Just because Todd Bowles has been handed the keys to the Eagles defense, it doesn't mean he's going to radically overhaul it.
The team's new defensive coordinator is going to add his own flavor to a defense that currently ranks 13th in the league in points allowed and 12th in yards allowed. The one area where the team needs to improve at is closing out ballgames. Last Sunday, the defense allowed a 10-point fourth quarter lead to evaporate in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions. A week earlier in Pittsburgh, the Steelers drove 64 yards on the final drive to set up the game-winning field goal erasing the Eagles' one-point lead.
"It's a mindset. You've got to make plays," Bowles said. "Playmakers have got to make plays and I have to do a better job of coaching them and putting them in position to make those plays, so it goes hand in hand."
Bowles said that the wide-nine technique that is used predominately by the defensive ends will stay intact. The question is how Bowles will use the talent on defense to help improve the sack total. The Eagles have been held without a sack for three straight games. They have only seven sacks a year after being tied for the league lead with 50.
"It’s a little bit of everything. Part of the time, the ball is coming out quick; part of the time they’re max protecting; part of the time we have to beat one-on-ones; part of the time, coaching-wise, we have to scheme it better and help those guys get free," Bowles said. "We are watching the self scouts right now, and in those reports and what we see on film, we’ll try to adjust from there."
One solution is to blitz more. The Eagles have sent more than four pass rushers on 40 out of 233 pass plays (17.2 percent) in 2012. Bowles explained that the key to success using the blitz is to create "timely pressure."
"You can’t blitz too much or too little," Bowles said. "Too much of one thing leads them to do another, so game-plan wise and schematically that’ll have to fit in during the week."
This is the first time in his 12-plus seasons as an NFL assistant coach where he will be calling the plays. Head coach Andy Reid said earlier on Tuesday that he's confident in Bowles' ability to call plays on gameday. Bowles said they key is to trust the other coaches.
"I think you rely on the other coaches. As a staff, we put the gameplan together and you just watch enough film and trust your instincts enough to make calls and make sure everybody’s on the same page," Bowles said. "And you to try to take away what they’re doing, but yet not expose what you’re doing."
Bowles has yet to decide whether he will remain on the field or in the box on gameday.
"I’ve been on the field and I’ve been in the box," Bowles said. "In the box, you’re probably a little bit calmer because you can’t yell at anybody; nobody’s going to hear you. On the field, you have your hands on the players but the reaction steps are a lot quicker out on the field. So, you have to kind of get a feel for what the rest of your coaches can do and a feel for what your players need, whether I’m up or down."
There will be differences to this defense, but they will be subtle ones. Bowles will still mix in man and zone coverages as he did when he was the secondary coach. He knows the players on the entire defense from addressing them in meetings, so he doesn't have to introduce himself. Tuesday's move was designed to provide a seamless transition while maximizing the talent of the defense.
"They’re hearing the same message from a different person. I might have a different spin on it and my own ideas here or there and a few tweaks that they go through," he said. "They’ll understand exactly where we, as a coaching staff, are coming from, and understanding exactly what the game plan is as they have been."
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