MOBILE, Ala. - Juan Castillo took some time off right after the Eagles' disappointing season ended to go to Florida.
Not a surprising thing to do in January, no. But instead of resting, what Castillo did there was work with his son Greg, who was on break from the University of Iowa. Greg Castillo, a Hawkeyes cornerback and former St. Joe's Prep star, had been benched after two starts early in the 2011 season because he gave up a pair of red-zone touchdown passes, Juan said. Greg has a year of eligibility left, and his dad wants to get him back in the starting lineup.
You could tell, as Juan Castillo talked about those two plays yesterday, that he believed his son had been judged prematurely. He doesn't want those plays to sum up a career. Is it too late now? Or will Greg get another shot, if he can show in the offseason that he has improved? Juan doesn't know, of course, but he journeyed down to Florida to do what he could.
Similarly, yesterday Juan Castillo was standing on the sideline at the Senior Bowl South practice at a high school stadium in Fairhope, Ala., watching defensive players work through drills. He was wearing a long-sleeved T-short that read "Philadelphia Eagles" across the front. So was Castillo there as the Eagles' defensive coordinator? Will he still serve in that capacity for the 2012 season?
"I'm just working," Castillo said, when asked those questions, and some others that occasioned equally nebulous answers. He said he would defer to Eagles coach Andy Reid on any announcements about his status. "Coach Reid has to talk to you," he said.
Castillo didn't want to discuss much of anything for the record, except his son's career at Iowa. But he did say this: "I'm going to tell you what's awesome. There's different perceptions, but when I go out around Philly, I've had a lot of people come up to me in support . . . When you try do things right, work hard, [people appreciate it]. It's been interesting, when you go out and see people."
Castillo's first year as a defensive coordinator got off to a dreadful start. With the lockout truncating preparation, Castillo tried to meld a bunch of free agents and rookies. The result was a confused mess. A lot of Castillo's early ideas proved disastrous - Casey Matthews as the starting middle linebacker, Nnamdi Asomugha expected to shift around into various roles in a defense he was still trying to learn, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing inside, Jarrad Page as a starting safety. The middle of the season wasn't so great, either. But the defense came together, too late, propelling a four-game winning streak at the end of the year in which no opponent scored more than 19 points.
The Eagles finished eighth in what the NFL calls total defense, but is really just yardage allowed. They were 10th in points allowed, 30th in red-zone defense, though they improved there on their historically bad performance of the previous season, under Sean McDermott. They allowed 27 touchdown passes, the NFL's 24th-best performance. Overall, a mixed bag, reflecting the up-and-down season.
It's clear that Castillo doesn't want those early miscues to define his career as a defensive coordinator. He wants another chance. Now that Steve Spagnuolo has decided to cast his lot with the New Orleans Saints, chances for that to happen seem pretty good. But Reid, who did not make the trip to Mobile with the rest of the staff, still hasn't held his season wrapup news conference. If there is a reason for that, beyond just not caring to do it, one would have to think it has to do with the defensive staff. The Eagles have to hire a defensive backs coach to replace Johnny Lynn, who was fired. Could they have been waiting for someone still involved in the playoffs? Would they want to give that person some sort of title that would imply a hand in decision-making, to aid their still-inexperienced coordinator? Or is Reid still pondering his options at coordinator?
If Castillo knows, he wasn't telling anyone yesterday. He feels he did his best, showed what he could show.
Is he OK with the situation?
"Anytime you can get up in the morning, and you're healthy enough to fight - we're all all right," he said.
There are conflicting reports on how Marty Mornhinweg stacks up as a head coaching candidate in Oakland. Mornhinweg is apparently among the Eagles' contingent at the Senior Bowl, though the Daily News failed to pick him out among the staff members attending the South practice yesterday. The North team was practicing at the same time, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium across the bay in Mobile . . . Oklahoma's Brandon Weeden, the 28-year-old former minor league baseball player, easily had the best arm of any of the South team quarterbacks . . . Penn State defensive end Devon Still has pulled out of the game with a toe injury . . . The smallest lineman at yesterday's weigh-in was Alabama OL William Vlachos, a paunchy 6-0 3/8, 306. The lightest linebacker was Nebraska's 225-pound Lavonte David. Eagles fans don't need any explanation of why that would be pertinent.
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