Through six games, the Eagles’ pass defense looked like a much-improved unit from the one that took the field in 2011.
That’s why when Andy Reid decided to fire Juan Castillo and promote Todd Bowles, it made sense on some levels. Bowles, after all, was the man in charge of the secondary. At the time, the Eagles led the league in opponents’ completion percentage (52.7) and were tied for the second-best mark in yards per attempt (6.2).
Results have not been so good in the last two games, as the Eagles have allowed five touchdowns and come up with no interceptions. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees did whatever they wanted, completing a staggering 76.8 of their passes while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. So what’s been the problem?
I know many of you don’t care to re-live Monday night’s loss to the Saints, but here are a handful of plays that caught my eye when I watched the All-22 film of their defensive snaps.
What does the Andy Reid drama mean to a recent import, exactly?
Everyone in this town knows the tale backwards and forwards. Every win and every loss is a piece of a larger mosaic. We know where it fits and what it signifies. Do trade acquisitions and free-agent signings, plucked from one culture and plopped into another, appreciate what this all means? Do they understand the magnitude of this season?
Not that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a wallflower. The green mohawk and hot pink and blue car don’t exactly scream introvert. But, aside from a random scream about-what-I’m-not-sure to no one in particular in the locker room, DRC has not been all that vocal since arriving from Arizona via trade last offseason.
As such, it caught some of his teammates off guard when he spoke up at Wednesday’s players-only meeting.
“Yeah, because I don’t really say much. I’m not into the talking game,” said Rodgers-Cromartie on Friday. “I just believe in going out and playing ball, regardless of what goes on. Not a lot to be said.”
So why choose to talk at the meeting?
It’s difficult to imagine Todd Bowles’ debut as the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator going any worse.
Through three quarters, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense possessed the ball six times. And on all six occasions, they ended up with points – three touchdowns and three field goals.
“We ran the same things,” Bowles said, an answer that many players backed up. “The guys have to play… the coaches have to coach. We didn’t coach it good. We didn’t play it good, and they beat us. They deserve all the credit in the world.”
Several players this week have suggested that Juan Castillo‘s defense was predictable, and therefor vulnerable in the fourth quarter when the opposition deciphered what was coming.
Though it may have some truth to it and even come from a good place, it sure can sound like blame-shifting after a while. As in, Juan was the issue and the issue is gone, so we can now realize our potential with Todd Bowles at the helm.
Not everybody is on board with the notion that Castillo was a hindrance, or buying into the “predictability” line of defense when rationalizing back-to-back fourth-quarter lapses.
Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Falcons’ offense.
While many of the Eagles defenders said after the game that they’d have to look at the film to figure out what exactly went wrong, Nnamdi Asomugha was more forthcoming. He told Tim and some other reporters that a couple things changed.
One, the defense switched up how it covered Calvin Johnson. For much of the game, Asomugha was on Johnson with safety help. And he did an excellent job. But in the fourth, the Eagles used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson and also played some zone.
The other point Asomugha made was that the Eagles blitzed more late in the game, and it cost them. But was that really the case?
Andy Reid, following the narrow loss to the Steelers a week ago, went on and on about the make-up of the 2012 Eagles.
“I like the grit of this football team. I like the toughness of this football team,” said Reid. ”They’re a competitive and tough bunch.”
That was the identity being cultivated through the better part of five games. Michael Vick engineered three game-winning drives; the defense successfully protected each lead. They stood toe-to-toe with the bully Ravens. Took down the Super Bowl champion Giants. A tough loss on the road to the Steelers? Given Pittsburgh’s level of desperation, acceptable.
The loss to the Lions puts everything into question. Detroit jabbed the Eagles in the nose, ripped the win from their loose grip, and pushed them to the ground for good measure.
The plan heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions was to switch up the looks on Calvin Johnson to keep him guessing. That tactic was used sparingly early on. By our count, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lined up over Johnson just three times in the first half. Nnamdi Asomugha was in charge of Megatron the rest of the time.
Johnson ended the half with one catch for 28 yards.
“I was on him most of the game,” said Asomugha. “I think when we got to the fourth quarter there was a lot more trying to give him a different look, give him something else so that he doesn’t get comfortable with one guy. There were sometimes, especially in the fourth quarter, when Dominique would go to him.”