Now that the shock from Andy Reid promoting his long-time offensive line coach to defensive coordinator has basically worn off, it's time to see what Juan Castillo can really do. And if the final month of the 2011 season is any indication, he's going to have this defense doing some special things.
On defense, the Eagles have really only lost one piece, Asante Samuel, and unless you've found a way to read these slides out of order, you already know why that's not such a big deal.
Mike Patterson is going to be out of commission for a little while (again, something you should already know), but if my prediction of Fletcher Cox is even half-accurate, the defensive tackles will be just fine even without Patterson.
On the flip side, let's look at what the defense has gained.
First off, there's the extra time together. Castillo has his rookie season—a shortened one at that—out of the way and has done a ton of growing. The core guys from last year are pretty much the same and also have had time from last season and this offseason to grow together. It sounds like a small detail, but chemistry on a team cannot be understated.
Then there's the pieces the defense has added. In addition to Cox, the Eagles drafted Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin, traded for DeMeco Ryans and signed O.J. Atogwe. Add that to the guys already in place—Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha and so on—and you've got a unit stockpiled with talent.
Given the talent in place and the time the core group has spent together last season and/or this offseason, I don't think it's far-fetched to predict that at the end of the year Castillo's group is in the top third of the league in every major category.