The Eagles have played hard and the players have been physical and for pieces of this 2012 season the defense has been outstanding. There are several strong building blocks for Todd Bowles and the defense -- the third-down defense has been strong, the red-zone performance has been much improved and the team has generally limited big plays -- but to get to the highest level Bowles has to instill a sense of urgency.
Do the Eagles look like they're playing defense as if the season is on the line on ever play? Sometimes, yeah, they do. And other times, they don't. Maybe it's just a perception here based on a defense that too often didn't play "downhill" in the first six games and didn't play aggressively enough within the scheme.
The lack of creativity is what ultimately forced Andy Reid to make the decision to change defensive coordinators, and now it's Bowles' duty to have his defense playing faster football, more desperate football.
Is he planning any major personnel changes? I don't think so, unless he intends to change the rotation up front just a big. Preseason sensation Phillip Hunt has hardly been used this season -- just one snap against the Lions -- and Brandon Graham has hovered around the 15-to-20-snap range through six games. I think Bowles has to evaluate the slot cornerback position and determine how he wants to work that. Brandon Boykin is a young cornerback and is learning and improving. What happens, for example, if Atlanta puts Julio Jones in the slot next week? Do the Eagles move Nnamdi Asomugha there and use Curtis Marsh outside? I wonder how Bowles feels about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot, where he struggled last week against Detroit.
Anyway, the intangible here is that Bowles has to generate some killer instinct in the defense. He says the defense needs to "finish games" better, and it's easy to agree with him after the losses in Pittsburgh and against the Lions.
How Bowles ups the emotional ante is one of the things rummaging through my mind waiting for a weekend of football ...
- Watching Russell Wilson play quarterback for Seattle's struggling offense against the 49ers on Thursday night was a reminder of just how risky it is to turn to a rookie quarterback. The Eagles will stick with Michael Vick, and I'm sure he's on high alert along with everyone else in the offense. The Eagles are 31st in the league in scoring. That's just not acceptable.
- Nothing to report on the status of offensive lineman Chris Williams, who visited the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday. Sounds to me like Williams thinks he is better served to wait through the weekend to see if another opportunity opens up. I'm not closing the book on signing Williams, though. Monday will be a telling day if nothing happens before then.
- The Eagles need more in the running game and they need more than LeSean McCoy doing the work on the ground. Whether that's Bryce Brown, or Dion Lewis or Chris Polk, the Eagles must establish more of a physical presence on the ground. Can't get into a shootout against Atlanta ...
- Players are off through the weekend. They report back to the NovaCare Complex for a 10-10-10 practice on Monday. How many changes will be apparent on the depth chart at that time?
- Any answers for the return game? The question is how Damaris Johnson fits into the roster equation with Riley Cooper's anticipated larger role and with Mardy Gilyard returning punts. That could all change, of course, but right now Johnson has a lot of work to do to move back up the depth chart.
- What do the Eagles do about a third safety? It was a problem when Nate Allen was injured against Detroit, and while he should be fine for Atlanta, should the Eagles be concerned about depth at the position?
- Huge couple of games ahead with Atlanta coming to Lincoln Financial Field and then the Eagles on the road for a Monday night game at New Orleans. Then it's all about the NFC East. To say this is a crucial stretch for the Eagles is an understatement. They can't go into the meat of the NFC East schedule in catch-up mode.