Around the League will examine one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Next up: The Philadelphia Eagles.
Under Pressure: Juan Castillo
During a trouble-filled campaign in Philadelphia last season, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo came under fire from the first whistle. Against cries from the masses, Eagles coach Andy Reid is giving Castillo a second chance on the job in 2012.
"You never forget that, as long as you live," Castillo recently said of Reid's belief in him, per the Philadelphia Daily News. "You'd take a bullet for him, you know? Just like he does for us."
There were times last year when Castillo appeared to have nobody but Reid to cling to. Castillo settled in, however, and by season's end, we saw the Eagles defense come together during a four-game win streak.
Castillo remains in place as coordinator, which might come as a bigger surprise than anything else in Philadelphia. For this to last through the season, Castillo must prove he's an asset out of the gate. No wiggle room and no excuses, and here's why:
1. A complete offseason: The lockout arguably damaged Castillo's growth as much as any coordinator in the league. Let's remember, he shifted to defense after having served as an Eagles offensive aide since 1995. Unable to use the offseason to mold and work with his existing roster -- not to mention the imported, big-name free agents -- the team was a scattered circus early on. This isn't the NBA. Meshing the roster takes time. Football's the ultimate team sport, and the Eagles failed to play cohesively on defense for much of the year. With a full offseason to prepare, Castillo has been given every advantage his peers enjoy. The "newbie" card won't fly in 2012.
2. A fortified roster: The Eagles used the draft to bolster the front line of their aggressive 4-3 base scheme. If rookies Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry contribute, this D-line could be among the league's best. Philly also brought in DeMeco Ryans and added young talent at linebacker to turn that position group around. (While we're at it: Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be more at home next season.) Many coordinators around the league would trade their lineup for Castillo's.
3. Internal pressure: Around the League's Gregg Rosenthal brought up the presence of Todd Bowles. The team's new defensive backfield aide closed last season as Miami's interim head coach and earned league-wide respect for his work down the stretch, guiding the Dolphins to a 2-1 record. He is viewed as a teacher and motivator and looms as a wild card here. If Castillo stumbles, don't be shocked to see Bowles replace him. Too many jobs are on the line, and Castillo's name sits at the top of the list.