The Philadelphia Eagles' defense did little right this season.
The unit blew some fourth-quarter leads early in the season, causing coach Andy Reid to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replace him with Todd Bowles. Protecting leads late in the season wasn't a problem, since they routinely fell behind by two or three touchdowns.
Personnel problems and strategies plagued the defense all season. The Wide-9 scheme that worked so well last season was ineffective to the point where Reid also dismissed defensive line coach Jim Washburn after cutting defensive end Jason Babin.
Babin was one of two starters from 2011 to get cut, following linebacker Brian Rolle.
The pass rush had 20 fewer sacks than it did last season and the Eagles ranked last in the league with 13 takeaways.
The next head coach will be challenged to find a defensive coordinator who can turn things around and make the defense one of the strengths of the team.
This unit had the biggest dropoff of any position.
Babin and defensive end Trent Cole combined for just 8 sacks after collecting 29 in 2011. Cole had just three sacks, his fewest since joining the Eagles in 2005. Brandon Graham was the most productive defensive end down the stretch. He had 5 sacks, including four in the last five games. Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt and rookie Vinny Curry were non-factors. Curry, a second-round pick, languished on the bench for most of the year.
At tackle, first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox showed promise. He led the defensive line with 65 tackles, despite missing the last game with a concussion. Cullen Jenkins had four sacks but failed to make much of an impact. Derek Landri was invisible most of the year. Mike Patterson played in just five games because of injuries and illness.
Jenkins could be released in the offseason. Tapp and Landri are free agents who likely won't be re-signed.
Aside from middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, this group was inconsistent.
Ryans, who was acquired from Houston in an offseason trade, had a good season. He led the Eagles with 148 tackles and provided much-needed leadership. Rookie Mychal Kendricks, a second-round pick, got off to a strong start but struggled in the second half of the season. He also missed the last game with a concussion. He seemed to play a little better once Bowles switched him from the strong side to the weak side. Akeem Jordan and Jamar Chaney had chances to stay in the starting lineup but failed to impress. Rolle played just special teams for four games and then was cut.
Grade: C (because of Ryans)
This unit needs a major overhaul.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the NFL's highest-ranked free agent in 2011, was terrible. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions in the opener and one the rest of the season. Rookie Brandon Boykin was so-so as the nickel corner. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes seldom got on the field.
The safeties were even worse. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman were routinely beaten on pass plays and were often out of position. Allen was demoted in favor of Colt Anderson, who provided a physical presence but appears better suited for special teams. David Sims started one game and was back on the bench. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a second-round pick in 2011, was cut on Sept. 11.
Place-kicker Alex Henery was the team's best scoring option. He missed three field goals in the last four games but still had a solid season. He set a franchise record by making 22 straight field goals at one point. He connected on 27-of-31 (87.1 percent) of his field-goal attempts.
The Eagles gambled by releasing punter/holder Chas Henry after three games and re-signing Mat McBriar. He averaged 46.5 yards per punt, which was the second-best gross average in team history behind Joe Muha's average of 47.26 in 1948.
Rookie punt returner Damaris Johnson was not very reliable but did score on a franchise-record 98-yard return at Dallas. Boykin and running back Bryce Brown were average at best as kickoff returners.
Dallas' Dwayne Harris scored on a 78-yard punt return on Nov. 11.
Reid lost his job after leading the Eagles to their worst record (4-12) since they went 3-13 under Ray Rhodes in 1998. Questionable decisions both on and off the field led to a 1-11 record in the last 12 games, which included an eight-game losing streak.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had to deal with an injury-riddled line and a change in quarterbacks in the middle of the season.
Hiring Castillo was a mistake last season, but firing him just a month into this season was a bigger one. Bowles didn't have enough time to install his system.
Special-teams coordinator Bobby April had little to work with in the return and coverage squads.
Defense and special-teams awards
MVP (defense): Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans
Biggest surprise (defense): Defensive end Brandon Graham
Unsung hero (defense): None
Biggest disappointment (defense): Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha
MVP (special teams): Place-kicker Alex Henery
Biggest surprise (special teams): Punter Mat McBriar
Unsung hero (special teams): Long-snapper Jon Dorenbos
Biggest disappointment (special teams): Kickoff returner Brandon Boykin
Contact David Weinberg: