Nobody was a bigger scapegoat for their team's failures than Juan Castillo was this season. It seemed like a given that he would be given the axe or at least be demoted back to some type of position coach on either side of the ball.
Now with Steve Spagnuolo taking the vacant defensive coordinator job in New Orleans, it doesn't seem likely that the Eagles will make a change at defensive coordinator this offseason. Cue the angry blogs and hate mail.
Most Philadelphia Eagles fans want Castillo gone because it makes them feel better about the 2012 season. The new coordinator will automatically fix everything by turning the run defense into one of the best and leading the Eagles to that elusive Super Bowl title.
Castillo is still the right man for the job for many reasons. He proved himself as a good defensive mind in two dominating performances against the Dallas Cowboys and another on the road against the New York Giants. The potential for Castillo taking this defense to the next level is there; he just needs more time and a full offseason to get it done.
He should get his shot in 2012.
It's hard for a defense to consistently get the job done when the offense continues to give them a short field to work with. The Eagles offense was a turnover machine in 2011. Michael Vick had 18 total turnovers in just 13 starts while his two backups, Vince Young and Mike Kafka, also added 11 interceptions to give the Eagles 29 total turnovers from the quarterback position.
The Eagles receivers also added some crucial turnovers that cost the Eagles two games this season. Jason Avant had two very uncharacteristic fumbles against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 while Jeremy Maclin lost a fumble on the potential game winning against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4.
All these turnovers killed Juan Castillo in his defense this season. You can't blame the guy calling the plays on defense if his defense is always working with a short field because the offense isn't valuing the football. Turnovers were the difference in just about every single loss for the Eagles this season.
Hopefully 2012 will be a more mistake-free season and we will see what this defense is capable of without the offense helping the opposition.
The situation at linebacker was a complete disaster as soon as the lockout ended for the Eagles in 2011. They decided to go with a rookie fourth-round draft pick at one of the most important positions on defense, if not the most important—middle linebacker. He never really stood a chance. After a couple of poor starts from Casey Matthews the Eagles reshuffled their linebackers by putting Jamar Chaney back at middle linebacker.
Chaney didn't fare much better as he was one of the most shaky tacklers in 2011. The Eagles clearly needed a good run-stuffing middle linebacker to help boost a run defense that finished 16th in yards given up.
You can't blame Castillo for not having a solid veteran middle linebacker who can execute what he is calling out on the field. The defense clearly lacked a man in the middle who can contain the run, while letting the secondary focus more on the pass and less on run support.
More than likely, the Eagles will go out and draft a top-notch middle linebacker in the first or second round of the 2012 NFL draft and give Castillo a player that can solidify the run defense.
The Eagles secondary was never really on the same page until the final month of the season. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was forced to play the slot after the Eagles were unable to trade Asante Samuel before the season started. Nate Allen's knee was never really at 100 percent early on in the season and the Eagles struggled to replace last year's starting strong safety, Quintin Mikell.
Castillo tried moving Nnamdi Asomugha around early on in the season much like Dom Capers has done with Charles Woodson, but Asomugha struggled in any other coverage that wasn't press man coverage.
Castillo had a lot to figure out with his secondary in a very short time. 2012 should be a very different story with the secondary. Allen's knee should be back to 100 percent heading into the offseason, Kurt Coleman has established himself as the guy at strong safety and Rodgers-Cromartie should be back at his natural spot as an outside cornerback once Samuel is inevitably traded this offseason.
There will be a lot more stability in the secondary heading into 2012. Everyone outside of Samuel will be back and everyone will have a better idea of what their role will be. That should lead to a much better season for a pass defense that actually finished 10th in yards given up in 2011.
A lot of critics of Juan Castillo seem to forget how good this defense really was against the Eagles' division rivals. The Eagles held their NFC East opponents under 20 points in five out of six games this season.
The Eagles struggled with turnovers, red-zone woes and a couple big plays against the Giants in a Week 3 16-29 loss at home but had a nice bounce-back game against the Giants in Week 11. With Vince Young getting the start, the defense took over and overcame three Young turnovers in a 17-10 road win. The defense held the Giants running game to just 29 yards and sacked Eli Manning three times.
It was the type of dominant performance Eagles fans expected all year.
The Eagles had even more success against their biggest rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles were one late garbage touchdown in both matchups away from shutting them out. The Eagles gave up fewer than 400 total passing yards in both games combined and never allowed a back to gain 100 yards rushing. They outscored Dallas 54-14 in both contests.
They also had similar success against the lowly Washington Redskins, outscoring them 54-23 while picking off five Rex Grossman passes.
Castillo's defense was the story in all five of the divisional games, as the Eagles went 5-1 against the NFC East. There's no reason why the Eagles can't expand this success outside of the division. It's not a case of the Eagles only being built to beat the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants, but a case of the defense giving us a preview of what they are capable of doing in 2012.
If you had not watched the Eagles in 2011 and you looked at the numbers, you probably wouldn't understand all the talk about Juan Castillo needing to be fired. The defense wasn't at a Baltimore Ravens-type level, but they certainly weren't the Minnesota Vikings defense either.
The Eagles defense finished 16th against the run, giving up 112.6 yards per game on ground. That isn't bad for a defense that lost its best run-stuffing defensive tackle, Antonio Dixon, early on in the season and never had a good run-stopping middle linebacker either.
The Eagles were much better against the pass despite some instability in the secondary. The Eagles were 10th against the pass in 2011, giving up just 212.3 in the air per contest in a very pass-happy league.
The Eagles also had the best pass rush in football, racking up 50 sacks this season. Add that to a pass defense that is starting to reach its potential and a run defense that is a good middle linebacker away from being able to contain any ground attack, and this defense should be very good in 2012.
Why mess that up by bringing in a new guy that will change the system and force the players to learn under their third different defensive coordinator in as many seasons? You don't. Andy Reid knows that and that's why Juan Castillo will be back in 2012.