Those are six words I never envisioned myself writing (that’s been happening a lot lately, hasn’t it?) when I agreed to do a weekly column for this blog. But there are a lot of things about this Eagles season I never envisioned happening. We can just add this latest revelation to the list.
I came to this conclusion while watching the Eagles’ latest and most ugly debacle in what has been a season full of ugly debacles–a 31-6 thrashing at the hands of the lowly Redskins. As I watched the ‘skins moving the ball up and down the field effortlessly, I found myself wondering, ‘What the hell happened to the defense I wrote so highly of after week 2?’ I was premature in my assessment that this D could be elite, sure. But they weren’t this bad.
So what happened? Todd Bowles happened, that’s what.
While the defense wasn’t great during its last couple of weeks under Castillo, it certainly wasn’t porous. In fact, I even made an argument that the defense was the least of the team’s worries after a 16-14 loss to the Steelers. But things have changed drastically since then, even though personnel has stayed pretty much the same–there haven’t been any glaring injuries to put the blame on, like with, say, the offensive line. There’s really only been one change and that’s the ouster of Castillo and the insertion of Bowles.
Don’t believe there’s been a difference since Castillo was fired during the bye? I’ve got the stats to back it up.
Let’s start with the most basic indicator of defensive performance: points allowed. Though this statistic is slightly flawed (the defense isn’t always on the field when the other team scores), it does begin to paint a picture of just how different this defensive unit has looked. Under Castillo, the Eagles were allowing 20.8 points per game. Under Bowles, it’s been more than ten points more at 31.75 points per game. Also bear in mind that this Eagles team was turning the ball over at a breakneck pace in the beginning of the season, so Castillo’s D was actually put into a position on the field where the chances of success were slim more often.
But, as I said, points per game is a flawed statistic. Many suggest that yards allowed is a truer indicator of defensive performance. Bowles’ unit falls short there, as well, allowing 354.5 yards per game to Castillo’s 330.8.
Perhaps the most drastic decline this D has seen under Bowles has come on third down, or, as it is so often referred, the money down. Games are won and lost on third down. Under Castillo, Eagles opponents were converting just 28% of their third downs. That number would actually rank second in the NFL right now. Meanwhile, Bowles’ unit has allowed the offense to convert on third down a whopping 47.75% of the time. In case you’re wondering, that number, if extrapolated over the course of the season to date, would rank the Eagles dead last in the league.
Some other stats: in the four games under Bowles, the Eagles have generated just two turnovers (0.5 per game) compared to eight in six games under Castillo (though four of those came in week 1 versus the Browns); Bowles’ unit has allowed an average of four touchdowns per game (a far cry from the bend-but-don’t-break mentality Jim Johnson enacted for so long), while Castillo’s allowed just 1.8 per game; lastly, Bowles has actually found a way to improve the amount of first downs his teams allows per game (18.25 compared to Castillo’s 18.7). Because Bowles’ unit has allowed so many more points and more yardage, that statistic suggests to me that, under Bowles, the defense has been much more susceptible to the big play. Though, admittedly I’m using linear logic here and I have no statistic to back up that claim.
Finally, the most telling statistic of all: Under Castillo, this team was 3-3; with Bowles, they’re 0-4. Before the offense was bad and the defense was serviceable. Now they’re both just bad.
But, hey, look on the bright side. Under Bowles the defense has generated 2.25 sacks per game. Under Castillo they could only muster 1.3, and went three straight weeks without a sack. So there’s that.
How’s this for an ironic twist: Andy Reid fired Juan Castillo because he recognized that it was a mistake to hire him in the first place. The decision was met with much criticism as Castillo hadn’t performed that poorly in his sophomore year at the helm. It was a transparent move by Reid to rectify an error in judgment on his part long after the error was rectifiable. However, in doing so, he may have driven the final nail into his coffin. His job is all but lost, and this 0-4 skid after the bye certainly clinched that fact.
I can’t help but think Castillo is chuckling to himself as this all goes down.Tags: Andy Reid, Browns, defense, Eagles, Football, Job, Juan Castillo, NFC East, NFL, Philadelphia, points per game, Redskins, Steelers, Todd Bowles, yards per game