The Philadelphia Eagles had an ineffective defense in 2011. Although people think that stopping the run was the biggest problem, the numerous broken plays of the secondary were more costly.
Juan Castillo brought in a new philosophy by casting the blitz aside and using more conservative tactics. He managed to improve the red zone defense (opponents scored in 59.57 percent of times instead of 78.26 percent in 2010), but still the team ranked 29th in this specific category.
Against the run, the Eagles were worse this year, but not so much as you might think: They allowed 112.6 yards per games, while in 2010 they allowed 112 yards per game.
The major issue for Castillo was the playcalling and the players’ assignments. Asante Samuel is not a safety, and he is not the best cover cornerback either. This strategy gave a lot of plays to the opposing teams and fortunately Castillo saw that—but it was too late.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best man-to-man corners in the league. He had to learn to play zone with the Eagles and the results were not the desirable ones.
Despite the bad handling from Castillo, the defensive backs have not been performing they way they should. Samuel gave up a ton of plays, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was soft and incompetent when used in the slot, and the safeties looked lost in many occasions. Even Asomugha had his share of bad plays.
But what really made this secondary unsuccessful for the biggest part of the year was the lack of interceptions. The Eagles had 15 picks this year, eight fewer than 2010. Add the fact that their pass rush has improved greatly in 2011, and that magnifies their inability to steal the ball.
Assuming that the defensive line will be able to apply the same amount of pressure on quarterbacks, the Eagles' secondary must boost its performance in 2012. Rodgers-Cromartie will probably get Samuel’s position, and this will allow Asomugha to cover the No.1 wide receiver of the opposing team—something that happened occasionally in 2011, with Samuel refusing playing on the right side.
The safeties are still an origin of diffidence. Philly has not seen a great safety since Brian Dawkins left. Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett must rise to the challenge and support the linebackers and the cornerbacks, while preventing deep plays. These kids have first-class potential; all they have to do is be consistent.
The new secondary coach will have a big role too. It’s his responsibility to teach the players and help them raise their game. The Eagles' secondary is talented and can be one of the best in the league; the new coach and the defensive coordinator have to make the most out of it.