When answering a barrage of questions about what exactly is going on with the Eagles’ defense right now, Todd Bowles made it clear that his players are failing to properly execute the simplest of assignments.
“The first one was high school cover-3,” Bowles said after the team’s 30-22 loss to the Panthers. “The ball was thrown down the middle of the field. We gave up a touchdown. Inexcusable. The second one was inexcusable too.”
The first one he’s referring to was Cam Newton’s 24-yard touchdown to tight end Gary Barnidge. It looked like safety Kurt Coleman was caught out of position. Barnidge had three catches all season entering Monday night’s game. The score was his first career touchdown.
The second one was a 43-yarder to Brandon LaFell. The Eagles probably should have been aware of LaFell’s ability to make plays downfield. He led the Panthers with 12 catches of 20+ yards entering Monday night’s game. Yet there he was, streaking down the middle of the field, wide-open for the score.
“The second long one was a bust,” Bowles said. “It was inexcusable. Shouldn’t have happened. Everybody knew where they were supposed to be. They weren’t there.”
Why is that still happening at this point in the season?
“I wish I could tell you,” Bowles said.
“They can’t happen. Not at this level, not at this stage of the game, not after what we’ve been through. And everybody has to own up to their responsibility.
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s led to a complete implosion by the Eagles’ defense. Through the first six games, with Bowles coaching the secondary and Juan Castillo serving as defensive coordinator, the Eagles led the league in opponents’ completion percentage (52.3). Here are the results since then:
|Robert Griffin III||14||15||93.3%||200||13.3||4||0|
Opponents are completing 75.2 percent of their passes against the Eagles in the five games since Bowles took over. They are averaging 9.7 yards per attempt with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Not much,” said safety Nate Allen when asked what’s changed under Bowles. “We haven’t changed much. Just put in a few things here and there. Nothing we can’t handle though.”
Evidence would suggest otherwise.
Bowles’ comments indicate he thinks the players might not be good enough. But he held off from going that far when asked if he had the right personnel to work with.
“I believe we do,” he said. “Everybody’s got to do their own job. Everybody’s got to look at themselves in the mirror and try to get something done. I mean, if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and take onus on what you did, then you’re not the guy you thought you were.”
Bowles said he might make changes in terms of personnel. But really, that’s not going to accomplish much at this point in the season. Maybe you try to see what you have with unknowns like cornerback Curtis Marsh and safety David Sims. But at 3-8, with the entire coaching staff likely to be gone in a matter of weeks, the Eagles’ season is past the point of no return.
Nnamdi Asomugha was asked if he thought Bowles had any other options besides changing personnel.
“You stick with those people or those groups and you coach them harder,” Asomugha said. “And those players obviously have to take it more – I don’t want to say seriously because they’re taking it seriously – but obviously have to be mentally focused a little bit more than they have been.
“Obviously what Todd has done, I’ve supported, we support. There’s some things that mentally we need to be sharper on.”
As for Bowles, this season has turned into a complete disaster. Thrust into the spotlight midseason as defensive coordinator, he had an opportunity to continue to build on an already strong reputation. Instead, he’s directed a defense that has completely collapsed in the last five games.
“It’s depressing,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the team. We’re just trying to win ballgames. And for that not to happen and [for] us to lose as many games as we did in a row, that’s inexcusable. It’s unacceptable. It’s disheartening. And I feel like everybody else feels. It’s a messed-up situation.”