From draft positioning to the future of the Eagles’ secondary, here are 10 things to know about how the Birds’ defense matches up with the Panthers’ offense.
If nothing else, Eagles players have stayed on message over the past two seasons. They entered the 2011 campaign bullish about the assembled talent (along with just about everybody else). And, despite an 11-15 record since, some continue to tout the team’s potency.
As the 3-7 Eagles get set to take on the 2-8 Panthers in a showdown of the two worst teams in the NFC, here is a “best-0f” compilation of quotes that prove confidence is not the issue on this club.
When the locker room opened up to reporters Thursday afternoon, the place was humming. Nnamdi Asomugha and Kurt Coleman were engaged in a passionate conversation. Mardy Gilyard was chasing an unidentified victim around with a towel. Music blasted from Trent Cole‘s stall. (At one point an Oldies song came on and everyone began looking at Cole sideways. “It’s not me!” he said. “It’s Pandora!”)
There were signs of life for the first time in weeks.
Marty Mornhinweg foreshadowed these developments earlier in the day.
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?
There were varying degrees of willingness to talk about the Todd Bowles/Juan Castillo shake-up in the Eagles’ locker room Monday. Jason Babin, for example, has never been more skittish about a subject in his two years in Philadelphia. Others forced you to read between the lines.
There were a few revealing moments, however.
The biggest one came from backup linebacker Casey Matthews, who relayed Bowles’ message to the defense upon taking the reins.
“The biggest thing he said is, ‘We’re not going to predictable anymore.’ That’s what Coach said,” Matthews revealed, the obvious implication being that the ‘D’ was predictable under Castillo.
“When the defense is out there to hold them out, we’re able to do it. We’ve proven that,” said Coleman. “We love getting on the field because we want to become the best defense in Philadelphia history, and in the league.”
In Philadelphia history?
“Absolutely. I say it with a straight face,” he said. “I believe it. I believe in the team that we have, the guys that I play next to. We can do it. We need to continue to build on this, and make our legacy.”
With all the talk surrounding Nnamdi Asomugha‘s play Sunday night, we thought we would switch on the coaches tape to see what it revealed. The question being debated: Was Asomugha burned on a couple big plays against the Giants, or was he let down by his safeties?
Let’s zero in on back-to-back strikes from Eli Manning downfield midway through the fourth that set up the go-ahead score for New York.
Down 24-23, all they needed was a field goal. Their kicker, Justin Tucker, had already nailed a 48-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 56-yarder earlier in the game.
Many of the players who took the field for the Eagles’ defense were familiar with this situation. Last season, in five of the team’s eight losses, the Eagles had the lead going into the fourth quarter. And in the final 15 minutes of those games, they were outscored, 60-3.
But one of the players who wasn’t in Philadelphia last year is DeMeco Ryans. And while there are many reasons why the defense has come through at the end of the team’s final two games, the stability provided by the middle linebacker is certainly one of them.