Juan Castillo has a simple message for all of his detractors.
"Remember, we are in Week 4. The team that wins the Super Bowl is the hottest come December and January," Castillo said. "Remember that when I say that."
Castillo fully understands that after having his players for only 11 weeks since the start of training camp there are going to learning experiences that he can draw from in his first year as defensive coordinator. One of those is how he's utilizing All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Asomugha's numbers have been solid in 2011. He has only been targeted 13 times and given up seven catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. He has 12 tackles, one interception and a pair of pass knockdowns.
In the loss to the 49ers last Sunday, Asomugha did bite on a double move as he gave up a deep pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. However, in the wake of the Eagles' third straight loss in which they gave up a fourth-quarter lead it is being questioned why Asomugha isn't assigned to play exclusive man coverage to take away the other team's best receiving threat whether it is Crabtree or their Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis.
Castillo admitted to trying to do too much with the Eagles' prized free agent.
"Really when he first came here, I thought, 'Here's a guy who I can use like (Packers cornerback Charles) Woodson. Here's somebody who can line up anywhere.' That's what we've been doing. You saw him last week on Vernon and he did a good job. I probably could've put him on (Falcons tight end) Tony (Gonzalez) with different situations, and those are some of the things that I want to be able to do with him. Bring him off the edge and do a lot of things with him," Castillo said.
"He's a special guy, but again, you talk about things that hurt. Those are packages that would have got a lot of reps in the offseason. I have to be careful with that because Nnamdi is human. He's a great person, but he's human. I have to do a better job handling him. I think what happens, too, with me is that I have to remember he's human."
Asomugha was known for playing an extensive amount of man coverage with his previous team in Oakland. Castillo said that there are times when it looks like man coverage because Asomugha might press at the line, but it's indeed a zone concept.
Castillo has been busy this week figuring out how to utilize Asomugha and his entire arsenal of weapons against the league's fourth-best scoring offense in the Bills. The Bills run a spread offense and feature one of the league's best all-around backs in Fred Jackson. The Eagles rank 30th in run defense, but Castillo insists that his scheme can succeed against the ground attack.
"You need get in your gap and you need to be able to stop the run. We've gotten into different stages and different games where we've been able to stop the run. All of the sudden, we've been in certain situations – we had a man blitz the other night and we had a late read, and bam, he busts out for a few yards," Castillo said. "To be able to say that someone is just getting their butts kicked is not right, but that's part of the coaching part and part of the correctable things that we feel good about. That's what will get corrected. So when the guys get more experience, they'll understand where they fit in different formations."
Castillo only has to look at another former Eagles assistant to see how it takes time to get a new defense on track. Steve Spagnuolo was a first-year coordinator in New York and the Giants gave up 80 points in the first two games of the season. But the Giants won three of their final five games entering the playoffs and then four straight in the postseason to win the Super Bowl.
Hopefully, the Eagles can be the hottest team in December and January.
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