How Do the Eagles Become a Great Defense?
After this weekend's game against Matthew Stafford and the Lions, the Eagles will have played more than a third of their regular-season schedule. By now, you're keenly aware of the following three realities:
• The Eagles are turning the ball over at what could be a record-setting pace.
• They have the second lowest scoring offense in the league.
• Their pass-rush is ranked 27th after being tied for the top-spot last season.
Everyone has a theory as to why the third reality exists. I am no different. So here it goes:
If teams are max-protecting against the Eagles wide-nine pass rush, they need to start sending the blitz from time-to-time on obvious passing situations.
The standard answer: it's too risky, more players in coverage will force more turnovers, and that last season they tied for the league lead sending just four guys most of the time.
I'll respond with a question: what if teams studied your scheme and made adjustments.
Are you absolutely certain it's too risky? Are you 100 percent convinced there would be adverse results? What if the blitz actually excels? What if the Eagles generate more turnovers instead of giving up long drives and staying on the field, wearing down?
Most importantly, how will we ever know if they don't try?
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, cannot escape the following three realities:
• For the defense to truly succeed, if they can't get to the quarterback now, he has to give them chance to force turnovers in other ways
• This includes giving them the chance to fail as well.
• Even if the blitz works – expect some failures along the way.
That's what taking a risk is about. This is the NFL. The Eagles need to be ahead of the curve – proactive instead of reactive. Don't wait for the game that the defense can't get off the field late in a game that you have a lead, and give-up a big 3-and-12 play again.
The old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't work in the NFL. Teams' performances and seasons' fortunes change on a near weekly basis. Teams become more familiar with opponents each passing week. So why wait with the blitz? Perhaps the more appropriate question is this: how much longer do you want to wait? Week 8? Week 10? Week 12?
The writing is on the wall. The Eagles must get pressure on the quarterback. Now. Give the defense the keys.
What's the worst that could happen? Do you really think the defense doesn't have the fortitude to respond from givign up a few big plays from time-to-time, in exchange for a four, five sack game with two interceptions? Are you that concerned about the defenses confidence after hearing time and time again how mature and poised the defense?
Furthermore, if a few more big plays occur, are you telling me you're not at least somewhat confident this defense can get to the quarterback and force a few more turnovers? We've already seen the defense play well, but adding this element could help the Eagles go from a good defense to a great defensive team.
I'm not saying throw caution to the wind. I'm just hoping the Eagles will introduce more risk/reward situations for the defense because I think they can handle them and I think we'll see more turnovers happen as a result.
The defense has made decent incremental steps so far. It's time to stop taking baby steps and start taking big boy steps. I think the defense wants to. I think they are ready and I think the Castillo should let them.
Castillo mentioned this week during his weekly press conference that the Eagles need to do "whatever we need to do win and forcing turnovers is one of the things we have to do and we have to get better at.”
"We have to create more turnovers and that is what we’re working on," said Castillo. "That would help our offense.”
This seems so uncharacteristic and counter-intuitive to a team that is some-what conservative on defense.
I, for one, don't believe the defense will be shell-shocked if they were to put more blitzes in the play-book.
But we're not going to find out – and this defense won't become a great defense – until they do.