Eagles' defense no Bowles of cherries

Posted: November 30, 2012

TODD BOWLES was in "it's not just . . . " mode Thursday.

Every time a reporter would try to pin down the defensive coordinator on a specific aspect of the disaster his unit has become, Bowles would plug in that phrase. He was right, to a point; the accelerating plunge that has allowed each of the last five quarterbacks the Eagles have faced to post a passer rating over 120 can't be pinned on just one position or player.

But saying a problem isn't "just" something does not mean the something in question isn't a big piece of the problem. Bowles knows that. Like the rest of us, he's just trying to get through these final 5 weeks without imploding.

"There are calls I've made that I'd like to have back, there are plays that players made that they'd like to have back," Bowles said. "You learn from it. You take it on the chin. You don't want it to happen, you're pissed off that it happened . . . You carry it on your sleeve and you wear it. These things can happen, but you can't dwell on them, because in this league, nobody's going to feel sorry for you. You take the lumps and you get better and move on to next week."

Monday night, Bowles was angry, especially about the first two touchdowns the Panthers scored, against ridiculously blown coverages, touchdowns that made Bowles look silly on national TV. So afterward, after he noted his charges' inability to play a "high school-level Cover 3," Bowles said he would look at tape and make lineup changes, if needed.

As the Eagles' futility tour prepares to travel to Dallas this weekend, Bowles had to admit Thursday that the jettisoning of starting end Jason Babin is the only defensive change the Eagles are likely to make.

Because he doesn't have better players to plug in at any of the other positions.

"You show in practice every week from training camp to now, we have possible lineup changes, people compete every day . . . we're playing our best guys," Bowles said. "If there was somebody that definitely could play better, they'd be playing."

Specifically, backup safety David Sims mentioned Wednesday that he was disappointed not to have gotten a look, with Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen nearing the top of the Eagles fan vitriol list.

"They're tough and they play smart," Bowles said of Coleman and Allen. Then he seemed to reassess. "They play smart most of the time. They've made their mistakes, as has everybody else. It's not just the safeties."

But if the safeties were playing well, if they didn't constantly bite on play action, look confused in coverage, and get outjumped for the ball even when they are in position, well, you have to think things might look a bit better, overall.

Coleman said one of the reasons for blown coverages is guys "on two different pages." His was a familiar analysis, offered by players on bad teams in every sport: When things go bad, players start trying to do their own job plus someone else's, not trusting the other guy to hold up his end. Disaster ensures.

Coleman said these things tend not to happen in practice, only in games.

"That's what you've got to figure out, why is it not translating from practice to the game?" Coleman said. "We're working on it. We're working hard, and that's all I can say. I don't have an answer, I don't have a rhyme or reason as to what's going on."

Coleman said Bowles "understands, I think, that this is not just frustrating for him but for all of us. We don't want to make him look bad as a defensive coordinator . . . we don't want to look bad as players. But obviously, that's kind of how it's worked out . . . There's only so much a coach can do."

Coleman was pressed on how really egregious breakdowns can happen, over and over.

"I want to see everyone in here go out there and play in that game, see what happens," he said, smiling. "See what happens when you have 5 seconds to get lined up and make a call. It's just something, two guys seeing two different things. Offenses game plan, and as a defense, you have to be able to adjust in a matter of seconds."

After saying all that, though, Coleman concluded: "There's no excuse for it. The bottom line, no one's making excuses. We've got to be able to make plays. We haven't been able to do that, for X amount of weeks."

Bowles was grilled on more than just the safeties. Doesn't getting rid of Babin, linked closely to defensive-line coach Jim Washburn, pretty much repudiate Washburn's wide-9 setup? (Washburn, by the way, has declined interview requests through an Eagles spokesman.)

"I don't think that points to the failure of the wide-9," Bowles said. He said the Eagles just have a surplus of defensive ends.

"The wide-9 is just a front," Bowles said. (And the Maginot was just a Line.) "It's still a front four. Whether you line a guy up a step wide or a step closer, it's not totally a wide-9 defense. It's just a four-man front and you move it as such. As a whole, we haven't been getting it done on defense."

Of course, that analysis neatly evades the way Washburn drills into his charges the need to get upfield quickly, leaving them vulnerable to screens and draws.

Bowles revealed he had "not much" input into the release of Babin. He was asked his read on Brandon Graham, the 2010 first-round pick who now becomes a starter.

"I think he's gotten better mentally," Bowles said. "I think he was a little immature, and then coming back from injury, he was probably a little hesitant. His work ethic has picked up. He's an intelligent football player, and this is kind of learning the tricks of the trade as you go. Brandon, he's tough, he's relentless, and the more he plays, the better he gets."

If Bowles had more guys he could say that about, he wouldn't be 0-5 since taking the job.

" @LesBowen

Blog: eagletarian.com

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