HOW IS Todd Bowles going to impart to his players the urgency to finish games, something Bowles said Thursday was lacking in an otherwise solid defense he inherited last week from Juan Castillo?

"You preach it and preach it and coach it and coach it and teach it and teach it," Bowles said in his first weekly media session as the Eagles' defensive coordinator. "You beat 'em until they're blue in the face, and hopefully Sunday the results will be different."

Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said the unit actually has had that urgency, but "we didn't do proper things at the right time."

That was the gist of why Castillo was fired, the defense misfiring at crucial moments, late in games.

"We had good defensive statistics before, we just need to close out and finish ballgames," Bowles said. "You try to tweak things that you can tweak and keep the base together, keep your core together . . . There are times when they're going to have to make plays, and there are times when we're going to have to make calls to help them make plays."

Bowles, who said he hasn't decided yet whether he'll be on the sideline or upstairs Sunday when the Eagles host the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons, played down what players were saying earlier this week about Bowles wanting to make the defense less predictable than it had been under Castillo.

"In your bye week, you get to self-scout a lot," Bowles said. "You get to see a lot of things that you're doing wrong and right. You try to fix the things you're doing wrong. I don't think it was us being unpredictable, I think it was more or less us wanting to correct the things we need to correct that people are taking advantage of."

Later, Bowles said predictability was not an uncommon problem to discover during a bye-week review.

"I think every coach in the league, when they self-scout on the bye week, sees a lot of predictable things that are glaring to them that they try to fix, and I think the miscommunication was in that part," he said. "It's definitely not an excuse. Guys play hard, and we lost because we lost and we didn't make enough plays to win the game. It's not because we were being predictable or unpredictable."

On Wednesday, Falcons coach Mike Smith told reporters it was hard preparing for the Eagles this week because he couldn't be sure what Bowles would do as a coordinator, though Bowles and Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan worked together on the Miami staff in 2011. Asked about that Thursday, Bowles was dismissive.

"I certainly didn't invent the game, and I'm not gonna reinvent the game," Bowles said. "They have their core beliefs that they do and they've got a great quarterback and a great corps of receivers and running back. They're 6-0 and undefeated. 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."

No demerits for Damaris

Special-teams coordinator Bobby April said he is not unhappy with punt returner Damaris Johnson, who was inactive against the Lions Oct. 14. April said Eagles coach Andy Reid decided that with wide receiver Riley Cooper active, Johnson would not be, so April went with Mardy Gilyard returning punts for that game. April said he didn't know if Johnson would be up this week. Johnson said he didn't know, either.

April said the main reason the Eagles haven't generated good punt returns is that opposing punters have been punting really effectively - he said the Eagles need to do a better job of pressuring them, forcing mistakes.

He said blockers also are losing one-on-one battles, not because of a lack of talent, but because of problems with fundamentals. April said he didn't do a good enough job teaching fundamentals in training camp, and has been trying to make up for that during the season.

Birdseed

DeMeco Ryans, who tore an Achilles' six games into the 2010 season, said it took him 8 or 9 months to recover fully. Ryans said his was a really bad tear. He also said the biggest obstacle to getting back is having full confidence in the repaired tendon when trying "explosive movements." Ryans said he has talked informally with left tackle Jason Peters, who tore an Achilles' twice this spring and is trying to come back in a shorter time frame . . . Right guard Danny Watkins (ankle) was the only Eagle who didn't practice . . . Marty Mornhinweg said the difference Andy Reid was talking about Wednesday between meager first-half production and much better second-half production is turnovers. He also agreed with a questioner that the Eagles typically see different defensive looks than their opponents have shown on film, something that takes time to sort out. Mornhinweg said flipping the Eagles' minus-nine turnover ratio is the biggest key to turning things around.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.