A year ago, one of the big questions facing the Philadelphia Eagles was how converted offensive line coach Juan Castillo would do in his first season as the team's defensive coordinator. He... well, he didn't do that great. Yes, the Eagles' defense finished strong and seemed to jell and improve as the season went along. But it was a flop early, as was the whole team, and growing pains and shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball were a big reason for the team's slow start.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer checks in on Castillo as he prepares for his second year running the Eagles' defense and finds a man who believes steadfastly in his ability to coach greatness out of the talent the Eagles have on defense:
The pieces are there. There aren't any excuses. If he can't get it done this season, the Eagles may have to tear down the walls and start over again. And Castillo and his motivational pictures - perhaps along with Reid - could be part of the rubble.
"I get it, man," Castillo said. "But last year's gone. It's about this year. It's about us getting off to a good start, and starting where we left off last year."
It is about all of that for the Eagles, and the only way to erase the disappointing memories of 2011 is to start fast and play the way the Eagles have been telling everyone they know they can play. Head coach Andy Reid made the surprising decision to turn his defense over to Castillo last year because he believed him to be a good coach, and Reid and Castillo are eager for a second chance to prove that's the case. But if there was pressure on Castillo last year, it's even more intense this year.
It's easy to lay blame for what went wrong on the fact that so much last September was new -- new players, new coaches, new schemes -- and that it took a while for it all to come together. This year, with the additions the Eagles have made at linebacker and with the streamlining of the secondary to allow Nnamdi Asomugha to play more man coverage, the excuses are out the window. There's a mountain of pressure on everyone associated with the Eagles in 2012, but their second-year defensive coordinator is carrying as much of it as anyone is.