BETHLEHEM --- Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo met with reporters Sunday for the first time since his first-team defenders struggled badly in the preseason opener Thursday against the Steelers.
Specifically, tackling and getting off the field on third-and-long proved to be a challenge, just as they were last season, which made it more alarming than the first few series of a preseaon opener might normally have been.
"There are some things we have to improve on," Castillo allowed. "Initially just the third-down package, you saw that we worked on third down [Saturday], really some of the scenarios we had in the game, trying to get some things in and work on some coverage things."
Same problems as last year? Castillo pointed out that the Eagles weren't doing a lot of those things during their 4-0 stretch run to end the season. (Which might indicate these are correctable problems, but also would seem to be pretty darn frustrating, implying the defense has to relearn last year's painful lessons.)
"We want to go ahead and start where we finished," Castillo said, kind of ignoring the fact that his defense did not, in fact, start the way it finished 2011. But in fairness, maybe he was saying his goal is to start the real season the way the defense finished last seaaon.
"There were some good things, there were some things we need to work on, and that's what we're doing," Castillo said.
The biggest red flag might have been the performance of second-year safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who started and looked lost. Jarrett got mixed up in coverage and took poor tackling angles, two reasons he had a hard time getting on the field as a rookie. An offseason of tutoring was supposed to have corrected those problems.
"JJ played hard. He did some good things, and there were some things we'll correct, with a [practice] tackle circuit, with the angles, understanding where your leverage is. The way we want to tackle, we want to run through everything, but there will be some things we'll correct and we'll be OK."
Castillo said Jarrett "has had a good camp."
Jarrett, a 2011 second-round draft pick from Temple, said the film pretty much showed him what most of us saw live Thursday night.
"I took poor angles on tackles. I didn't play with the sense of urgency I needed to play with," Jarrett said Sunday. He said he needs to take another step before launching himself, to avoid missing so much.
Jarrett said the coverage mixup between himself and corner Nnamdi Asomugha on the first Steelers touchdown was completely Jarrett's fault.
The Eagles' wide-nine-aligned defensive line seemed to have unlearned last season's lesson about paying proper respect to the run as it tees off on the passsr. That was not the way Castillo saw it -- the back-to-back 14 and 33-yard Pittsburgh runs came off a draw play and an Eagles blitz, he said, with the Steelers experiencing little success otherwise.
RE yesterday's Eagletarian post, in which Andy Reid's agent, Bob LaMonte, vigorously defended his client's record and deflected reporters' queries about a new Reid contract by declaring team chairman Jeffrey Lurie told him Andy would coach here as long as Lurie owns the team -- Lurie issued a statement in response:
"Bob is a great agent who we have an outstanding relationship with. As much respect as all of us have for Andy Reid, it is the nature of the profession that all coaches, executives and players are evaluated each year," Lurie said. "That's the way we have always operated. But our focus right now, and I know Andy feels the same way, is solely on the 2012 season."
WR Jeremy Maclin, who sat out Thursday's game after suffering a hamstring tweak in warmups, participated in Sunday's walkthrough and said he plans to practice this afteroon.
Maclin mentioned preparing for the next preseason game, at New England Aug. 20, as if it were the third game, which is the one starters usually use as their regular-season tuneup. This year the third game is just four days after the second game, and is at Cleveland, where the Birds open their regular season Sept. 9. The Eagles probably don't want to show the Browns too much in a preseason game.