Everyone is curious to see what the effects of having a first-year defensive coordinator will be, and what Juan Castillo, who never has coached defense in the NFL, can do with the Eagles' personnel.
One thing's for sure: This season's Eagles will look vastly different than the group they have fielded in recent seasons. There have been changes to all three levels of the defense, and we have heard all offseason long that the Eagles plan to use a more simplified scheme than previous coordinator Sean McDermott ran with his myriad blitzes. This year's Eagles still plan to pressure, but it would shock no one if they play a lot of standard cover-2, Tampa-2 and cover-4 defenses with more gap control and read-and-react principles.
What that also means is that they'll give up some yards, especially if the tackling is not up to par with a vastly different LB crew (including, potentially, a rookie in MLB Casey Matthews starting) and two young safeties in Nate Allen and either Jaiquwan Jarrett or Kurt Coleman.
How to remedy that? Interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. The big play can make any coordinator look good, certainly someone who is new to the position. It has been a staple of recent Eagles defenses, but they might be skinning cats a little differently this season.
With the DE combo of Trent Cole and Jason Babin and the addition of DL Cullen Jenkins, new DL coach Jim Washburn will use a heavy, deep rotation up front, as Babin said. Babin had a career-high 12½ sacks under Washburn's watch last season in Tennessee but said that it's always a group effort on units he coaches.
"The guys that are not the starters, most of the time, they are going to still play a lot, be heavy in the rotation," Babin told PFW. "So they're expected to make plays, just like the guys in front of them are expected to make plays."
This is true, but expect Babin to have a 40-to-50-snap role per game, playing that "wide-9" technique end, rushing from the D gap outside the tight end. It also helps open things up for Jenkins and the defensive tackles to rush from the interior.
"Knowing Coach Wash, I know (using that wide-9 rusher) was one of the prerequisites before he accepted the job," Babin said.