In the almost nine months that head coach Andy Reid and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have worked together, Reid has been most impressed with Bowles' ability to understand his position group and apply it into the big picture of the defense.
"He has a good understanding of the game not only in the secondary, but the whole picture," Reid said on Tuesday afternoon hours after promoting Bowles from secondary coach to defensive coordinator. "He's detailed with his techniques. He works well with the players. He's a smart guy. He works hard."
The players who have worked for Bowles in the secondary have appreciated the new defensive coordinator's ability to simplify the game and bring the wisdom that comes with eight seasons in the NFL as a player, including one that ended with a Super Bowl title, and over 12 years of professional coaching experience.
"I appreciated the way he went about his business and how he handled the other coaches and the players," Reid said. "I think the players that have worked with him surely have had a lot of confidence in him and there are some that have been very close to me, and so I put a little trust in that."
When Bowles was hired to be the secondary coach on January 30, Reid wanted a veteran voice for Juan Castillo to bounce ideas off of. A rising star in the coaching ranks, Bowles had interviewed for head coaching opportunities after going 2-1 as the Dolphins' interim head coach at the end of 2011. Bowles wanted the opportunity to be in the city where he played his college football at Temple.
Bowles has not been a defensive coordinator at the NFL level, but was one in college both at Morehouse and Grambling State. Even though he has not called the plays, Reid felt "comfortable" that he could do that based on his experience. Reid said that the defensive scheme and terminology would not change, although he would not get into too many specifics. Defensive quality control coach Bobby April III will handle more of the responsibilities with regards to the secondary, but Bowles will continue to oversee the entire unit. Michael Zordich will remain focused on the safety group.
The challenge for Bowles is to improve what was already a good defense in 2012, but one that still had some flaws which dated back to last season. One of those traits was the inability to close out games. Since the start of 2011, the Eagles have lost seven games in which they led in the fourth quarter. Last Sunday, the Eagles led 23-13 with 5:18 remaining in the game before falling to the Lions 26-23 in overtime. In addition, the Eagles have not had a sack in three games and only have generated two turnovers in the past four contests. Reid highlighted that he wants to see a defense that plays "aggressive, emotional football."
"I expect one thing from our football team, that you play four quarters and that you never let your foot off the pedal, man," Reid said. "It's all out for four quarters and I'm talking about all three phases of the game and we're not doing well enough at that yet, and that's my problem. That's my fault."
Bowles is the Eagles' third defensive coordinator since the passing of Jim Johnson in 2009 following Sean McDermott, who is now the defensive coordinator in Carolina, and Castillo. From 1999-2008, the Eagles ranked in the top 10 of points allowed seven times under Johnson. The Eagles ranked 10th in points allowed last season, which was the team's best finish since 2008. Reid believes that Bowles can handle the pressure that comes with being the defensive coordinator in Philadelphia and following in Johnson's shadow.
"It's big shoes. You have to remember that when we first got here, expectations weren't quite as high as after you win games. So that's a tremendous amount of pressure on that person that you put in that position. There's not a lot of wiggle room, as you'd say," Reid said. "So when you come in here, you've got to handle a whole lot of pressures, not only from the media and the city and the fans, but you're expected to perform at a very high level. So that's an important part of it to look at. It's important for me to have a clear vision of that as I evaluate the people that I bring in."
Bowles inherits a defense that includes an array of Pro Bowl talent at all three levels of the defense. It's up to Bowles to get it to fulfill its potential.
"I want to be the best football team we can possibly be. We're sitting here at 3-3," Reid said. "That's not good enough for what I think we have here."
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