In his first Thursday media session since being named Eagles defensive coordinator last week, Todd Bowles was asked about the Falcons saying they don't know what to expect from him this weekend, since there is no film of a Bowles-coached defense. Bowles last called defensive signals at Grambling more than a decade ago.
"I'm not gonna reinvent the game," Bowles said. He said he sees his task as tweaking what the Eagles were doing under Juan Castillo, fixing things other teams were taking advantage of -- a rewording of what Eagles players have said about Bowles wanting to make the defense less predictable.
Bowles softened that implied criticism of Castillo, noting that teams always find predictable tendencies when they self-review during the bye week, and then they set out to correct that.
"We had good defensive statistics before, we just have to close out, finish ballgames," Bowles said. "You try to tweak things that you can tweak and keep the base together, keep your core together ... There are times when they're going to have to make plays, and there are times when we're going to have to make calls to help them make plays."
Bowles said he hasn't decided whether he will coach Sunday from the sideline or upstairs. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said either situation is fine with the players.
Bowles was asked how he will go about getting the sense of urgency from players, to finish games the way he feels the Eagles need to finish them.
"You preach it and preach it and coach it and coach it and teach it and teach it," he said. "You beat 'em until they're blue in the face, and hopefully, Sunday, the results will be different."
Special teams coordinator Bobby April reiterated that he is not unhappy with punt returner Damaris Johnson, who was inactive against the Lions Oct. 14. April said Eagles coach Andy Reid decided that with WR Riley Cooper active, Johnson would not be, so April went with Mardy Gilyard returning punts for that game. April said he didn't know if Johnson would be up this week.
April said the main reason the Eagles haven't generated good punt returns is that opposing punters have been punting really effectively -- he said the Eagles need to do a better job of pressuring them, forcing mistakes.
He said blockers also are losing 1-on-1 battles, not because of a lack of talent, but because of problems with fundamentals. April said he didn't do a good enpough job teaching fundamentals in training camp, and has been trying to make up for that during the season.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praised Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, whom he has gone against several times over the years. Nolan's defenses "make you work for everything," Mornhinweg said. He also called the Falcons' D "disciplined, active, opportunistic, well-coached."
Mornhinweg said Asante Samuel isn't the only member of the Atlanta secodnary who plays a savvy, ball-hawking style.
Mornhinweg said the difference Andy Reid was talking about Wednesday between meager first half production and much better second half production is turnovers. He also agreed with a questioner that the Eagles' typically see different defensive looks than their opponents have shown on film, something that takes time to sort out.
Mornhinweg said flipping the Eagles' abysmal turnover ratio is the biggest key to turning things around.