Clearing Up Confusion

Posted: July 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: | 6 Comments »

That is the task for Juan Castillo and the new defensive coaches.  Too often mental mistakes led to breakdowns on defense in 2010.  Sean McDermott is a smart coach.  He had some smart players.  Somewhere there was a communication breakdown (and it did drive us insane).

One of the major themes for the offseason has been simplifying the defense.  We want players thinking less and playing faster.  Trust your eyes and go get the ball.  I mentioned in the previous post that Castillo may have been influenced by Iowa coach Norm Parker and the defense he runs because of its success and simplicity.

Some of you wondered how wise it would be for Castillo to be influenced by a college coach, if in fact that is what happened.  Other people wondered if Iowa’s lack of blitzing would carry over to our scheme.  Let’s talk about these issues.  Iowa does run a simple scheme.  It is basically the same as the Tampa 2.  I seem to recall Monte Kiffin and the Bucs doing okay with that.  And it isn’t that Iowa does anything brilliant or really unusual.  They do what they do really well.  The coaches do a very good job of getting the players ready and then the players execute the gameplan well.  What’s the point in designing a Belichick style gameplan if you can’t teach it to your players and they struggle to execute it?

I’m sure Castillo checked out the colleges that his son Greg was talking to during the recruiting process.  Castillo probably talked to a couple of assistant coaches to feel them out.  He may have watched some game tape.  Since Greg has been at Iowa you know Castillo has taken in every game.  It isn’t as if some light bulb went off and told Castillo that Norm Parker was a genius and this was the way to do things.  There are a lot fewer Eureka moments in football than fans think.  It is more likely that Castillo developed an admiration for how Parker did things and got good results.   When the situation arose that Castillo was a legitimate candidate for the Defensive Coordinator position he took a long look at the personnel in place.  Half of the defense might be new starters.  Many of those guys could be young players.  What is the best system for helping them to learn quickly?  Let’s simplify things and use some of the principles that Parker does at Iowa.  NFL coaches do these same things, but Castillo might know them best from Iowa because of how much he’s studied that program in the last few years.  We know Castillo has cited the Bears as a team to emulate in some ways.  They run a variation of the Tampa 2.

As for blitzing…Castillo learned a lot about blitzing from Jim Johnson.  I’m sure that won’t go away.  It will go down some.  Jim Washburn will coach the D-line and his system with the Titans didn’t call for as much blitzing as we did in recent years.  If the front four isn’t getting the job done, I’m sure we’ll turn the blitzers loose.   Castillo saw the impact that Antoine Winfield had in the Vikings debacle.  One player drove us crazy all night.  That kind of thing won’t be lost on Castillo.  The blitz will still be part of the Eagles defense.

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Sheil Kapadia put up a very good post where he examined the TD passes allowed by the Eagles defense last year.  There isn’t one glaring conclusion to draw, but you can see that team defense was as much a problem as RCB.  This ties into the theme of clearing up confusion.  We can’t have blown assignments and missed coverages like we did in 2010.  If the Red Zone defense can improve at all, some close wins become blowouts and maybe a loss or two becomes a win.

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There has been a lot of talk about DE Charles Johnson.  I’m not avoiding the topic.  I’ll get to him.  I’ve just been working in other areas.  I will watch tape and let you know what I think, but that will likely be next week.

6 Comments on “Clearing Up Confusion”

  1. 1 Thunderlips said at 7:33 PM on July 6th, 2011:

    Thanks Tommy. Now I know what soundtrack to use for my 2010 Eagles-D highlight video. I wasn’t feeling great about using Tom Petty’s ‘Breakdown.’ Now I can sinc up Stewart Bradley pointing while Chris Cooley runs by him with a nice guitar solo.

  2. 2 izzylangfan said at 9:41 PM on July 6th, 2011:

    After Hugh Douglas left the first time the Eagles had to blitz too much, even under Jim Johnson, because they were not getting effective pressure from the front four. Once teams are aware that the Eagles need to blitz they are sitting ducks. The key this year will be if Washburn can get pressure with the front four. Then teams will be scrambling to adjust to that pressure and when the Eagles do blitz it will finish them off.

    Sheil Kapadia is correct. The Eagles need more than just a corner back. They need more pressure from the line which may well mean another player and linebacker positions are also a question. Tommy, how do you think the wide nine and one gap line play will effect the way the linebackers need to play and how does that fit with our current personnel. I know you touched on this in the past, but I would appreciate a deeper cut at it.


  3. 3 ChrisOG said at 10:02 PM on July 6th, 2011:

    One of the Eagle’s beat writers made an observation after the season. He said something to the effect of how many times this past season did we see when the Defense was out there between plays with 14 guys on the field and half of them had their arms up in the air like they were saying what’s going on.

    Hopefully Juan puts an end to that.

  4. 4 Dan in Philly said at 10:23 AM on July 7th, 2011:

    I forget the details of who said this and what period he was referring to, but I heard an interview with a former player of the Eagles who said that they learned a blitz package, and just practiced the living heck out of it until they could do it in their sleep. He said the overall package wasn’t real complicated, though there were wrinkles, but the reason it was so effective is everyone knew exactly what they needed to do.

    I guess this agrees with your take on the matter. It remains to be seen if Castilo will be a great DC, but hopefully this indicates he’ll be a good one.

  5. 5 McG said at 10:58 AM on July 7th, 2011:

    Thanks Tommy for keeping your ear to the ground, and giving us an informed opinion. This site is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned.

    If I were to play arm chair psychologist (which I really do enjoy), I would say that the vibe I was getting during the short McDermott era was that he was attempting to quickly step out from the long shadow cast by Jim Johnson (may he rest in peace).

    It is not uncommon for an ambitious man to grab the bull by the horns and start building a legacy from day one. Most of the time though… that doesn’t work out very well.

    My guess is that McDermott attempted to keep everything from the Johnson era in place, but make it better, and that his version of better was “more complicated”.

    To be fair, I think it worked in some games. There were times where our defense confused the crap out of opposing teams (sadly it also seemed to confuse the crap out of certain players… I’m looking at you Ernie Simms).

    By my estimation, teams who were confident and certain that they could execute their game plan vs. any defense had a field day against our guys. Teams that had less than full confidence at times were exposed.

    The HUGE problem was that no matter which kind of team we faced… they all know that if they could make it to the 2o yd line they were virtually guaranteed 7 points. To be even more brutally honest, i don’t know why more teams didn’t go for 2 point conversions against us since our defense looked like swiss cheese at short ranges.

    The saving grace was that Trent Cole and Asante Samuel are genuinely elite players who can thrive in any system, and work out how they fit into said system. If I had to guess, there were times (like the Colts game) where Samuel “called” the defense from his side for the secondary (site example of him and Q switching places).

    Because we know that Antonio Dixon is a beast of a footballer but a little slow, perhaps that explains some of his success last year? Maybe his “part” in the system was simplified and he was able to be a weapon instead of a “moveable chess piece”.

    I’m going on record now to say that Castillo has the tools to be successful as a defensive coach. If he can master play calling, I think we will have a diamond in the rough here.

    I’m also going to say that Castillo won’t be here long unless he is genuinely being groomed to take over when Reid switches to being a personnel guy. How long can we hold on to a coach with offensive and defensive experience who is beloved by his players and extremely hard working….

  6. 6 D3Keith said at 8:27 PM on July 8th, 2011:

    @McG, I agree with the second part. McDermott meant well and may well succeed as a coach, but I think as good as he was with Xs and Os, he needed at least that much work in teaching and/or getting players to buy in.

    How else could we explain a guy being regarded as competent by independent analysis and other teams, yet getting a team to play so unevenly?

    On the other hand, even if a player didn’t particularly like Juan Castillo’s Xs and Os, he comes off like a guy who’d be easy to play hard for.