The Todd Bowles Effect

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.It is difficult to tell where the praise for Todd Bowles ends and the indictment of the 2011 coaching staff begins.

The intention of the players surveyed, of course, is to heap praise on their new secondary coach. It is plain to see that Bowles has made believers out of the Eagles defensive backs in short order.

“His knowledge of the game is by far the best that I have been around as far as the back end, and I’ve had some pretty good coaches,” said Brandon Hughes.

Player to player, the refrain is the same. Bowles, the former Temple Owl and Elizabeth, New Jersey native, has a teaching method that just sticks. His high football acumen, combined with a calm  persona and a way of simplifying the game, has the corners feeling like they have hit the jackpot.

“I just think his approach is different,” said rookie Brandon Boykin. “He’s a real laid back and relaxed guy, he kind of allows you to chill out and not get tensed up and nervous. Everything is mellow and he knows that if you do your responsibility, everything else will take care of itself.”

Added Hughes: “He breaks it down into different increments. He’ll say, ‘OK, on third down this is what you’re probably going to get, this is what to expect. If you’re not getting this, more than likely this is going to happen.’  And he’ll be right on the money. His football IQ is exceptional…If he’s not right, he’s close. He may not be 100 percent right, but instead of it being a 10-yard curl, it was a 10-yard out. Instead of a power run, it’s a draw. You learn to appreciate that being coached by him.”

After one of the more disappointing seasons in memory, many expected a big shakeup to the coaching staff. The team attempted to bring Steve Spagnuolo into the fold but lost him to the Saints. Ultimately only defensive backs coach Johnnie Lynn was relieved of his duties. Bowles, who served as the interim head coach in Miami to close out last season and was interviewed for multiple head coaching vacancies this offseason, eventually signed on for the role.

The 2011 Eagles finished 29th in red zone defense and allowed 27 touchdowns through the air, ninth worst in the NFL. Though not against Tom Brady or many of the Patriots starters, Andy Reid came away encouraged by what he saw out of the back end Monday night.

“I thought our coverage was better than what it was the week before, it was better than what I saw last year, which was a positive,” said Reid.

Better than what he saw last year? In the preseason? Against the Patriots?  Overall? Either way, a telling comment. As were Joselio Hanson’s remarks.

“I felt more prepared for this Patriots game than I was for last year,” said Hanson. “We knew what to expect a lot more with Bowles here. Bowles is really good at getting us prepared mentally with the formations, recognizing formations, recognizing plays before they happen.”

Reid was vague when asked about  Bowles’ role in helping formulate the game plan with Juan Castillo.

“Like the other assistant coaches they have great communication in the room. They talk and work things out in there, then put the game plan together and then we go,” he said.

But it’s clear that Bowles already carries some hefty influence when it comes to the defensive backfield. Perhaps most interesting of all is what Nnamdi Asomugha had to say when talking about getting accustomed to playing inside, and Bowles’ hand in the process.

“He doesn’t just know secondary stuff, he knows entire defense stuff, so he kind of gets me ready for where to fit when I’m playing inside,” Asomugha said. “He’s helped me out a lot with my inside game. Last year, that was completely new to me, playing dime, playing nickel. Juan’s keeping that going this year a little bit so that’s where Coach Bowles has come in a lot with me and he’s helped me out.

“He’s kind of given me a crash course on some things that I went through the whole season last year not even knowing, and they’re just the basic things. So it’s good to have him in here, a guy that’s familiar with putting guys inside, especially a taller guy inside.”

There are two ways to look both at Asomugha’s comments, and the tone of the cornerbacks overall: Either Bowles is that gifted at shedding light on both the “basic” and finer points of the position, or the ’11 regime failed to do so. Maybe both. Either way, the consensus is the issue is resolved now.

“I don’t know if there was anything missing last year,” said Curtis Marsh, “I just know that this year we’re moving  in the right direction.”

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  • JofreyRice

    Yeah, I don’t think there’s much mystery here. Watch any PC and you can see Juan has a tough time clearly communicating his thoughts and ideas with the media. I always imagined that was telling in terms of his ability to communicate with his defenders. These comments make me think that even if he wasn’t an offensive line coach trying to scheme a defense, he’d still have a hard time relaying the specifics of his vision to the players.

    I think the offensive line had similar praise for the methodology, knowledge, and communication skills of Howard Mudd, when he took over for Castillo last year–which could have been read as faint damnation of Juan’s coaching style.

    Maybe we’ll see Bowles get a shot as the defensive coordinator after this season is over. It would be cool to see this much defensive talent brought to bear against an opponent by an experienced professional; glad we’ve got him, hopefully we’ll get to see it in 2013.

    • southy

      If Castillo has some sort of fundamental defect in his communication style I doubt Andy’d have kept him around for so long. Mudd came in with a completely different way to play the position. Some players took to it, others did not and are no longer with the team.

  • Wilbert M.

    Based on Nnamdi’s comments, it looks like they’re going to keep moving him around, which is a mistake. He wasn’t comfortable in that role last year and hasn’t looked great in limited snaps this year either. Bowles should be fighting to put his guys in the best position for success, not this round peg in square hole stuff that Castillo seems intent on. It’s just like Juan saying we want to blitz more – Why?? So far, the blitzes just led to big gains. With the pass rushing talent on the Eagles D-line, blitzing seems dumb. I hope Juan is just putting out disinformation and come the regular season the Birds just settle back and drop the blitzing.

  • borntosuffer

    How can the Birds look so good on 1st and 2nd down and so bad on 3rd? Has Phillip Hunt convinced them they are playing Canadian Football? The obvious lack of discipline – penalties, the inability to get off the field on 3rd down and the fact that Reid was yelling at the D and not Castillo all points to Juan losing his job as D-Coordinator. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bowles got the position and Castillo gets offered another position to stay if things don’t change in a hurry.

  • Michael Lane

    Juan will be demoted before week six if he still calls the same predictable plays on third down. Hopefully the blitz won’t be so obvious when its called like they have been. There’s a reason teams wanted Bowles as DC this year but unfortunately he’s more a 3-4 guy.

  • southjerzz

    Tisk tisk tisk, just make Todd Bowles DC

  • Scott J

    I haven’t heard any glowing reviews about Castillio, except he has a lot of energy. Bowles should be made the DC immediately.

  • Josh M.

    Comfortable?? THe man is a DB that makes millions in the NFL. He should be able to move around and play wherever they need him to. Charles Woodson can do it, why cant Nnamdi?

    • JofreyRice

      he’s not the same kind of player Woodson is. It’s like saying “Calvin Johnson can do it, why can’t Desean?”. The best teams play to the strengths of their players. I think it’s pretty clear that Nnamdi’s strength is playing outside, in press man coverage; the reputation he built as a defender and his paycheck was all based on that. His inability to play zone and tackle in the open field is why he got converted from Safety to CB in the first place.