Any prediction about the changes Todd Bowles might make to the Eagles' schemes needs to start with an honest assessment of the team's performance so far and some educated guesses about what Castillo had been trying to do.
As any number of people have pointed out, the Eagles' defense has actually been pretty good this year -- most of the time and in most situations. Looking back over the entirety of Juan's tenure, a non-exhaustive list of specific concerns would include:
1. Missed assignments. We haven't talked much about it this year, but this was a problem in 2011, both up front (gaps) and in the secondary (blown and freelanced coverages). I'm including it here because it pertains to the later discussion.
2. Nnamdi's vanishing wheels. This town blows awfully hot and cold on Nnamdi these days. He gives up a couple big completions and he's a bum; then he does a great job on Megatron (with lots and lots of help) and hey look, "he's figured it out again." He is, in both cases, the same guy -- an exceptionally skilled cornerback without much catch-up speed left.
3. Two rookies in prominent roles. Boykin and Kendricks have boatloads of talent, but they're both inexperienced. This has shown up most often when they're challenged in zone.
4. Sub-par play from the WIL spot. Not to pick on just one guy, but on an individual level there aren't too many weak links.
5. Castillo's inexperience as a playcaller. It's been reported a couple different places this week that Bowles has already had some involvement in the playcalling this year. My standing theory since the first game has been that he's called the coverages while Castillo was making the calls up front. Such a system comes with inherent compromises.
Watching the Lions game one last time, I was struck by the contrast between their wide nine and our wide nine. The base defenses are awfully similar up front, but Detroit showed far more variety and aggressiveness over the course of the game.
In fact, my initial plan for this post was to highlight some similar formations/plays from the two offenses, then to show how much more creative Detroit was in attacking them up front. But as I was working on that, I got a pretty healthy reminder of the power of recency bias. Looking back at games earlier in the season, Castillo actually had been more creative up front. Unfortunately, some of that stuff didn't work and I think we can best understand the current (pre-Bowles) state of the defense as a reaction to that.
After the jump, less jabbering, more pictures.