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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