New Eagles defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, takes over the play-calling for a unit that is searching for an identity. A defense that has given away two consecutive 4th quarter leads, has no leader and after the firing of Bowles’ predecessor, Juan Castillo, explained the results as a lack of imagination from Castillo.
A couple of ‘back-up’ players, Brandon Graham and Casey Matthews, took some parting shots at Castillo’s, stating the defense was too predictable. Bowles plans to mix things up and ‘tweak’ the scheme that’s already in place. The wide-9 stays and I’m not sure that this all is a matter of scheme or execution. There were no changes made to the starting lineup and although the defense hasn’t played poorly by any stretch, they haven’t made any big plays in the last 3 weeks. No sacks in 3 games and only 8 total forced turnovers all season, it seems this unit lacks playmakers.
This week the undefeated, Atlanta Falcons bring their 6-0 record to town. They bring with them a potent offense, led by Exton, PA native, QB Matt Ryan. He’ll be throwing to 2 huge wideouts in Roddy White and Julio Jones , as well as, Hall of Fame TE, Tony Gonzalez. And with bowling ball-like RB Michael Turner, the Eagles will have the hands full slowing down the Falcons’ attack. They’ve only given the ball away 7 times but Ryan has been sacked on 13 occasions. The Eagles must collapse the pocket and force Ryan to throw before he’s ready or else those receivers will have a field day. Jason Babin and Trent Cole need to find a way to beat double team blocks and out-perform an average offensive line, because that’s what players with talent do. Rookie LB Mychal Kendricks, hasn’t faced a TE of this caliber ever and as much potential as he’s shown, will need some safety help to slow down Gonzalez, who always plays well against the Eagles.
Granted, Bowles was interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins for the final 3 games last season, he’s never been a coordinator at this level. There has to be a learning curve he’ll have to overcome. But it should be very interesting to see what new wrinkles he can install into this questionable scheme. Will he blitz more and be aggressive? Or will he employ more line stunts and rely on coverage? Whatever he decides to do, Eagles fans want to see a more traditional ‘Eagles defense’ that plays downhill and forces the play and takes the ball away like Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson taught in seasons past.
But somehow I’m not sure Bowles has the talent on the field to pull it off. As much as some players think Castillo’s style was too predictable or vanilla, it still wasn’t executed. And there is no vocal leader on the field that was an extension of him. Maybe in all honesty, what Graham and Matthews said was what most of the defense thought, but that’s no excuse for not getting the job done no matter what play was called.
Going into Sunday’s must-win game, unless Bowles can turn one or more of his defenders into an intimidating force that the Falcons and the rest of the schedule have to account for, or the Eagles defense and coaching staff will get an extreme makeover.