Eagles: Question marks linger with linebackers, safeties

Six new starters. A rookie in the middle. And a novice calling the shots.

This is the 2011 Eagles’ defense.

Coming off the shortest offseason in NFL history, the Birds have a great deal of unknowns on both sides of the football. But trying to gauge the new-look defense might be one of the hardest to figure out.

Former offensive line coach Juan Castillo is the new defensive coordinator. He’ll start a rookie MLB, Casey Matthews, and will pair a journeyman strong safety, Jarrad Page, with second-year free safety Kurt Coleman.

Some would be worried. Some aren’t Castillo. The coach said he worries more about his two sons doing well in college than he does about calling his first defensive game.

“If you have kids, you understand it,” Castillo said. “Really, my goal, and I’ve said it before, is that this is the first step in the process of what we’re trying to do here, which is to bring a championship to Philadelphia.”

The first stop on that Super Bowl tour bullrushes through St. Louis, a team on the rise. The Rams boast the reigning rookie offensive player of the year, in quarterback Sam Bradford, and an elite rusher in Steven Jackson.

“For anybody, I think the first thing you want to do is stop the run,” Castillo said.

The way Castillo sees it — in a shortened season — it might all come down to conditioning.

“The teams that are in the best condition are the one who will be able to win games,” Castillo said. “At least in the first three or four weeks, until everyone is able to get even as far as being in shape.”

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