Firing Juan Castillo Doesn't Fix Eagles' Real Problems

Firing Juan Castillo Doesn't Fix Eagles' Real Problems

There are a lot of numbers being thrown around today. Here are two you may not have heard yet: 54 seconds and 23 yards.

54 seconds is the amount of time the Eagles' offense managed to eat up while clinging to a three-point lead on their final possession of the fourth quarter on Sunday. 23 yards is all the distance the Lions needed to travel to kick a game-winning field goal in overtime.

Say what you will about Juan Castillo. The decision to promote him to defensive coordinator may not have been the wisest. Maybe he truly was in over his head. Either way, his firing on Tuesday morning was the very definition of scapegoating.

There is no disputing that his defense's performance over the final 19 minutes on Sunday was a disgrace, as they allowed 20 points in their opponent's final five possessions. To say the offense didn't have a big hand in the collapse would be completely false though.

Marty Mornhinweg gift-wrapped a Lions fourth-quarter comeback when he called not one, but two clock-killing plays on a drive in the final minutes that did not produce a single first down. Michael Vick put a bow on the victory when he went backwards and lost 21 yards in the extra period, forcing the Eagles to punt from the back of their own end zone.

Vick's three turnovers didn't help matters either, one of which was an interception where he missed badly on an opportunity to hit DeSean Jackson deep for six.

Or we can go back to last week in Pittsburgh, where the Eagles held the Steelers to 16 total points in their building, where Vick lost two fumbles, one on the goal line. We can all count. Those points would've helped.

So while it's become fashionable to point out the defense has blown seven fourth-quarter leads under Castillo in 22 games, what always seems to get lost in that statistic is the anatomy of the comeback. We dissected the five meltdowns in 2011, and found many of the same extenuating circumstances existed on offense and special teams -- surrendering field position, giving the ball away, and leaving points on the field.

All anybody might choose to remember is the defense had a chance to put a lid on some (not necessarily all) of those games in the end. Regardless, the fact is Juan Castillo did not lose these games -- the Eagles lost them.

Which is why the cycle will not end with Todd Bowles' ascension to defensive coordinator. Philadelphia's defense is allowing 18.8 points per game. The offense is scoring 17.2 points per game, and has turned the ball over an astounding 17 times. How is this change going to correct that?

The simple answer is it's not. It's a rare desperation move by Andy Reid that does nothing to address the true problems his team has. The defense? Ha. That was the least of my worries heading into this bye week.

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

It’s time for the dress rehearsal.

For the most part, preseason games don’t give us a great idea of how a team will do during the regular season, but at least the third game can sometimes offer a glimpse because starters play the most in this game.

After last year’s preseason Game 3 against the Packers, when it looked like nothing was going to stop Sam Bradford and the Eagles from going to the Super Bowl, hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson. In that game, Bradford looked like Joe Montana and Chip Kelly looked like Bill Walsh. Turns out they were just Bradford and Chipper.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to watch Saturday night. Here are 10 players to keep an eye on:

WR Dorial Green-Beckham
DGB played a little bit last week in Pittsburgh and was targeted twice, but now he’s been with the team for a week and should have a better grasp of the offense. He’ll get some run with the first-team offense, which should be fun to watch. Physically, Green-Beckham is a freak. He’s 6-foot-5, 230, and ran a 4.49 in the 40 coming into the league last year. He has a skillset unlike anyone else on the team and unlike many in the league.

OL Stefen Wisniewski
Because rookie Isaac Seumalo is out Saturday night with a pec injury, the veteran Wisniewski is filling in. Wisniewski has started each of his 77 career NFL games since entering the league and doesn’t want the streak to end. He views Saturday as an audition to win the starting job, although Doug Pederson said he won’t strip Seumalo of his starting gig because of injury. Even if Wisniewski isn’t a starter, he’s still the top backup at all three interior linemen positions.

CB Leodis McKelvin
McKelvin hasn’t done a ton to impress during training camp or in the first two preseason games, but he’s still clearly a starting cornerback on this team — even though Nolan Carroll has looked better early. It’s important to watch McKelvin because you know what’s coming: a division with Dez, Odell, DeSean and others.

RB Wendell Smallwood
After suffering a quad injury in camp, this will finally be Smallwood’s first NFL game action. The time he missed was significant, but he still likely has a roster spot locked up. The biggest thing he needs to show Saturday is the ability to pass block. If he’s unable, it’ll keep him off the field this season.

QB Sam Bradford
I probably don’t need to tell you to watch the starting quarterback, but I am anyway. The first-team offense didn’t do much to alleviate any fears last week in Pittsburgh. Bradford partially blamed it on purposeful vanilla game-planning because the Eagles face the Steelers in Week 3. That’s probably somewhat fair, but fans probably want to see a little more production from the unit.

LB Mychal Kendricks
A hamstring injury has kept Kendricks out until this point of the preseason, but he should be good to go Saturday. The oft-injured Kendricks was probably one of the more frustrating players on the 2015 team. He has plenty of talent, but needs to finally put it all together. This is our first look at him in the new defense.

WR Paul Turner
The future Hall of Famer is pushing hard for a roster spot. He’s been good during camp and the preseason, but his lack of versatility could hurt him. He’s a slot receiver and the Eagles already have a pretty good one in Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff could be OK in that spot, too. Turner’s pushing for a spot is a result of his play paired with the struggling group.

TE Chris Pantale
Earlier this week, Pederson still seemed committed to keeping four tight ends, which would mean Pantale’s roster spot is safe. It’s fair to wonder, though, if he’s worth a roster spot, especially if Trey Burton is at least somewhat capable of playing fullback. That lead blocker role is why Pantale is still in the mix, so we’ll have to see how much Pederson uses it on Saturday.

LB Stephen Tulloch
Tulloch is 31, coming off an offseason ankle surgery and just joined the team recently. How much does the middle linebacker have left to give? It’s pretty clear he’s coming to Philly to be a backup for now, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can prove himself to the point where he warrants playing time. Knowing Jim Schwartz’s defense should allow him to jump in quicker than another player off the street.

WR Rueben Randle/Chris Givens
A two-for-one deal! I’m lumping these two together because they’re in similar situations. Both signed one-year “prove-it” deals, but what have they proven so far? With the addition of Green-Beckham and with the solid play of Turner, it looks like one or both of these veterans could be in danger of being left off the 53-man roster.

Best of MLB: Bryant homers twice, Cubs spoil Ruiz's Dodgers debut

Best of MLB: Bryant homers twice, Cubs spoil Ruiz's Dodgers debut

LOS ANGELES -- Kris Bryant hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the 10th inning to go with an earlier solo shot, lifting the Chicago Cubs over the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 on Friday night in the series opener between NL division leaders.

Bryant's 35th homer capped a comeback from an earlier two-run deficit and extended the Cubs' winning streak to four games. Chicago fans chanted "MVP! MVP!" as Bryant scored behind Dexter Fowler, who singled leading off.

Chicago improved to 19-4 in August while earning its major league-leading 82nd victory.

Travis Wood (4-0) got the victory with one inning of relief. Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the 10th to earn his 10th save.

Adam Liberatore (2-1) took the loss, allowing two runs and four hits in one inning (see full recap).

Mariners overcome Sale's 14 K's to beat White Sox
CHICAGO -- Chris Sale struck out 14 but got outpitched by Felix Hernandez and the Seattle bullpen, and the Mariners ended a three-game skid Friday night by beating the Chicago White Sox 3-1.

Hernandez (9-4) improved to 5-0 in eight starts since returning from the disabled list, throwing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Sale (15-7) gave up five hits and walked none in his fifth complete game of the season. He retired the final 16 batters, striking out 10 of them.

Sale struck out six straight in the sixth and seventh innings, one shy of Joe Cowley's team record.

Franklin Gutierrez hit a solo home run and Adam Lind added an RBI double off Sale.

Todd Frazier's 32nd home run in the seventh was one of eight hits off Hernandez until he left with the bases loaded (see full recap).

Gonzalez earns 100th win as Nationals top Rockies
WASHINGTON -- Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy hit solo homers and drove in two runs each, and Gio Gonzalez earned his 100th career victory as the Washington Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies 8-5 on Friday night.

Gonzalez (9-9) threw six innings and allowed two runs and four hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Mark Melancon retired Christhian Adames for the final out. Melancon entered the game shortly after Nick Hundley hit a three-run homer off Shawn Kelley to pull the Rockies within three.

While Gonzalez hit the century mark, Rockies rookie Jeff Hoffman (0-2), remains in search of his first major league win (see full recap).

Best of NFL: Tom Brady on target, leads Patriots to win in preseason debut

Best of NFL: Tom Brady on target, leads Patriots to win in preseason debut

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tom Brady looked sharp in his preseason debut, throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan in helping the New England Patriots to a 19-17 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.

Brady relieved Jimmy Garoppolo late in the first quarter and completed a 37-yard pass to Aaron Dobson on his first play from scrimmage, leading to a field goal. On his second drive Brady heaved a perfectly placed over-the-shoulder pass to Hogan down the right sideline for a 9-0 lead. Brady's other two drives failed to produce points.

While Brady was on the mark, league MVP Cam Newton struggled mightily in his most extensive playing time of the preseason. Newton was intercepted twice and the Panthers failed to get any points on his eight first-half possessions. Overall, the Panthers scored just three points in 10 Newton-led drives.

The sixth-year quarterback was high on some passes and didn't get much help from his receivers, who had problems getting separation and dropped four passes, including one by Brenton Bersin on a fourth-and-2 at midfield.

New England's defense shut down the league's highest-scoring offense from a year ago. They also intercepted Derek Anderson and allowed only one passing play of more than 15 yards in the first half.

Garoppolo, expected to start the first four games for the Patriots while Brady serves a suspension for his role in "Deflategate," returned in the second quarter but couldn't get anything going.

In the third quarter he rolled out of the pocket while under pressure and missed an open receiver who'd gotten behind the defense. His six drives resulted in no points, although Stephen Gostkowski missed a 30-yard field goal on the New England's opening possession (see full recap).

Redskins overcome slow start to beat Bills
LANDOVER, Md. -- Kirk Cousins found a groove and undrafted rookie running back Robert Kelley made the most of his chance and the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 21-16 Friday night in the third preseason game.

With the Bills (1-2) resting almost their entire starting defense, Cousins overcame a rough start to finish 12 of 23 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Despite coming mostly against Buffalo's second- and third-stringers, it was an important recovery for Cousins, who had thrown only five passes in the preseason and didn't play last week in an effort to test backup Colt McCoy.

Kelley ran for 51 yards on 12 carries in a personal showcase with Matt Jones and Chris Thompson out and after seventh-round pick Keith Marshall sprained his left elbow on his only carry of the game.

Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor played only two series, by coach Rex Ryan's design, going 2 of 5 for 11 yards before being replaced by E.J. Manuel.

Ryan also opted to rest running back LeSean McCoy and several key defenders, including defensive tackle Kyle Williams, linebacker Jerry Hughes and cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore.

Coach Jay Gruden took a more conventional dress-rehearsal approach to the third preseason game for the Redskins (2-1) and got the kind of performances he'd like to see from top players such as tight end Jordan Reed, receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, left tackle Trent Williams and cornerback Josh Norman.

Reed, Garcon and receiver Ryan Grant each caught a touchdown pass from Cousins, and Norman looked sharp on defense along with second-year linebacker Preston Smith and lineman Ziggy Hood (see full recap).

Roethlisberger shreds defense in Steelers' win over Saints
NEW ORLEANS -- Ben Roethlisberger torched New Orleans' defense for 148 yards and two touchdown passes on his first two series of this preseason, then got the rest of the game off while the Steelers rolled to a 27-14 victory over the Saints on Friday night.

Roethlisberger, who sat out of the first two preseason games, opened by leading a 14-play, 76-yard drive on which he converted two third downs and found tight end Jesse James for a 5-yard score. His next series was highlighted by his 57-yard scoring pass down the left sideline to Antonio Brown, also playing for the first time this preseason. The Steelers star finished with 12 completions on 17 attempts.

Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell also made his preseason debut, gaining 21 yards on three carries, but his lost fumble in the second quarter -- forced by cornerback Delvin Breaux and recovered by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe -- led to Drew Brees' only TD pass. Brees' strike went to Willie Snead, who made a difficult juggling catch as he landed on his back following a collision near the back of the end zone.

Brees had a difficult night behind a struggling offensive line. It didn't help that starting left tackle Terron Armstead left the field unexpectedly in the first half for undisclosed reasons. Brees completed 9 of 12 passes, but for only 78 yards. One of his better throws connected with newly acquired tight end Coby Fleener for 26 yards, but it was called back for holding on Armstead.

The Saints have dropped all three preseason games.

Steelers backup Landry Jones went 19 of 22 for 206 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates. He also completed a 58-yard pass to Coates to set up Chris Boswell's 40-yard field goal (see full recap).