In Other Words, I Think Juan Castillo Should Be Brought Back

In Other Words, I Think Juan Castillo Should Be Brought Back

I'm not going to lie, defending Juan Castillo has become something of a pet project of mine. Since the defense blew its first fourth-quarter lead way back in Week 2, I've maintained the issues weren't all on that side of the ball, that any attempt to paint it as such was misinformed or disingenuous, perhaps both.

Since then, I've shown you how field position backed them into a corner. I've proven that offensive giveaways were the biggest difference makers, and tied giveaways to winning throughout the league. Finally, I demonstrated in great detail how field position, giveaways and additional miscues -- putrid short yardage and red zone offense, issues on special teams, and individual mistakes largely unrelated to coaching -- were epidemic in all five of the Eagles' blown leads this season.

Now I'm here to tell you that, faced with all of those problems, not to mention saddled with inexperienced and/or ineffective linebackers and safeties, Juan Castillo did an incredible job. He did an incredible job, not just for a first-year coordinator, not just for an offensive line coach.

He did an incredible job with what he was given to work with, period.

Am I making the case Castillo is an elite defensive coordinator right now? No, but I would make the case that, based on what he accomplished this season, he could become one. Despite finishing with the second-most turnovers in the NFL, the Eagles' defense ranked 10th in points allowed. That may not sound all that sexy, but it's impressive considering how many of those 38 turnovers amounted to free points, and the many more that could have had the defense not bailed them out occasionally.

In what games did the defense even perform poorly? Eight times this season, they held their opponent to 21 points or less. Only three times did they allow more than 24, since interceptions were returned for touchdowns against Buffalo and Seattle. If I would have told you before the season began the Eagles were going to allow 24 points or less in 13 games, how many games would you have guessed they would win, returning the entire core of their most prolific offense in franchise history?

The three teams that surpassed the 24-point threshold: the Falcons, Giants, and Patriots. The Eagles aided Atlanta and New York wins with, no surprise, poor red zone production and turnovers on offense, while New England whipped the Eagles when they were missing Michael Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha, among others. And frankly, Tom Brady makes a lot of defensive coordinators look foolish.

I reject the idea that this was somehow a horrible showing for the defense. In fact, no measurement conventional or otherwise indicates this was an overall bad defense. They're ranked eighth by the NFL standard, yards. Football Outsiders has them 12th in DVOA. ProFootballFocus.com has them fourth based on cumulative individual scores.

Obviously, something isn't quite adding up here. You are being led to believe this was an incompetent defense desperately in need of new leadership, yet somehow, amazingly they also had one of the better units in the league. What a terrible job that Castillo has done!

What's more, I am starting to believe, contrary to what has been reported, that the Eagles are not searching for a new defensive coordinator at all. The only name the club has been tied to is Steve Spagnuolo, and not a peep has come out of the organization regarding those rumors. As far as I can tell, they're based entirely on the premise that he is available, he has roots in Philadelphia, fans have heard of him, and everybody in the world has determined Castillo is inept, rather prematurely at that.

I doubt Andy Reid has come to the same conclusion about a man with whom he has worked with for 13 years, nor has Spagnuolo for that matter, who called Castillo's promotion a 'great move' only a year ago. "Juan is a football junkie who has always studied the entire game. He's a detailed, aggressive, and passionate football coach -- all attributes vital to coaching defense. I wish him all the best."

Maybe it's just because this was the easy, neatly packaged story line of the offseason -- Offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator winds up Reid's scapegoat after five fourth-quarter leads slip away in disappointing 2011 -- but there really doesn't seem to be any great desire to go back and actually break down and reflect on what transpired this season.

Because if that's all you've got -- those five team losses, and a predisposition to an unconventional coaching hire -- that's awfully thin for torches and pitchforks, my friends. What you are saying is the game of football could not possibly be more complex than a team gave some leads away, and that was strictly a defensive problem, one that begins and ends with having an inexperienced defensive coordinator.

Me? I'd like to see how last summer's additions improve with another year in the system. I'd like to see what Juan can do with a big-time playmaker or two at linebacker. I'd like to see what he could do with a full offseason to teach their young talent.

I'd like to see how far the Eagles could go when their offense and special teams stop holding them back.

Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya's 1st MLS goal not enough in draw with Toronto FC

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Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya's 1st MLS goal not enough in draw with Toronto FC

TORONTO -- Justin Morrow scored in the 70th minute and Toronto FC salvaged a point with a 1-1 draw with the Union on Saturday night.

Morrow made a run from his left back position, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio laid the ball off to Morrow for a tight-angle shot. Toronto (13-8-9) had its second straight home tie,

Alejandro Bedoya scored for Philadelphia (11-11-9) in the 25th minute. Bedoya took a pass from Fabian Herbers with his back to the Toronto goal, quickly spun past the Toronto back line and chipped a shot that looped over goalkeeper Clint Irwin.

Penn State routed by No. 4 Michigan at The Big House

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Penn State routed by No. 4 Michigan at The Big House

BOX SCORE

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- De'Veon Smith led an overwhelming ground game with 107 yards rushing and a touchdown and Karan Higdon ran for two scores and No. 4 Michigan routed Penn State 49-10 on Saturday in both teams' Big Ten opener.

The Wolverines scored six touchdowns on the ground as they finished with 326 yards rushing. Wilton Speight threw one touchdown pass.

Michigan (4-0) dominated both sides of the ball. Penn State (2-2) has lost three straight to the Wolverines.

Jabrill Peppers gave the fans an early thrill by returning Penn State's first punt to the 9, although a bench-interference penalty moved the ball to the Nittany Lions 24. Seven plays later, Khalid Hill dove in on 4th-and-goal from the 1.

The Wolverines also scored touchdowns on their next two drives. Penn State finally got a couple stops, but the Wolverines took a 28-0 halftime lead on Higdon's 2-yard run.

The Nittany Lions got on the board with a field goal early in the third, but Chris Evans made it 35-3 with a 3-yard run and the Wolverines cruised to the win.

The takeaway
Penn State: The Nittany Lions came into the Big House without any of their starting linebackers then lost Brandon Smith to a second-quarter targeting penalty. That left the Penn State defense helpless against Michigan's running game and short passes. The offense was even worse, putting up 50 yards in the first half. Saquon Barkley had 19 yards rushing and caught two passes for 47 yards, but the rest of the team combined for minus-16.

Michigan: The Wolverines dominated in the trenches, with their defensive line continuously overrunning Penn State's offensive line. They registered five sacks while building their first-half lead and Speight had all the time he needed.

Poll implications
Michigan: The Wolverines came in at No. 4 and there seems little chance that will change much with No. 1 Alabama winning earlier in the day in a blowout and No. 2 Ohio State on a bye.

Up next
Penn State: Returns to Happy Valley for the first of three straight home games. The Nittany Lions face Minnesota next Saturday in the Golden Gophers' first trip to Penn State since 2009.

Michigan: Plays its fifth-straight game at the Big House to open the season, but will have a tougher test against Wisconsin. The 11th-ranked Badgers routed No. 8 Michigan State 30-6 in East Lansing.