Eagles Notebook: Eagles defense could be turning corner

Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 24, 2011

CASEY MATTHEWS said Juan Castillo called his defense together recently to say how proud he was that the unit is coming together.

"We definitely noticed it this week. I think we've made more strides than in the other two, of just being more comfortable with each other," Matthews, the Eagles' rookie middle linebacker, said yesterday.

Matthews and Castillo, both new to their jobs, have come under intense scrutiny since last Thursday's 24-14 preseason loss at Pittsburgh, the first half of which ended with the Birds trailing 21-0. Not much about the new defensive coordinator's unit looked good that night, certainly not his inexperienced linebacking corps.

Head coach Andy Reid seemed to shift his tone when asked about Matthews during Reid's Monday night radio show. Suddenly, the fourth-round kid from Oregon who was installed as the starter the first day of training camp was "getting a shot" in the middle - though yesterday, asked if there might be a Plan B, Reid said: "He's the one that's in there."

Matthews reiterated yesterday that he hadn't expected to be a starter from his first day as a pro, with no minicamps to learn the defense.

"Where I'm at right now, I'm pretty confident. Obviously, I know the playbook and stuff like that. It's just minor mistakes . . . something you can get corrected," Matthews said. "That's what this camp is for."

Matthews was asked what he might say to talk panicky fans down off the ledge.

"It was our second preseason game," he said. "We have a pretty new defense. We're feeling more comfortable. Obviously, we're learning the mistakes we made and we're correcting 'em."

Game stuff

Andy Reid said his starters will play three quarters tomorrow night against the Browns. That means Vince Young for the fourth quarter, he said, though Reid didn't preclude a Mike Kafka appearance.

Reid confirmed that Jarrad Page will start in place of Nate Allen at safety, with Allen's confidence in his repaired knee not quite where it needs to be yet.

"As training camp goes on, guys get tired, and I want to make sure he's able to keep it strong, and be ready to roll," Reid said.

Birdseed

The guys who haven't been practicing obviously aren't playing against Cleveland - among them defensive tackle Antonio Dixon (back), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, still recovering from that viral illness, defensive end Juqua Parker (calf), and right tackle Ryan Harris (back) . . . Right now, 10 Eagles on the 90-man roster are 30 or over. Five of those are projected starters for tomorrow's game.

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