Reasons To Be Confident In Year Two Of The Castillo EraBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Thursday, June 21st, 2012
We’ve all gone through the five stages of grief since Andy Reid decided to make Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator last season. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can accurately describe my emotions about that particular decision…especially the anger stage.
Hell, I went through them again after Reid decided to retain him this year.
To top it off, I almost had a brain hemorrhage when I heard the news about Reid only offering Steve Spagnuolo a “spot of the staff” or something of the nature. I was all about bringing back Spags to turn our dysfunctional defense around.
However, now that I’m in the “acceptance” stage, I actually think keeping Castillo was the prudent thing to do.
There are reasons to believe he’ll have much more success in 2012 as compared to his dreadful rookie campaign in 2011. What’s the main reason? Because he’s working hard, man, working hard.
Juan Castillo is, if anything, a hard working man (just ask him, he’ll tell you). He’s dedicated to his job as well. If you had any doubts about his dedication, consider the following:
When the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans, Juan made sure he greeted him at the airport to welcome him to Philly. He also carted his bags and threw rose pedals on the ground as he walked.
Well, he did personally greet Ryans at the airport, the rest may have been a slight embellishment on my part. However, you can see Castillo is dedicated. He would take a bullet for Andy Reid for cryin’ out loud!
Nobody is going to outwork or out-dedicate Castillo, not in this town.
In all seriousness, though, the truth of the matter is that there are several reasons as to why Castillo will improve in 2012. Besides the aforementioned aspect of hard work, here is a look at a few more of those reasons…
1. This is Year Two of the Juan era. Last year was an almost impossible situation for a guy who hadn’t been on the defensive side of the ball since teams wore leather helmets.
Simple hard work was not enough to overcome a lack of time, lack of experience and coordinating numerous new faces on defense.
With a full season of game experience, a full off-season of practice, and yes, a lot of hard work, it stands to reason that Castillo will be a much improved coordinator.
2. Todd Bowles is now on the defensive staff. He’s the only newcomer on the defensive coaching staff and brings with him a ton of experience.
The secondary was arguably a bigger liability last season than the linebacker corps. Even with all of the talent the Eagles had, they just couldn’t get them to mesh well.
Consider this: They gave up the ninth-most TD passes in the NFL with 27, they were tied for second in the NFL in giving up the most passes over 40 yards with 13 and opposing quarterbacks had a cumulative passer rating of 85.7.
Those stats put the pass defense in some pretty bad company last year. This is where Todd Bowles’ experience will be invaluable to Castillo as Juan can just let Bowles completely take over the secondary while he focuses on the overall picture.
Plus, Bowles’ acumen includes experience as an interim head coach as well so he knows how to lead. His presence alone will be a huge improvement to the defense and therefore benefit Castillo.
3. Castillo now has an on-field leader for his defense. Make no mistake, the addition of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will be the single biggest reason for the defensive turnaround.
Castillo can immerse Ryans in his system and then filter his message through him to the rest of the players during games. In essence, having a true quarterback of the defense will help his case tremendously.
4. He will employ a more concrete defensive scheme. This is kind of an off-shoot of No. 1 because it will come from his experience last season.
It was no secret last year that Castillo experimented quite a bit with his defensive scheme and how he deployed his personnel. He mixed, matched and subbed his players frequently to try and find the right groupings.
He started the year off playing mostly zone coverage without much blitzing. That evolved into more man coverage and more blitzing by the end of the season.
This year, he’ll be going in knowing he’ll be playing man-coverage and be able to design more blitz packages with the freedom of knowing what he’s going to do ahead of time.
Basically, he’ll be able to utilize his players’ talents more effectively this season.
5. Castillo has earned his players’ trust. Towards the end of last season, players openly acknowledged that things were rough in the beginning because they weren’t buying-in to the scheme.
For a defense to thrive, they have to believe in what they’re doing. That was lacking last year and the confusion was evident. Castillo wasn’t confident in what he was doing, because, well, he didn’t know what he was doing.
The biggest thing that will happen now is that the players will believe in Castillo — believe in his scheme, believe in his play calling and believe in his game plan. They finally started to do just that during their four game end-of-season “fools-gold run” last year.
This year, we will see a much-more confident defensive coordinator and that will carry over to the players.
All in all, the key word to remember about Juan Castillo improving is this: Continuity.
It’s because of that word I was able to rationalize the Eagles not going harder after Steve Spagnuolo. Otherwise, I seriously might have had that brain hemorrhage!
However, continuity will be a key component this year. If we had changed defensive coordinators, the players would have again had to learn a new system and adapt to a different coaching style.
One last thing to remember, too, is that Castillo will have a dearth of talent to work with this season. With key veterans returning and an excellent draft class, he will have every chance to succeed in 2012.
If an idiot like Barry Switzer could “coach” the talent-laden Cowboys to a victory in Super Bowl XXX, there’s no reason to think Juan Castillo can’t produce a championship-level defense.
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