DeMeco Ryans was no doubt a leader. But you see everyone talk about Ray Lewis and how he will go out and get everyone hyped up- that isn’t DeMeco. DeMeco would go out and lead by doing his job. And everyone would follow. He’s not a “rah-rah” kind of guy. In my opinion though it seemed like there was a lot of guys who wanted to lead but would just talk. I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but I’m just not about that. I just go out there and play football like DeMeco do.
Did you think the gameplans were good though? Or was it really all just an execution problem?
The gameplans were good but they were just a little bit predictable. Third down defense- it was predictable. But it was a combination of problems. Everyone wasn’t on the same page. When Juan got fired we changed a little bit with Todd, and it wasn’t as predictable. But it seemed like all season it was the little things we needed to fix. Small things kept hurting us- but we’ll fix it in the future.
No one really talked about how losing Bowles to defensive coordinator might have hurt the secondary, as he was there coach. Did that affect the secondary at all?
I don’t think it did. Not at all. He was still in the meeting and coached with us on the field. There was no change there.
There has been a lot of talk this offseason about the possibility of going from a 4-3 to a 3-4. You played in one in Cleveland this preseason. What are your thoughts on that?
Honestly I just want to play. I’ll get in any defense, learn it and play football.
It will be very interesting to see how much of a chance Sims is given to win the starting job next year. Sims is clearly one of Roseman's guys, which will help him. The Eagles will have to address the starting safety position and it is unlikely that Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen will go in next season as the starters. Sims will also have to beat out Colt Anderson, who saw playing time at the end of the season and looked good. Throw in the fact that the team will likely take a safety with one of their top picks and the battle is going to be an uphill one for Sims.
Still, with how poorly Coleman and Allen played at time last year, the job is very much open for the best man to take.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks