Bowles aims to fix Eagles' defense

Bowles aims to fix Eagles' defense

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Todd Bowles took one big step onto the stage, bypassing the small stairs that lead to the podium where the Philadelphia Eagles hold their news conferences.

The new defensive coordinator has clearly jumped right into his job.

``I certainly didn't invent the game and I'm not going to reinvent the game,'' Bowles said Thursday. ``You've just got to try to make sure you use due diligence to get your team ready to play hard and try to, hopefully, make the right calls at the right time.''

Bowles replaced Juan Castillo, who was fired last week six games into his second season coaching the defense after a career on the offensive side. Under Castillo, the Eagles blew fourth-quarter leads six times.

Castillo was dismissed two days after the Eagles squandered a 10-point lead with 5:18 left in an overtime loss to Detroit on Oct. 14. A week earlier, they gave up a long drive that led to a winning field goal on the final play at Pittsburgh.

Bowles has a simple task: Get the defense to play the fourth quarter the way it does in the first three.

``We had good defensive statistics before; we just have to close out and finish ballgames,'' Bowles said. ``You try to tweak things that you can tweak and keep the base together and keep your core together and help who you can when you can. There are times where they're going to have to make plays and there are times where we're going to have to make calls to help them make plays. That's really all I tried to do.''

The knock against Castillo was his inability to make in-game adjustments. Even some players on defense have said the Eagles were too predictable, allowing other teams to take advantage by switching things up late in the game.

Bowles defended Castillo.

``Every defense is going to have a base where they're going to be predictable,'' he said. ``No matter what team you're on or what coach you have, everybody's going to have a scheme. So, it's not as much as being predictable; it's just trying to get your playmakers in better position to make more plays. I don't think that's unpredictable or predictable. It's just getting to see what your guys can do best and letting them do it.''

Perhaps Castillo's inexperience was the problem. Or maybe the players who get paid big bucks to perform have failed to live up to expectations.

Two-time All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha hasn't played like the guy the Eagles expected when they signed him to a $60 million contract last July. The entire defensive line, which includes Pro Bowl ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole, is underachieving, too. The Eagles have no sacks in the last three games and just seven overall after leading the NFL with 50 last year.

Now it's up to Bowles to maximize their potential.

``Whatever Todd calls, I'm all for,'' middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. ``It's up to him and whatever he calls. I'm not saying I don't know what we're going to do, but whatever he calls, we're just eager to get it done and eager to go out and compete. We're eager to get a win. That's the thing about it, whatever it takes to get a win, whatever Todd has to call, that's what we have to do.''

Bowles and the defense have a tough test Sunday when the Eagles (3-3) host the Atlanta Falcons (6-0). Matt Ryan is the league's fourth-highest rated passer at 98.8. He has 14 touchdown passes and several targets to deliver the ball to. Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez each have at least 30 receptions and four TDs. The Falcons also have balance: Michael Turner is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

``Whatever it is, it's not working,'' Bowles said when asked what defenses are doing against White and Jones. ``Those two guys are probably, arguably, the best two in the league, size-wise, speed-wise and what they have that a lot of big guys don't have is they can run patterns as well, as well as block. You've got to pick your spots. There's only one football, luckily, and you're forgetting Gonzalez is in that mix as well as Michael Turner. So, it's going to be tough. It's going to be a tough matchup. It's a challenge for us.''

Notes: RG Danny Watkins didn't practice Thursday because of an ankle injury. Dennis Kelly filled in for him. Watkins, a first-round pick last year, has struggled recently and there's been speculation he would get benched. ``I won't tell you that his last game was his best game,'' coach Andy Reid said. ``He had a few games in there that were just top quality games. He just needs to get back to doing what he does. Danny is a good football player. That's why he's here, that's why he was a first-round pick, so you just go play.''


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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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