Blogger Blitz: Different vibe for Eagles' D
September, 20, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
If you turn the ball over nine times in your first two games but win them both, your defense must be doing something right. Such is the case with the Philadelphia Eagles, whose defense is playing at a much higher level than it was at this time last season. Whether it's the addition of DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker or the depth and energy brought in by all of the rookies who are seeing significant time, the Eagles' defense has a different feel about it this year. In this week's Blogger Blitz video, I talk about how different it felt in the Eagles' locker room Sunday, with players talking about specific defensive schemes and the success they did or didn't have with them as opposed to saying things like, "We need somebody to step up."
For example, an energized cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said the plan the Eagles made last week was for him to cover Baltimore receiver Anquan Boldin and for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to cover Torrey Smith, who's a faster straight-line runner while Boldin is a little more shifty. The Eagles settled on those matchups but also decided that, when Boldin went inside, they'd leave him to rookie Brandon Boykin because they wanted to keep Boykin on the slot receiver. Now, that did leave Asomugha on Jacoby Jones, who beat him for a touchdown and nearly beat him for another. And that's something to watch going forward -- whether high-end speed guys are tough matchups for Asomugha at this stage in his career. But I don't recall one time last season when an Eagles defensive player talked so enthusiastically about the way he was working and planning in conjunction with his coaches and teammates in advance of the game. Not to say it wasn't happening, but everyone seems more engaged this season.
Because Asomugha is my example, of course I think it's possible that new secondary coach Todd Bowles is a part of this new vibe. And certainly, everybody has to be more comfortable in Juan Castillo's second season as defensive coordinator, if only because that seems less weird this season. It's a combination of many factors that has the Eagles playing very tight defense so far, and if the offense ever gets its ball-security act together, the Eagles could be one of the better teams in the league.