If you think that newly promoted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is going to run things just like Juan Castillo did in the first two weeks, you are dead wrong. You don’t fire one lousy coach to promote another. Bowles is a more experience defensive coach with a much better idea of how to maximize the talent on that side of the football.
Bowles doesn’t have any defensive coordinator experience in the NFL, but he has been a defensive assistant in this league since 2000. He is also a former player in this league. He knows how to motivate players, but he also knows what players hate from coaches. He is a players coach through and through. He also knows how to make the necessary adjustments during the course of the game.
The defense isn’t going to change dramatically under Bowles, but it will be the little things that make the difference in this defense. He will mix the coverages for four quarters and he will be able to better manage the wide-9 scheme. He will make a difference for five players over the next 10 games.
It is absolutely criminal that Graham has been on the field for just 77 snaps through the first six games. That is an average of less than 13 snaps a game. Graham is averaging a solo tackle on every 13 snaps. That doesn’t tell the whole story with Graham, but it isn’t bad for a player that has barely seen the field this season. Jason Babin has been on the field for 269 defensive snaps. He has 2.5 sacks and 12 solo tackles. That is a solo tackle on every 22.4 snaps and a sack on every 107.6 snaps.
I fully expect Graham’s snap counts to go up and Babin’s to go down. Babin has become a selfish player whose sole goal is to rush the passer. Part of the blame does go to the wide-9 scheme, which is very vulnerable to the run and screen game. Graham is a much better run defender and should really cut into Babin’s snaps starting this week.
Coleman was at a real disadvantage under Castillo. He was asked to both help over the top in the passing game and to cover up his gap in the running game. Against play action he was asked to basically guess right. Bowles should adjust how he uses Coleman. I expect him to keep Coleman back and let the linebackers do more work against the run. He is a veteran coach. He knows that when you start asking your safety to cheat up against the run, you are going to pay for it. The only time you want to consistently do that is when your opponent is running down your throat or if their quarterback can’t beat you deep consistently.
Hunt was an absolute stud during preseason. So what happened? Hunt has seen more snaps on special teams than he has on defense so far this season. He has been in on just 61 snaps this season. Hunt may still be a raw player, but he is an explosive athlete. His speed off the edge is lethal. 61 snaps is not how you utilize an athlete like that. Bowles is a smart coach. He will find a way to get Hunt in a position to make plays. Whether he uses him as a blitzing linebacker or a defensive end, he will help Hunt rack up some sacks this season.
I fully expect Bowles to tweak the wide-9 scheme and how his defensive utilizes it. The scheme worked well when Jim Washburn had Albert Haynesworth in his prime dominating the middle of the line. The Eagles don’t have any defensive tackle like that. They have to better manage the defensive line in order to contain the run. That benefits middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. He won’t have to take on so many offensive linemen in the running game. He will also serve as Bowles leader in the field. He is a natural leader and will greatly benefit from a more experienced coach that will be easier to stay on the same page with.
No one is happier with the promotion of Todd Bowles than Nnamdi Asomugha. That doesn’t mean he celebrated when Castillo was fired, he isn’t that type of person, but he is smart enough to know when a coach isn’t cutting it. Bowles knows his coverage schemes and will be able to get the most out of Nnamdi. Nnamdi is also happy to get an experienced defensive coach because he has been in this league since 2003 and has never made the playoffs.