Bowles aims to fix Eagles' defense
The new defensive coordinator has clearly jumped right into his job.
"I certainly didn't invent the game and I'm not going to reinvent the game," Bowles said Thursday. "You've just got to try to make sure you use due diligence to get your team ready to play hard and try to, hopefully, make the right calls at the right time."
Bowles replaced Juan Castillo, who was fired last week six games into his second season coaching the defense after a career on the offensive side. Under Castillo, the Eagles blew fourth-quarter leads six times.
Castillo was dismissed two days after the Eagles squandered a 10-point lead with 5:18 left in an overtime loss to Detroit on Oct. 14. A week earlier, they gave up a long drive that led to a winning field goal on the final play at Pittsburgh.
Bowles has a simple task: Get the defense to play the fourth quarter the way it does in the first three.
"We had good defensive statistics before; we just have to close out and finish ballgames," Bowles said. "You try to tweak things that you can tweak and keep the base together and keep your core together and help who you can when you can. There are times where they're going to have to make plays and there are times where we're going to have to make calls to help them make plays. That's really all I tried to do."
The knock against Castillo was his inability to make in-game adjustments. Even some players on defense have said the Eagles were too predictable, allowing other teams to take advantage by switching things up late in the game.
Bowles defended Castillo.
"Every defense is going to have a base where they're going to be predictable," he said. "No matter what team you're on or what coach you have, everybody's going to have a scheme. So, it's not as much as being predictable; it's just trying to get your playmakers in better position to make more plays. I don't think that's unpredictable or predictable. It's just getting to see what your guys can do best and letting them do it."
Perhaps Castillo's inexperience was the problem. Or maybe the players who get paid big bucks to perform have failed to live up to expectations.
Two-time All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha hasn't played like the guy the Eagles expected when they signed him to a $60 million contract last July. The entire defensive line, which includes Pro Bowl ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole, is underachieving, too. The Eagles have no sacks in the last three games and just seven overall after leading the NFL with 50 last year.
Now it's up to Bowles to maximize their potential.
"Whatever Todd calls, I'm all for," middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "It's up to him and whatever he calls. I'm not saying I don't know what we're going to do, but whatever he calls, we're just eager to get it done and eager to go out and compete. We're eager to get a win. That's the thing about it, whatever it takes to get a win, whatever Todd has to call, that's what we have to do."
Bowles and the defense have a tough test Sunday when the Eagles (3-3) host the Atlanta Falcons (6-0). Matt Ryan is the league's fourth-highest rated passer at 98.8. He has 14 touchdown passes and several targets to deliver the ball to. Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez each have at least 30 receptions and four TDs. The Falcons also have balance: Michael Turner is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
"Whatever it is, it's not working," Bowles said when asked what defenses are doing against White and Jones. "Those two guys are probably, arguably, the best two in the league, size-wise, speed-wise and what they have that a lot of big guys don't have is they can run patterns as well, as well as block. You've got to pick your spots. There's only one football, luckily, and you're forgetting Gonzalez is in that mix as well as Michael Turner. So, it's going to be tough. It's going to be a tough matchup. It's a challenge for us."
RG Danny Watkins didn't practice Thursday because of an ankle injury. Dennis Kelly filled in for him. Watkins, a first-round pick last year, has struggled recently and there's been speculation he would get benched. "I won't tell you that his last game was his best game," coach Andy Reid said. "He had a few games in there that were just top quality games. He just needs to get back to doing what he does. Danny is a good football player. That's why he's here, that's why he was a first-round pick, so you just go play."
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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