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For the Philadelphia Eagles, Juan Castillo has a better shot at success than Sean McDermott ever did: A fan’s take
In his short term as Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott's hands were tied. He was the protege of longtime Eagles coordinator and blitz extraordinaire Jim Johnson, who had forged legendary status with Birds fans before he fell ill and eventually lost his battle with cancer in July 2009. McDermott had local ties, but local ties only go so far when you're filling the shoes of a coach who, across the board, had earned the respect of fans as rabid as the Eagles faithful.
For McDermott, he was also taking over during a period of relative rebuilding on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles had just parted ways with future Hall-of-Famer Brian Dawkins(notes), a safety who defined the face of the Eagles' D for the better part of a decade. They still had defensive linemen Trent Cole(notes) and Mike Patterson(notes). He still had cornerback Assante Samuel. But there was no face to this Eagles D. There was nobody striking fear in the hearts of opponents lining up across the line of scrimmage. That didn't get any better when middle linebacker Stewart Bradley(notes) tore his ACL in the preseason. He may have been the one player who looked big enough to be playing his position.
The 2009 draft didn't nest any new Birds that would help McDermott either. Concentrating on offense, the Eagles took WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) in the first and RB Le Sean McCoy in the second round. They drafted the now long-gone S/CB Macho Harris(notes) in the fifth, and got lucky with LB Moises Fokou in the sixth. Fokou is the only defensive draft pick from two years ago still in the fold.
The 2010 draft saw the Birds change gears, but netted nothing that would make McDermott's second year a whole lot easier. First-round pick Brandon Graham(notes), a DE out of Michigan, was serviceable and showed signs that he may contribute in the future until he got hurt. They picked up Nate Allen(notes) in the second round, who also showed signs before being lost to injury. The fourth round saw DE Daniel Te'o-Neisheim drafted, but no one is really sure if he has shown up yet a year and a lockout later. CB Trevard Lindley(notes), LB Keenan Clayton(notes) and DE Ricky Sapp(notes) were also drafted, but the jury is still out. The steal of the draft may have been seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney(notes), but McDermott didn't find that out until Bradley went down to season-ending injury for the second straight year.
After the Eagles fell to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Wild Card game, Andy Reid needed a scapegoat. Although he need look no further than himself (if you're a head coach and supplying your defensive coordinator with likes of Dmitri Patterson to start at right corner, then you're liable), Reid chose to let McDermott walk on to a fresh start in Carolina, and gave his duties to long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo. If you can figure that one out, you're a step ahead of everyone following the Eagles. That being said, I'll give anyone a fair chance before I rip them.
Castillo should have a better chance at a good start, considering the Eagles have just plundered the free agent market to supply him with top-notch NFL defenders, and perhaps most important of all, a face to his defense in coveted free agent defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha(notes). I say defensive back because the rumors are that they may use Asomugha as a rover in the defensive backfield, much like Rod Woodson in the prime of his career.
Different positions cause intimidation on the defensive side of the ball. Throw an interior defensive lineman like Haloti Ngata(notes) in the middle and the intimidation comes from the lack of space. Put defensive ends or pass rushing linebackers out there like James Harrison(notes), Tamba Hali(notes), DeMarcus Ware(notes) or John Abraham(notes) and your QB will start sweating. Just looking at Ray Lewis(notes) in the middle is enough to frighten anyone. And this year, offenses will have to look out into an Eagles secondary that now consists of speed and size and youth. It will undoubtedly make opposing quarterbacks wonder, "Where the hell am I going to throw this thing?" When quarterbacks start thinking that way, one of two things will happen. Either they will get rid of it too quick, which will result in INTs, or they will hold on to it too long, which will result in sacks. With a deeper defensive line unit, bolstered by Jason Babin(notes) and Cullen Jenkins(notes), and the confidence in your cover men allowing Castillo to send heat from a young, undersized and fast linebacking corp, there should be many more opposing QBs eating turf against the Birds in 2011.
Sean McDermott didn't get much of a chance. Juan Castillo has his chance, and a bevy of new weapons to unleash to make the most of it. There are no excuses if he doesn't.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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