Under Bowles, Eagles Secondary In Tatters
A sad and maybe symbolic scene unfolded in the Eagles locker room just before reporters were ushered out late Sunday night. A pained Kurt Coleman, who needed assistance getting his shirt off moments before, walked up to Nate Allen and humbly asked if he would be able to put his deodorant on for him, as he was unable to lift his arms to do it himself. Allen sustained a shoulder injury in the game and was also limited. But using his good arm, he dutifully performed the task for his fellow safety.
Officially, Coleman was listed with a chest contusion. But he was hurting bad, and it wasn’t all physical.
“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” said Coleman, his voice unable to get above a whisper.
“This sucks. It just sucks. I can’t piece one thing…it just sucks right now…We knew what we were doing, we knew what they were doing. It’s inexcusable really. We’re trying as hard as we can but that’s not enough, we have to be able to execute all the time.”
Coleman and Allen have contributed to a secondary that has fallen apart since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator for Juan Castillo back in mid-October. The numbers are disturbing: Through the first six games, the Eagles were holding opponents to 52.7 percent completions – the top mark in the league. In the following six games under Bowles, that number has shot up to 76.3 percent with 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Tony Romo was 22-of-27 for 303 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 150.5 quarterback rating. He did not have a single incompletion in the second half.
Communication breakdowns. Missed tackles. Lost battles. It all contributed to yet another meltdown.
“As I look at film just from a personal standpoint, in my head I have a whole lot of wows,” said Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “Like, ‘Wow, what are you doing?’ At some point, I think as the season keeps going bad, bad, you try to fight so hard and don’t want to do wrong until you end up just doing wrong and you don’t allow yourself to just go out and be [yourself].”
Rodgers-Cromartie appears to have gone backwards under Bowles as a cover corner. As a result, his deficiencies as a tackler stand out more. There were multiple occasions Sunday night when these vulnerabilities came to light, including on Dez Bryant‘s six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter where the receiver bullied his way right past the former Pro Bowler.
“[Second]-and-goal, I’m playing off him and I read screen, and I just have to keep running my feet. I know he’s a big, strong guy but me going low on him does no justice, so I tried to wrap up, stay high and push him out of bounds,” said DRC.
“I can tackle. Aggressive like a safety? No. But I can tackle.”
The safeties have been having their own issues, to put it mildly. Coleman has been victimized by play-action far too much, and he and Nnamdi Asomugha continue to struggle to get onto the same page. Allen has not fared much better.
“Sometimes, some things are going to happen. It’s part of the game,” said Allen. “You just have to put yourself in the right position to make plays.”
But they haven’t been. They haven’t forced a turnover since November 5 against the Saints. That’s a month-long drought.
“It shouldn’t happen,” said Andy Reid. “I go back and it’s a combination of things. Coaching and playing. We’re all in this together.”
The losing, the ineffectivess, has taken its toll. Coleman stood by his locker after the game unable to undress himself and emotionally taxed. DeMeco Ryans called over to him, and Coleman just shook his head as tears began to well in his eyes. It is a team, a defense, in dire straits.
“This is a team that’s too good not to execute on all cylinders,” said Coleman, pain rolling through his voice. “But I trust my guys, I believe in them. I’m going to continue to push them, and them me, just because I know this team really is good. It just sucks that it hasn’t been able to play out that way.”
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.