In both the first game they played and the last, against challenged offenses, the Eagles were very good defensively, surrendering only 13 points to the Rams on opening day, and 13 points to Washington in Week 6, with Rex Grossman throwing four interceptions.
In the four-week losing streak between then, however, they allowed an average of 29.8 points per game to Atlanta, the New York Giants, San Francisco and Buffalo. In doing so, not only did fans and media begin to turn on head coach Andy Reid, but new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was nearly run out of town on a rail.
But in the wake of their solid performance against Washington, maybe there's reason to believe the unit is coming around. Cowboys offensive line coach and running game coordinator Hudson Houck compared the early struggles of the Eagles defense to those experienced by the Green Bay Packers when defensive mastermind Dom Capers came on board. At first they needed time to adjust to his schemes, but have become one of the league's best defenses.
"I think that's probably a little bit what's going on in Philadelphia," Houck said. "They struggled early and now they're settling into knowing what they're doing."
Houck is well-acquainted with Castillo, who coached defensively at the high school and small college level, but has been an offensive line coach for Philadelphia since 1998. Like many national pundits, Houck said Castillo's transition to such a key role on the defensive staff would be a tough one for any coach.
"I think it would be extremely difficult, I really do," Houck said. "I think you would need a lot of help from secondary coaches and linebacker coaches, and I think you really would have to lean on a total involvement of the staff, as probably is the case on most teams.
"But Juan, now, his backrgound is defense as well. Knowing him, he's always really prided himself on knowing defenses. Obviously they had a lot of great confidence in him, moving him over there. Andy Reid knows what he's doing."