Jeff and I sat down today with new Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles to learn a little more about him and what his plans are. Bowles, who said he had a chance to become a defensive coordinator in Oakland, take an assistant head coach/secondary coach job in Cincinnati or keep that same position in Miami, spoke often about "bringing things together" what, on paper, should be a talented secondary.
The Eagles have two second round picks at safety to go with Kurt Coleman, who has played above his seventh round pay grade. They have three former Pro Bowlers at the corner. Bowles' challenge is to coax better performances out of a unit where the Eagles invested big, but got poor results in 2011. Nate Allen was up and down last season, Jaiquawn Jarrett barely saw the field, Coleman was once benched and Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all fell short of expectations.
Bowles, who frequently reminded us that he's only had a week of watching tape on the group, gave us his preliminary impressions on the secondary and some of its individuals.
"You see a lot of athletes, you see some playmakers back there and you see some guys that can hit, so you see potential, you see potential but you just have to bring it all together," Bowles said. That's a theme he returned to again later, when talking about the cornerbacks and the seemingly mismatched styles (in our words, not his) that contributed to trouble last year. "They all want to win, they all have pride and they're all tough. That's the easy part, just get them to play together."
But how to do that when Asomugha has spent much of his career pressing up to the line of scrimmage while Samuel likes to play off?
"When game time comes you're going to do what you do best, but you've got to be smart about it and try to do some things off of what you do best and not do the same thing but show the same look," Bowles said. "So if we can tinker with some of those things that will be helpful, but that won’t happen until we get in and actually start practicing to see what their special skills are."
We asked about a few of the individuals Bowles will coach. Again, he cautioned that he's still early in his review of the secondary, but here's what he had to say:
On how best to use Asomugha:
It depends on the game and the scheme for that game. How you use him and who you use him on depends on what you're trying to take away and who you're trying to take away. Most teams have more than one player, so it will be kind of tough ... If that’s a week by week thing I’m sure that will be discussed with the defensive staff.
On Allen (who Bowles coached in the Senior Bowl two years ago):
He is very bright and he is a very good athlete. The game just, he (had) to settle down and the game (had) to come to him at that time, and that was two years ago. Just watching the film he's done some good things and (I'm) just interested to see him live and in person so we can talk more.
On Jarrett (who Bowles, a fellow Temple alum, saw some of while watching Owls games from Miami):
He had some bone-crushing hits when he played, I saw those types of things. He’s tough, he’s a tough kid. He has a chance.
He’s tough, he looks very smart, he’s gritty, he’ll come up and whack you, he has very good instincts.