When the Eagles' defensive players returned to work Monday, they did so knowing they were reporting to a new boss. Over the bye week, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was replaced by secondary coach Todd Bowles. A coaching change of this magnitude could very easily create uncertainty, but linebacker DeMeco Ryans doesn't believe there will be any problems. In fact, he expects the defense to improve.
"It doesn't change what we're going to do as players," Ryans said Tuesday. "Juan did a good job, but Coach Reid made a decision to go to Coach Bowles. And Coach Bowles will step in and do a great job. He's done it before; played on a Super Bowl team before, so he knows what it takes to have a great defense. I'm looking forward to working with him. It doesn't change what we're going to do as players, but it's going to be a good change for us."
A big part of that change will come in the form of experience, something that has been a familiar refrain from player since Bowles was hired in January. An eight-year NFL veteran and a Super Bowl winner with the Redskins, Bowles is able to use his playing experience to simplify the game plan and communicate with players. Ryans believes that experience will be especially valuable during games.
"Todd's very knowledgeable of the game; very knowledgeable of how offenses are trying to attack us," Ryans explained. "It's good to have him on the sideline now; have him to relay those messages to us. What we're going to get (is) what he is thinking on the field. He's very knowledgeable, (he has) seen a lot of football; played the game. It's always fun to have those coaches who have played in the league actually run the defense now. That's a pretty good change-up for us."
The big change happened over the bye week, which gave the coaches an opportunity to put in extra work before the players returned to work. For Ryans, the bye week was a chance to get away and relax before the final 10 games of the season. The leader of the Eagles' defense was able to take his mind off the game for a few days before jumping back into the meat of the season.
"I just went back home to Houston and just stretched out; relaxed," Ryans said. "I slept in as long as I could and hit up a few of my favorite restaurants there in Houston. It was fun to sit back and relax and visit some friends and family; good relaxation."
The bye week came just in time for the Eagles. The team has the chance to make a statement Sunday when they play host to the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons. While Ryans sees a talented and well-rounded team coming to Philadelphia this weekend, he knows it's about more than that. He sees this game as an opportunity to set the tone for the remainder of the season.
"They're balanced. They're good at running the ball; throwing the ball," Ryans said. "They're all around a solid football team. It's a great opportunity for us. For this great team to come in our house and for us to try and knock them off, it's a great challenge for us.
"We're feeling refreshed coming off the bye, feeling rejuvenated and feeling good about going into it. It'll be a great matchup, but I feel like it's our time to step it up, turn it around and get things moving in the right direction."
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