That's what happens when you take a new defensive coordinator, a new defensive system and a bunch of new players, mix in a 4 1/2-month lockout and serve.
You get hesitation. You get uncertainty. You get confusion. You get a lack of communication. You get a 1-4 start and a new NFL record for fourth-quarter collapses.
"It wasn't like we knew the system and were trying to teach the new guys a new system," safety Kurt Coleman said. "It was new for everybody. Which made it tough. Because I'd be trying to communicate things to Nnamdi [Asomugha] and he didn't know what I was communicating. Honestly, it took a good 4 to 8 weeks for us to really understand what we were doing as a collective group."
The numbers bear that out. In the Eagles' first five games, their pass defense was brutal. Opposing quarterbacks completed 63.7 percent of their passes, averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, threw 11 TD passes and just three interceptions and had a 104.3 passer rating, 124.4 on third down.
In the next 11 games, those numbers dropped to 55.9, 6.9, 16, 12, 78.4 and 78.9.
"You talk to a lot of football players, and all of a sudden, there's a light that goes on," Coleman said. "Everything just kind of clicked.
“The first few weeks, we were so focused on pass defense we didn't stop the run. Then, once we started to stop the run, we knew our defense was good enough collectively and our defensive line was getting pressure on the quarterback. It all started coming together. Unfortunately, it didn't come together soon enough."
As Coleman and his teammates prepare for the season, newness no longer is an excuse. The defense has had an entire offseason to bond and master the intricacies of Juan Castillo's defense.
There should be no hesitation, no uncertainty, no confusion, no lack of communication. This is a defense that should be able to come out on Sept. 9 against the Cleveland Browns and make Brandon Weeden wish he had stuck to baseball.
"We took what we did at the end of the season and brought it into the offseason," Coleman said. "Now we're taking it into training camp. The mistakes we made last year have really helped us out a lot. We've really shored up our defense. Everything is simplified and defined. We're moving around and knowing what we're doing. Everybody is matching up with their man.
“Our safety coverage has gotten a lot better, just because we now understand what's required of us. Where we need to shade every play. We're just playing a lot better. And that's what we've got to have. The safeties have to be on point every single game."
There was plenty of blame to go around for the Eagles' struggles against the pass in the first half of last season. The linebackers were inconsistent in coverage. According to STATS, rookie Brian Rolle gave up a team-high five touchdown passes.
Castillo kept trying to do the square-peg-into-a-round-hole thing with cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha, forcing Rodgers-Cromartie to play in the slot and using Asomugha, who is one of the league's best man-cover corners, in zone coverage too often.
But the safety play also was erratic. Nate Allen was slow to recover from his 2010 patellar tendon rupture and didn't really start playing well until the second half of the season. Coleman was inconsistent, both in coverage and as a tackler. He was targeted 34 times and gave up 20 completions for a team-high 465 yards and four touchdowns. Jarrad Page, who started the first five games, three for the healing Allen and two for the briefly benched Coleman, was a disaster and was released in mid-November. Rookie second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett was lost from Day 1.
"It was a funny year," said Allen, who didn't mean haha funny. "On Aug. 1, everybody threw their stone in the fire and it was like, ‘All right, everybody get out there.'
“Having the offseason this year was definitely beneficial. We were able to build chemistry. Coaches actually had a chance to get in there and teach. We could go at a slower pace so that everybody actually got what was going on. Now, we're more fluid. Everybody is more comfortable."
Coleman said the communication between the corners and safeties this summer compared to last is much better. No more panic or confusion over where to be, what to do, who to cover.
"Everyone knows what they're supposed to do schemewise as far as positioning," Coleman said. "Last year, we would be having to explain things on the field. When you have to explain things, it's tough to really get it down because you only have a split second. But now, you see the formation. We already know what we're doing before I even have to say it."
Contact Paul Domowitch at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PDomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.