Juan Castillo and the 2011 Eagles, Part I: Uh-Oh.

This is basically a book. It's gonna be two posts; most of my thoughts about the team right now are gonna be in the second one after I finish the recap. I've gotta get some stuff out. Deal with it.

It all starts on February 2nd, 2011. Juan Castillo, once hired as on offensive assistant, then as tight ends coach, then finally offensive line where he has been since 1998, the year before Andy came to town, was named the man who could save the defense from the mediocrity of Sean McDermott's tenure.



Wait, what?

Here's the thing about hiring an Offensive Line coach to be your D. Coordinator in February in a year when you're not even sure if the season is going to start on time: it looks absolutely insane on paper. Forget about the fact that someone who has an intimate knowledge of offensive line play might know a thing or two about defensive line play by association. The take-home is: Juan was an offensive coach. Offensive coaches coach offense, not defense, and he was asked to take over this defense, this year-- the year we were supposed to win the Super Bowl.

In spite of that minor note, he took the job. This is a guy who feels like he owes a lot to Andy and this organization, and I'm sure it's not a decision he took lightly. It's not a good personal move and more importantly not a good career move to take a job where you think you will fail. The Eagles front office and coaching staff, both of which have been objectively successful since 2000, wouldn't offer this job to someone they think will fail. Both sides thought it would work. The optimist in me thought it might work, and that it wasn't as crazy as it looked.

In training camp, this happened:



Passion! Blue-Collar! Heart! These are the attributes we have all craved around the team, and especially in our coaches, for such a long time and we were finally seeing it in action. I remember being pretty excited about this. It looked like Juan was trying to overcome the short offseason and all the new personnel on the defense through hard work, dedication, and headbutting dudes who have helmets on. The preseason came and went, and we saw nothing but vanilla, as is to be expected.

But then, to our dismay, the team limped out of the gate this season. Not just the defense, but the whole team. The offense was turning the ball over, and Vick wasn't staying healthy. On defense, there were some busted zone coverages, some alleged misuse of Nnamdi, some absolutely woeful play from some safeties (Jarrad Page might have put in the worst season I've ever seen at any position), a never-ending shuffle of linebackers, the absence of turnovers, and MLB Casey Matthews.

This show of failure through the first half (and especially the first five games) of the season are largely responsible for the "Off with their heads" rhetoric we've been seeing in these parts for the last couple of months. We're a spoiled fanbase, and when 1-4 happens, we need a scapegoat. As I write, I found out that Andy is not to be that scapegoat, so now we turn to Juan. But is it deserved? Here are the defense's numbers and some brief comments on their performances over the first 8 games:

@ STL, (W 31-13)

335 yards allowed

5.2 yards/passing attempt

5.9 yards/rushing attempt

1 turnover created (and a TD, Juqua Paker)

13 points allowed (TD, 2 FGs)

This was a solid all around performance defensively against a really bad offensive team. Outside of Steven Jackson's 47 yard run on their first series, the defense was utterly dominant. Just like you expect against a really bad offense. So far, so good.

@ ATL, (L 31-34)

318 yards allowed

6.4 yards/passing attempt

4.8 yards/rushing attempt

2 turnovers created

35 points allowed (five TDs)

I am still utterly at a loss for how we lost this game. It was obviously a horrific night for the defense in terms of scoring, but they did force four punts and only allowed 318 yards to a very solid offense. At least partially to blame for the five touchdowns and only 318 yards is the defense having an extremely short field and almost no rest, due to turnovers and bad punting: ATL's scoring drives were 38 yards after a 1 minute three and out, 24 yards after a 2:57 drive, 49 yards after a first down INT, 80 yards after a TD drive, and 77 yards after a 2 minute, 5-play possession from the offense in answer to ATL's long TD drive. Those first three they started in terrible positions (although it would have been nice to hold them to a field goal at least once), the fourth TD allowed is a bad effort from the defense, and the fifth is a bad effort, although likely at least partially due to exhaustion. Both sides of the ball were to blame for this one.

NYG, (L 16-29)

334 yards allowed

10.1 yards/passing attempt

4.1 yards/rushing attempt

0 turnovers created

29 points allowed (four TDs)

This was a truly pitiful effort from the defense, specifically against the pass. Eli Manning just carved up the defense, and the corners and safeties looked lost. On the few plays where they were in the neighborhood of where they were supposed to be, they were whiffing on tackles. This is when the backlash against Juan really started, and deservedly so. They looked lost in this game. The yardage total looks respectable on the surface, but the defense allowed all of this despite the team absolutely dominating TOP. The Giants did all this damage despite only having the ball for 23:09. While the offense was nothing to write home about, this game falls squarely on Castillo's defense. Also, this is where I really started to hate Jarrad Page.

SF, (L 23-24)

442 yards allowed

8.4 yards/passing attempt

6.6 yards/rushing attempt

1 turnover created

29 points allowed (four TDs)

Another weird game. The whole team just disappeared in the second half, after looking very strong in the first. The defense didn't let the 49ers have anything in the first half, save a 37 yarder from Akers, and forced a turnover deep in 49ers territory. In the second half, the secondary (and the offense) just disappeared. If I were looking for a game to crucify the coaching staff on, this is the one. They took their foot off the gas, and let the hungrier 49ers come back. Inexplicable and inexcusable.

@ BUF, (L 24-31)

331 yards allowed

7.0 yards/passing attempt

4.1 yards/rushing attempt

1 turnover created

24 points allowed (three TDs, 1 FG. The other TD was an INT return).

This game is absolutely not on the defense. The offense turned the ball over five times, and the defense held a then red-hot Buffalo offense to 331 total yards in over 33 minutes of possession. Buffalo's offensive scoring drives: 52 yards after an INT, 77 after an Eagles TD, and 85 yards to start the 3rd quarter. Two bad drives defensively, but the defense played very well outside of the two long drives, and largely prevented the big play despite having to deal with Fred Jackson getting over 30 touches while playing the best football of his career. NOTE: I was drinking pretty heavily during this game, so my memory of each individual play is a little flighty. I remember saying for the rest of the evening, though, that Jarrad Page made me want to go around throwing acid in everyone's eyes so that no one would have to watch him play football anymore. Overall, though, an average to slightly above average effort against a team that was firing on all cylinders.

@ WAS (W 20-13)

287 yards allowed

6.6 yards/passing attempt

3.0 yards/rushing attempt

4 turnovers created (thanks, Kurt)

13 points allowed (2 FGs and a garbage time TD)

Defense beat up a bad offense in the way a good defense is supposed to. Not much to say here, besides they did their jobs. I remember Juan looking really pissed when the Redskins got a FG to end the half, though.

DAL (W 34-7)

267 yards allowed

5.2 yards/passing attempt

8.5 yards/rushing attempt

1 turnover created

7 points allowed (TD)

This is where we started to see how the defense is supposed to work. Tony Romo got beat up this game. The inflated rushing YPA can be attributed to the fact that this game was never in doubt, so the Cowboys were passing all game, and the Eagles knew it and gave up some soft yards (the Cowboys only attempted 10 runs). Fun fact: TOP was 42:09 to 17:51. It wasn't as great a game for the defense as the scoreline suggests, but they did it against a good team, and the d-line just punished Romo.

CHI (L 24-30)

267 yards allowed

5.2 yards/passing attempt

8.5 yards/rushing attempt

2 turnovers created, and a TD (Brian Rolle)

30 points allowed (3 TDs, 3FGs)

The defense came out flat in this one, which turned out to be a slight letdown after two great performances against division rivals. Matt Forte chewed up the defense on the Bears' first drive, and then two turnovers (yeah, there's a theme here) started Bears scoring drives from the 48 and then from the Eagles' 9. The defense allowed a lot of long drives, although this is where we first started to see them allowing FGs instead of TDs. Prior to this, it was basically all touchdowns.

So now it's midseason, and Juan's face expresses how we pretty much all feel at 3-5:



TO BE CONTINUED. Tomorrow night if not sooner.

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