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Fan-Demonium: Castillo In Year Two

Posted Aug 2, 2012


Players are not the only ones who can show growth at training camp. Juan Castillo is in his second year as the Eagles defensive coordinator and is a different guy this summer. You may recall some crazy images from last year. There was Castillo head-butting Keenan Clayton. Clayton was wearing his helmet. Castillo was not. That picture got used a lot and provided a memorable image.

That kind of crazy, over-enthusiastic vibe is gone. Castillo is now a calmer, under control type of coach, which is the way it should be. In his background as the offensive line coach, Castillo could be an excitable, emotional guy. He was in charge of just one unit. He knew the players on a very tight basis. He was their personal coach.

Being a coordinator is different. You are in charge of half of the team. You have coaches that report to you. Getting fired up at times is fine, but you must have a certain presence. Think back to the great defensive coaches the Eagles have had. Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Bud Carson, and Jim Johnson knew how to motivate and could play mind games at times, but they also acted the part of someone running the show. They looked like the guy in charge.

Last year I think Castillo was too rah-rah for his own good. That's part of his personality and he was trying to be himself, but as you climb the coaching ladder you must adjust. Some guys can do that, some can't. I don't know if a player or other coach made a suggestion to Castillo or if he just figured it out on his own, but I'm glad he changed his style.

2012 is a huge year for Juan Castillo. If Castillo is going to succeed as a defensive coach, he must do everything in his power to make that happen. Adjusting his style of coaching is a wise move. Leave the head butts and craziness to positional coaches. Players respect expertise. Simple as that. Jon Gruden ran the Eagles offense at age 34. The players may have made Doogie Howser jokes prior to meeting him, but very quickly they realized Gruden was a man to be taken seriously. He was smart and gave them a chance to succeed. Players listened to Gruden and benefited from his coaching. While he might have been young, he sure didn't act like it. Gruden carried himself in the right way and that helped to keep players from doubting him.

Last year some players had trouble learning Castillo’s scheme and adjusting to his style of coaching. Communication seemed to be one problem. Players weren't always on the same page. I also wonder about trust. Players who have experience in other schemes must buy into the new scheme. They must believe in the new coordinator. I think Castillo may have hurt himself by coming across as too fiery. He seemed more like a position coach than a coordinator.

Having a tough transition from coach to coordinator is nothing new. That happens every year. Some guys are able to work through it. Others never adjust and don't pan out. Castillo had an incredibly tough adjustment to make because he also switched from offense to defense and he had to deal with the lockout. Castillo certainly had some rough times, but he did improve during the 2011 season. He got better as the year went along and that was an important sign. It offered hope for even better progress this season.

Castillo is carrying himself in a better way this year. This is easier to do in part because Castillo has to be a lot more comfortable this time around. He has a year of running the defense under his belt. He had an offseason to make adjustments to his coaching style and his defense. He then had mini-camps and OTAs to teach his players the scheme in a thorough way. It is a heck of a lot easier for a coach who is somewhat new to something to teach in a slow, structured environment than to do it on the fly and in a very short period of time.

It feels more and more like Castillo is settling into his role. It also feels like the players are comfortable with him and each other. There is also an adjustment from the first to second year with a new coordinator in terms of personnel. Go back to Gruden for a second. The receivers on the 1995 Eagles were Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams, a pair of talented veterans. They loved playing in the Eagles vertical offense with Randall Cunningham, but neither guy was built for or liked the West Coast Offense. Barnett was a former track guy with a sleek build. Williams was listed at 187 pounds. Gruden did the best he could with them, but needed a personnel change.

In 1996 the Eagles receivers were Irving Fryar and Chris T. Jones. Fryar was listed at 200 pounds, but if you ever saw him up close he looked bigger than that and he was incredibly muscular. He was one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL and had no fears about working the middle of the field. Hitting and getting hit was part of his game. Jones was 210 pounds and had a good build. These guys were made for the WCO. With them in place, Gruden's passing game took off.

The Eagles didn't make sweeping changes on defense this year, but going to strictly big, physical corners and adding speed to the linebacking corps may prove to be the moves that Castillo needs for his scheme to really come to life. There is no question that the Eagles have enough talent on defense to be very good. It is up to Castillo and his staff to get the best out of the players and it is up to the players to eliminate last year's mistakes (missed tackles primarily) and to make some plays.

I'm curious to see how the defense plays in 2012. There are some questions to be answered, but I love the group's potential.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Miscellaneous Training Camp Notes

* Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is playing lights out. He is back starting and playing on the outside. He didn't light it up last year to be sure, but let's not forget that he went to the Pro Bowl in 2009. Rodgers-Cromartie has the talent to be more than just a starter. He can be a star corner if he is comfortable, confident, and plays up to his potential. It might be a good time to work on a contract extension for him.

* Mychal Kendricks looks like the real deal. I don't want to jinx this because it has been so long since a rookie linebacker panned out for the Eagles, but I really can't wait to see him play in a game. Kendricks has the speed to cover lots of ground, but has also been a tough, physical player at Lehigh. The best compliment you can give to him is that he doesn't look like a rookie.

* An injury to Brent Celek opened the door for backup tight ends Clay Harbor and Brett Brackett. Both guys have stepped up in a big way. Harbor had an issue with drops in the spring, but that isn't the case at Lehigh. He's catching the ball well and looks confident. Brackett is a natural pass catcher and runs well for a guy that is 250 pounds. We still need to see if he can block well enough to make the team.

* Rookie corners Brandon Boykin and Cliff Harris are off to a good start. Boykin is NFL ready and it shows in how complete his game is, even though he's just a rookie. Harris is a playmaker with good cover skills. He makes things happen. I've been pleasantly surprised by his speed. Keeping up with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin isn't easy.

* Speaking of receivers, Riley Cooper getting hurt gave extra reps to a lot of young guys. Several of them have taken advantage. Marvin McNutt is playing well, after failing to shine in the OTAs. Undrafted rookie Damaris Johnson is playing like he expects to make the team. Jamel Hamler was on the practice squad for part of last year and he's impressed this summer. Even Tiger Jones (from the Philadelphia Soul) has looked good.

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