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. 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.

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.
Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential?
And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams?
A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.
When I started looking at the data and breaking down what’s worthwhile and what’s shall we say, is worthless, it became pretty clear that this should not be a one-person job.
So I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders who each bring a different but valuable perspective to the ranking of players.
And so the only thing that made sense was to take all of our rankings, compile them together and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.
The scoring for this is pretty simple.
Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from Nos. 1-25. Their No. 1 pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and so on.
Here is the first CSN Top 25 NBA Players list, in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.
25. Al Horford, Boston (19 points)
“You can find others with better stats not on this list, but Horford’s track record of success in Atlanta (playoff trips every year he was there, five trips out of the first round in eight postseasons he played in) makes him worthy of being a top-25 player in the NBA.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
24. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (22)
“He can’t shoot free throws, but he can rebound and play defense with the best of them. Jordan didn’t deserve his All-NBA first team selection, but he’s still a high quality long as Chris Paul is tossing up lobs.” – James Ham
23. Andre Drummond, Detroit (23)
“An emerging center who’s the league’s second-best finisher and rebounder, and without that free-throw problem, he would be higher. But … how close to his ceiling is he already?” – Vincent Goodwill
22. Marc Gasol, Memphis (24)
“One of the best passing big men in the game and also one of its best defenders. Has a soft shooting touch and off-the-charts basketball IQ.” – Jason Quick
t-20. Kyle Lowry, Toronto (32)
“Lowry came into the 2015-16 in the best shape of his career. The result was a career year and a two seed in the Eastern Conference. At 30, Lowry may have peaked, but if he can hold this level for another year or two, the Raptors will continue to post 50-plus wins.” – James Ham
t-20. Carmelo Anthony, New York (32)
“One of the more complete scorers but hard to evaluate as he hits the back end of his career; Probably the last season as a primary player on a good team, if the Knicks are to be one.” – Vincent Goodwill
19. John Wall, Washington (42)
“After being All-Defense two years ago, Wall fell off because of bad knees that required surgery on May 5 and yet he still averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season. At 6-4, a big, physical point guard with top-notch speed. Improved mid-range shooter off the bounce but still not a threat in catch-and-shoot situations or from the three-point arc.” – J. Michael
18. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (56)
“Coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 35 games, Griffin still has a ways to go in diversifying his game. Fixing his footwork would help as would moving the ball quicker to create for teammates, but now he's trying to extend his range to the three-point arc. That can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.” – J. Michael
17. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota (63)
“The potential is frightening. Towns burst into the league last season and performed well-beyond his rookie year. He enters his second season with a dominating skill set and a year of wisdom from Kevin Garnett.” – Jessica Camerato 
16. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio (65)
“Owns deadly combination of inside moves and silky mid-range shot, which includes an unblock able turnaround jumper.  Also an above-average defender who can block a shot then beat his man down the court.” – Jason Quick
15. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (75)
“One of the best two-way players in basketball, perhaps the most unlikely player this high on this list. Is there another leap in performance for a guy who’s made three already in his career?” – Vincent Goodwill
14. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland (82)
“His playoff run and more importantly, Finals performance, showed he’s the perfect complement to LeBron James. Not a pure point, but perhaps the best scorer ever at the point guard position.” – Vincent Goodwill
13. Klay Thompson, Golden State (89)
Comment: “Cold-blooded shooter from deep has the temerity to play fabulous defense on the opponent’s more dangerous backcourt player. A two-way All-Star.” – Monte Poole
12. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (96)
“Cousins will take note of his ranking and treat each of us accordingly. He too has a list. And we are all now on it. He’s the best big in the game and he’s primed for the biggest season of his career.” – James Ham
11. James Harden, Houston (101)
“He could get just about any shot he wanted to in the past, and now that he’s going to be the starting point guard, there’s no reason why this guy shouldn’t lead the league in scoring, handily.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
10. Damian Lillard, Portland (102)
“A superb leader who makes everyone in his locker room better, Lillard is also a fearless shooter who craves the big shot. Needs to improve his defense and his shooting percentages, but is emerging as one of the game’s best playmakers.” – Jason Quick
9. Anthony Davis, New Orleans (103)
“Davis, a double-double machine, is returning from injury. Will he play more than 70 games for the first time in his career? It remains to be seen how much Davis will help the Pelicans improve from their 30-win season.” – Jessica Camerato 
8. Draymond Green, Golden State (115)
“At 6-7, can defend an All-NBA center such as DeAndre Jordan or switch onto an elite point guard such as Chris Paul and win those battles. Green isn't a system player. He is the system for Golden State, which allows the other All-Stars on the team to prosper while he does a lot of the dirty work.” – J. Michael  
7. Paul George, Indiana (129)
“Can score, rebound, defend and now with a clean bill of health, George and his retooled Pacers teammates will be a force in the East this season.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (134)
“An elite defender and floor general, the nine-time All-Star is also probably one of the NBA’s best competitors, which rubs off on his team. At age 31, the question is how much longer can he continue to check the young point guards?” – Jason Quick
5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (149)
“Leonard's impact on the Spurs will be magnified this season following the retirement of Tim Duncan. Look for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to try to get his team back atop the West.  – Jessica Camerato
t-3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (155)
“Tied for 3rd with his new arch nemesis? Westbrook will statistically flourish in his new role as King of the Dust Bowl. It may not lead him to a Western Conference showdown against Durant and his Warriors, but it’s hard to count him out.” – James Ham 
t-3. Kevin Durant, Golden State (155)
“Famous for scoring from deep, he is deadly on the block, a default rim protector, the best rebounding small forward alive and has a full grasp of the team game.” – Monte Poole
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State (162)
“Back-to-back MVP, including first unanimous winner, his incredible shooting range stretches defenses like no one we’ve ever seen. A legitimate game-changer. – Monte Poole
1. LeBron James, Cleveland  (175)
“DJ Khaled’s “All I do is win” hit from 2010 really should be the soundtrack to LeBron James’ career which now includes title bling in two cities – Miami (2 titles) and Cleveland – that could not be any more different. Hands down, he’s the best in the game right now.” – A. Sherrod Blakely 

Others receiving votes: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto (15 points); Mike Conley, Memphis (15); Paul Millsap, Atlanta (14); Hassan Whiteside, Miami (13); Isaiah Thomas, Boston (8); Gordon Hayward, Utah (7); Chris Bosh, Miami (3).

Thunder's Steven Adams presents towering challenge for Joel Embiid, Sixers

Thunder's Steven Adams presents towering challenge for Joel Embiid, Sixers

When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for the West Coast, he left more behind than just Russell Westbrook. There still is a dominating seven-footer in the lane for the Thunder, one the Sixers will have to tangle with on opening night.

Steven Adams has developed into a threat at the basket. Now entering his fourth year, the 23-year-old averaged 8.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks last season. The expectations for this campaign are higher for Adams. He posted 14.7 points, 7.0 boards and 1.3 blocks in preseason play.

“He’s one of the elite centers in this league because he’s got a disposition as a killer,” Brett Brown said at Sixers practice this week. “He is a committed offensive rebounder. He runs like a wing, and he’s what, seven-foot, 200-and-whatever pounds. He’s got a mentality that he does want to get under your skin,” Brown said.

“There is a discipline that you have to show when you play somebody like that.”

Defending Adams will be a test in physicality for Joel Embiid in his NBA regular season debut. Adams weighs in at 255 points, Embiid above 270. The two have known each other for years through their agent. 

“I think where he’s most dangerous is the first three seconds running and when he goes to the offensive boards,” Brown said. “This is the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA, and with Russell Westbrook it’s a wrecking ball just trying to go through the whole team if he feels like it. I think that getting back in transition is A-number one, and a close second is finishing plays with defensive rebounding.” 

The Sixers plan to defend Westbrook by committee, and they will put multiple players on Adams as well. Embiid will be capped at 20 minutes. Jahlil Okafor (knee) will come off the bench with restricted playing time. Richaun Holmes will round out the coverage at the five spot.