Eagles head coach Andy Reid made the decision to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo six games into the season and hand the defense over to Todd Bowles. The first game Bowles called was against the Falcons at home two weeks ago. The result was the same as Castillo, a Philadelphia loss. But what I did notice is that Bowles was far more aggressive with his play calls in trying to put pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. You did see the Eagles play with better effort and more intensity. Against the Saints, Drew Brees did a nice job of finding the open receiver, but the Eagles didn't play well against the run nor did they tackle well in space.
One area that the Eagles have really struggled this season where they had not before is in putting pressure on the passer. Defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole haven't had the type of years that we have seen before. There still is great effort from both players, but they were blocked more in these games.
Babin lines up on the left side and will work against Doug Free, which should be an interesting matchup. Babin likes to try and beat the blocker with technique and effort. Free will see Babin trying to slap his hands down, he will have to battle spin moves and just a straight speed rush up the field.
To go along with Babin and Cole, a player to watch on the outside as well is third-year man Brandon Graham. I was really impressed with the way that he got off the ball. There was a surge along with some power to his game. You see pass-rush moves as he works to the quarterback.
On the inside, the Eagles go with a rotation of Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Mike Patterson and rookie Fletcher Cox. I am surprised that Cox wasn't the starter by now, but to be honest, his play from what I have seen lacks pass-rush moves and separation to defend the run. In my mind, he was always be linked to Morris Claiborne because the Cowboys had a chance to draft him when they moved up to the sixth pick in the 2012 draft, and it was a position of need. Right now, it looks like the Cowboys made the correct choice.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans always showed up on tape when he was with the Texans and when the Eagles made the trade, I really thought he would be exactly what they needed in this 4-3 scheme. But, it hasn't really worked out that way. Overall, the linebackers on this team are not that impressive, and I feel that their play has at times put the Eagles defense in some poor situations.
In the secondary, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha are the cornerbacks with Kurt Coleman and David Sims at safety. Sims is starting because normal safety Nate Allen suffered a hamstring injury on the Friday before the Saints game, so his progress will need to be monitored during this week to see if he makes it to the game on Sunday.
If Sims has to make the start again, look for the Cowboys to take advantage of his cover ability, whether it's with receivers or tight end Jason Witten. He did not look comfortable at all in the Saints game.
It's strange to once again see Asomugha play in zone coverage because that really isn't one of his strengths. He has always been one of the best press-man corners in the league. Interesting in the Falcons game was that when he was lined up across from receiver Julio Jones in press, Asomugha didn't get his hands on him and Jones went on a "9" route up the field, getting separation as he went before hauling in a perfect pass from Matt Ryan. Against the Saints, Marques Colston ran him across the end zone on an arrow pattern and Asomugha didn't show much awareness playing the route, getting picked off by the umpire. It was a couple of plays that you normally don't see him have trouble with.