In 2011, Eagles coach Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Sean McDermott because the shadow of Jim Johnson was deemed to be too big. McDermott would fit more than comfortably in the shadow created to date by his successor, Juan Castillo.
But that could change in 2012. With a full season under his belt — and now a full offseason of preparation (which Castillo didn’t have last year), the Eagles defense could be much improved under the former long-time offensive line coach.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer takes a close look at the situation, explaining there are and will be no excuses if the defense struggles in 2012.
“I get it, man,” Castillo said, per McLane. ”But last year’s gone. It’s about this year. It’s about us getting off to a good start, and starting where we left off last year.”
They left off in a good place last year, digging out of a 4-8 hole with a quartet of consecutive wins to end the season, missing the playoffs by only one game. The defense improved as the season unfolded, which made sense given that a bunch of new parts were thrown together after the lockout ended, with only a handful of weeks to prepare under a new coordinator with various new defensive lineman and new linebackers and new defensive backs.
This year, Castillo has a new approach to the classroom. In order to ensure that the players pay closer attention to what he’s saying, he has installed large, eye-level photos of various defensive players making plays.
“You’re young. You’re in a classroom. Your mind drifts, and what do you do?” Castillo said when explaining the approach during the offseason. ”Your head dips and you start looking down. I want their eyes up looking at me.”
But here’s the thing. They won’t be looking at him. They’ll be looking at the pictures. And if they have to strain to understand Castillo, who speaks with a fairly thick accent, they’ll do their daydreaming not while looking down, but while looking at the pictures Castillo has placed on the wall.
Still, Castillo ended up doing something right last year, because the defense definitely improved as the year went on. The question is whether it will continue to improve this year — and whether the team will improve enough to get Castillo a third season. And/or to get Reid a 15th.