As the offensive line coach of the Eagles, Juan Castillo had a knack for turning players who weren't highly regarded coming out of college into productive NFL starters. Center Jamaal Jackson and guard Nick Cole, both signed as rookie free agents by the Eagles, were two players on this past year's team who are evidence of this.
New offensive line coach Howard Mudd has been able to work wonders with similar players during what head coach Andy Reid considers a "Hall of Fame caliber" career, according.
One of those players is five-time Pro Bowl and two-time first-team All-Pro selection Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts. Originally signed by the Ravens as a rookie free agent, Saturday landed with the Colts one year later in 1999. Mudd arrived in Indianapolis one year prior to Saturday's arrival. Saturday provided CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank a first-hand account about the coach's impact on him, the team and what Eagles fans can expect.
"The year before Howard came to the Colts, we gave up (62) sacks. And then his first year in Indianapolis, we gave up (22)," Saturday said. "I fully expect the same thing to happen with the Eagles this year."
The Eagles gave up 49 sacks last season. The left side of the line with Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters and top alternate Todd Herremans at guard is sound. Mike McGlynn filled in admirably at center after Jackson's season-ending triceps injury in the season opener. The right guard position was a revolving door and Winston Justice at right tackle had his ups and downs.
"He'll make an immediate impact on that line. He specializes in solving problems. That's what he likes to do. Face a challenge and find a way to solve it," Saturday said of Mudd. "I guarantee you one thing – the Eagles won't give 50 sacks next year."
Mudd spoke earlier this week about the challenge of working with a quarterback like Michael Vick who can run with the ball. Mudd's quarterback in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning, is the extreme opposite of Vick in terms of mobility.
"I think our responsibility is that there is a throwing spot back there and if he makes a decision to take off and run somewhere, that's his decision to make. Let's get the first spot protected and let him be comfortable at that spot, keep the pressure off him at that spot," Mudd said. "If the guy gets loose, let's only make it one guy. If he can use his athleticism to make plays for some other reason, or if everyone is covered and he makes plays, we're going to protect one spot. If you start worrying about where he's going to go, you're going to grab a hold of somebody's shirt and you'll have a holding penalty. Let him do what he does and we'll do what we do."
Saturday appreciated the fact that Mudd didn't care about draft status or anything like that once the players got out on the practice field. Saturday knows his career is what it is because of Mudd.
"I know my career would never have been anything like the way it's been if it hadn't been for him. He'll work 'em hard, and rest assured, the Eagles will have a better offensive line next year because of Howard," Saturday said. "He'll be driving his guys every minute to be the best they can be. One thing he can't tolerate is a guy who's not putting in the time or the effort."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 6:00 p.m., February 12