Castillo must be laughing at Eagles' defense

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Redskins' Santana Moss catches TD pass between Eagles' Kurt Coleman (left) and Brandon Boykin.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Redskins' Santana Moss catches TD pass between Eagles' Kurt Coleman (left) and Brandon Boykin.
Posted: November 20, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. - Somewhere, Juan Castillo is laughing right now. And if he isn't, he damn well should be.

The defense that Castillo was deemed unfit to lead last month has been an absolute joke since Andy Reid's mid-October panic move.

And I'm not laying this on Castillo's replacement, Todd Bowles. I'm laying it on a group of defensive players that aren't nearly as good as they think they are.

"It's frustrating," safety Kurt Coleman said after Sunday's embarrassing, 31-6 loss to the Redskins in which rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes and just one incompletion in 15 attempts. "Because we have what I feel is the best back-end group in the National Football League.

"The majority of the game we were playing well. It's those few miscommunication plays that are killing us."

Played well? They gave up four touchdown passes to a rookie quarterback, albeit one who was the second pick in the draft. Griffin finished the game with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He averaged 13.3 yards per attempt.

And this wasn't an isolated case. In the first six games, with Castillo running the defense, the Eagles defense allowed 20.8 points per game. In the four games since he was canned, they're giving up 31.8 a pop.

In the first six games, the Eagles' opponent passer rating was 76.8.

The last four games it's 143.5. Their last four opponents have completed an astounding 78.3 percent of their attempts and have averaged 9.4 yards per attempt. In those four games, the Eagles have given up 11 touchdown passes and have no interceptions.

"I feel we haven't played up to the level we had been playing at," said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who gave up his fifth touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter when Aldrick Robinson, who won't be going to the Pro Bowl anytime soon, beat Asomugha for a 49-yard score.

Yes, Asomugha should have had safety help over the top from Nate Allen.

But this is a guy who not so long ago was considered one of the league's top shutdown corners. He should be able to stay with a guy who was a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft and had nine career receptions before Sunday.

"It just seems like the mentality on defense after the bye week [changed]," Asomugha said. "The plays that we were making, we weren't making them anymore. We started missing tackles and missing assignments. Stuff we hadn't been doing."

The Eagles fell behind 2 minutes into the game when Allen was late getting over to cover fullback Darrel Young, who scored on a 6-yard pass from Griffin.

In the second quarter, Asomugha didn't get the over-the-top help he needed from Allen on Robinson. In the third quarter, 5-10 Santana Moss, who was double-covered by Coleman and Brandon Boykin, managed to snare a 62-yard touchdown pass over the 5-11 Coleman. Maybe Moss pushed him and maybe he didn't. That's still no excuse for one guy beating out two guys for an up-for-grabs pass.

"I was in perfect position and I fall backwards, all of a sudden," Coleman said. [The official) didn't make the call. But I have to be able to make that play. It wasn't like I had Andre Johnson over the top of me. It is what it is."

It wasn't a good day for Coleman, who also gave up a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Logan Paulsen in the fourth quarter.

The touchdown passes to Moss and Paulsen both came on third down.

Griffin completed all three of his third-down attempts against the Eagles. In the last four games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 22 of 29 third-down pass attempts for 338 yards and four touchdowns against the Eagles. That's a 153.4 third-down passer rating. Seventeen of those 22 completions have been for first downs or touchdowns.

In the first six games, the Eagles had a 72.5 third-down opponent passer rating. Just 15 of 32 third-down completions resulted in first downs or touchdowns.

The Eagles' offense at least has an excuse for the way they've played this season. Injuries. Not so with the defense. Their starters have missed a total of three games - two by weakside linebacker Akeem Jordan and one by Allen.

"I felt coming into the season we had probably the best secondary in the NFL," said Boykin, the team's rookie nickel corner. "And I still do believe that. But at the same time, you've got to put it on film. And we haven't been doing that lately. So I can't really say [that we're the best]."

Bowles made a few changes after replacing Castillo, but nothing significant. Nothing that should have caused his unit to bottom out like it has.

"The game plans are different, said Asomugha. "Every defensive coordinator has his way of calling a game. He's been calling his different from Juan. But we respect that and believe in what he's doing.

"The issue has been on our part. Making the mistakes we hadn't been making throughout the year."

Bottom line is the Eagles' defense isn't as good as we thought it was.

I like Coleman, but he should be a core special-teamer not a starting strong safety. At 31, Asomugha's skills are starting to erode. Age and wear-and-tear also seems to be catching up with defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.

"It's not just the secondary," Coleman said. "It's a full team effort. All sides of the ball and special teams. It's a team when we win and it's a team when we lose. We all have to pick our game up. We all have to play better and execute. Not just the secondary. That's everybody."

A year ago, the Eagles had a league-best 50 sacks. Through 10 games this year, they have 14. They went three games earlier this season without a sack.

A secondary that fancies itself the best in the league should have a ton of interceptions. This one has seven. And four of them came in the first game of the season against the Browns. Despite the presence of two Pro Bowl corners, the Eagles have just two interceptions in the last eight games.

"When you're in position to make a play you gotta make a play," said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. "We didn't do that today.

"The turnovers have to come. We're not making turnovers. That's frustrating. Especially with the ability we have on the back end to go out and make plays. I can't speak for anyone else. But I know for a fact I can go out and play better. I know for a fact we can play harder."

" @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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