After last year's historic struggle, the Eagles defense went about revamping -- from the coaching staff on down. The job is not yet complete, and it won't be until the Eagles add personnel through the next phase of the player-acquisition period (whenever that happens) and then go out and work on the scheme.
Castillo's checklist is a long one, but in the end he wants to simplify things on defense and let his players play. The basic premise of the defense is to run what Jim Johnson ran, but also to add his own personality. Castillo has researched Johnson thoroughly and is likely to borrow some of the concepts that Johnson used throughout his brilliant run as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.
Does that mean the Eagles are going to blitz? Yes, it does. But Johnson's blitz reputation perhaps exceeded the reality of the defense: The blitz numbers were far less than the media and the fans believed. To be great, the Eagles need to get home with their four-man pass rush, and that is where Jim Washburn comes in.
He has something to work with here. Washburn believes that, and I base that on the conversations I've had with him and the history both here and with Washburn in Tennessee. Washburn knows that he has Trent Cole waiting, and that Cole is one of the most talented and hardest-working players he will have ever had the opportunity to coach. He has first-round talents in Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley inside, and emerging talent Antonio Dixon to mold. There are veterans like Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp who will benefit from being turned loose on the end. And the younger Eagles who don't have a clue about the NFL (relatively speaking, and not a knock on them) like Brandon Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp and Phillip Hunt will grow by leaps and bounds. And Trevor Laws is going to take his game to another level, just because with Washburn there is no other choice.
We can talk all we want about sacks and takeaways and points allowed. Key statistics, all, particularly the latter. How the Eagles perform in the red zone will be a huge indicator of the effectiveness of the massive moves the Eagles made in the offseason to re-shape the defense. Had the Eagles been just a teeny, tiny bit better there last year, they would have gone deep into the playoffs.
But they were one-and-done, again, and the defense in the red zone is in the process of an overhaul.
What is Castillo thinking these days? He isn't saying much, simply because he hasn't had a moment to work with his players. His organization and vision has impressed Washburn and the coaches, and they all have a comprehensive plan in place for when the labor peace is in place in the NFL.
And it is the red zone where we will know just how effective all of these moves have been. To go to the top, the Eagles have to be at their best with their backs to the wall inside the 20-yard line.
In other Eagles tidbits ...
- How much is Kevin Kolb worth in a trade? It is a topic that won't go away in these slow times, but does this rational make any sense: Kolb will win more games than will Cam Newton for at least the next couple of seasons, as I see it. You're a coach and you want to win, so why wouldn't you be interested in a young, healthy quarterback who has already won games at this level? I am far from convinced the Eagles will trade Kolb, but if they do they should have some very nice offers.
- It's been interesting reading the analyses of the NFL drafts of years past, and when you look back, yeah, the Eagles weren't as good drafting in the 2006-2008 period as they needed to be. Now you understand why the team felt it was a good thing to make a change at general manager. Roseman's clock really started in part in 2009, but it's only fair to judge his drafts of 2010 and 2011 and we can't do that accurately for another couple of years.
- Good to know that the players are reportedly planning to hold some informal workouts in the weeks ahead. We here at PhiladelphiaEagles.com are not permitted to cover any workouts or have any contact with the players, but here is wishing them good luck with no injuries.
- All of the who-is-staying and who-is-going talk is fascinating, particularly when you consider that any age on this team is a question mark. David Akers? Sav Rocca? Quintin Mikell? Should any of those players leave it would greatly impact a roster that last year averaged a tick over 25 years of age. This is going to be, any way you slice it, a young, young team once again in 2011.