Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is nothing if not positive. He's got a very young group of linebackers to work with and a very short offseason in which to do so. There's no doubt it's a tough task and so far the returns have been mixed. The Eagles defense was stifling in the preseason opener against the Ravens, but got run all over last week against the Steelers. Rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews drew most of the criticism after that game, but Juan says he is improving.
"Well you know what; he only had seven plays the first game. Sometimes I think it's important to understand, when you're looking at a game and you think ‘well it's this guy's fault,' you know, sometimes, unless you understand what's going on, well this guy it wasn't his gap. The ball goes into certain different gaps. Casey is going to be, it's his first time being a middle linebacker. He's going to get better, and better, and better. Every day he'll get better."
There was some talk after the game that Jamar Chaney could be moved back to the middle where he played so well last year, should the Eagles decide that Matthews can't cut it. However, Castillo says that Chaney is needed where he is.
"Jamar is playing a position that's special. That SAM linebacker, I don't know if you noticed that, that's a special position for us. It's almost a hybrid. He's got to be able to run, but yet, he's got to be able to come in there and take on that C gap. That's a pretty important position to us. He's a pretty good player, playing a position that's very important for us."
Overall, Castillo does remain positive about this group. So positive that he thinks they'll be good enough to win it all when that time comes.
"The linebackers will be ready. To win the Super Bowl, remember, it takes 16 weeks, and then really whoever is playing their best during the playoffs. So when you look at it there's time to develop. You can say that there's not, but the key is, who's playing or fundamentally who's the best come week eight, nine, ten, and during that crunch time. And over the years we've been pretty good during that time, and we'll continue to do that. The young kids will get better just because they're working the proper fundamentals."