Following the Eagles' loss to the Carolina Panthers last Monday night, in which the Eagles defense allowed two easy touchdown passes on defensive miscues, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles hinted that he and the rest of the coaching staff would evaluate whether any changes in the starting lineup needed to be made ahead of Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
After examining the state of the defense, Bowles and company decided to stick with the same group of players, excluding, of course, the released Jason Babin.
"I think you show in practice every week from training camp until now (that) we have possible lineup changes and people compete every day," Bowles said during his press conference Thursday. "There's nothing set in stone. We play our best guys. If there was somebody that was stepping up to play better, (then) they would be playing."
The defensive line rotates enough anyway that most players get plenty of playing time. The focus of any potential lineup changes would have been in the back seven. At linebacker, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have fulfilled expectations and weren't really under the microscope. Behind veteran WILL Akeem Jordan, the Eagles have Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney, but no change was made there.
In the secondary, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will continue to start, with Brandon Boykin in the slot. The most scrutiny, at least from the outside, has been placed on the safety position, where Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have patrolled the position as a tandem for all but one game this season. The lone exception was the Week 8 loss to the New Orleans Saints, which Allen missed because of a hamstring injury. In his stead, David Sims started for the Eagles. Still, despite some of the big plays allowed over the last few weeks, Bowles said that while Sims has been practicing well, Coleman and Allen still deserve to be on the field.
"They're tough and they play smart," Bowles said of his starting safeties. "They play smart most of the time. They've made their mistakes as has everybody else. That's not just the safeties that (are) fighting for a spot every day. We're all trying to get better as a whole and if there was somebody behind them (that) we thought could step up in play (then) they need to show that too. So we've got the guys that we've got. The guys are playing hard and they're playing tough and they're trying to get better."
So why, then, has the secondary allowed the game-changing big plays of late?
"As a coach, you're disappointed on any touchdown but from a standpoint as far as why are guys grasping (concepts) or not grasping, we have to make sure it's communicated better and they have to carry it out," he said. "So as a group, as a whole, coaches and players, we've got to be on the same page and there are calls that I'd like to have back (and) there are plays that players would like to have back. You learn from it. You take it on the chin. You don't want it to happen (and) you're (angry) that it happened. As a coach you are and as a player you would be too and you carry it on your sleeve and you wear it, and these things can happen but you can't dwell on them. In this league nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You take your lumps, you get better and you move on, and you get better each week.
"You always think you have the right players here as well as the coaches. We just have to do a better job and we haven't been."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider.