Juan Castillo: Ravens Villain to Hero?

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Ravens Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo during training camp at M&T Bank Stadium (Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens)

It’s no secret that last season was an awful one for the Ravens offense, particularly the offensive line.

Joe Flacco was under duress far too often and the rushing attack ran on empty and ended up as the NFL’s worst.

Coming off a Super Bowl XLVII victory fans demanded answers, sought solutions and wondered why the Ravens changed anything at all, championing the credo, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Yet changes were ushered in and the uncommon denominators were Juan Castillo and Gino Gradkowski.

The Ravens had little choice but to pass the baton to Gradkowski as the team’s new center following Matt Birk’s retirement. Unfortunately he dropped the baton and is now a reserve.

Castillo’s story is a bit different.

Fans cast him as the villain in the Ravens failed 2013 season. They needed a fall guy and the well-established coach with an impressive resume along with his zone blocking principles collectively became a convenient scapegoat.

What a copout!

John Harbaugh rightly accepted some of the blame for Castillo’s struggles. Initially given the title of “Run Game Coordinator”, Harbaugh later admitted that Castillo was the de facto commander of the offensive line.

But that title was held by now departed assistant coach Andy Moeller who was credited for the offensive line’s resurgence late during the 2012 season and a coach who was well-liked by his players. He moved on to Cleveland to be their offensive line coach after some consideration from the Detroit Lions and head coach Jim Caldwell.

Apparently the former Ravens’ offensive coordinator and Moeller had no issues.

Otherwise why consider him?

Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery decided to “pursue other coaching and life opportunities” after the season and eventually joined Moeller in Cleveland. Obviously those two get along just fine and are on the same page philosophically when it comes to running the football.

All three along with Castillo were responsible for last season’s train wreck.

Rumors surfaced that the coaches weren’t all on the same page and that created a divide not only in the coaching staff, but amongst the players as well.

When the team’s new and inexperienced center was asked to take on an unfamiliar approach and new terminology while supported by a perennial backup to his left, an injured player to his right, a new left tackle and a struggling right tackle, it’s a minor miracle the team finished 8-8.

And with all of this uncertainty, it’s no surprise that they resisted Castillo’s new approach, particularly when they won the big game just months before.

But failure can open your mind to a new approach.

This season, given how Castillo’s principles mesh nicely with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s philosophies, a singular message is being delivered AND accepted.

The results so far are impressive.

Entering week 3 of the preseason, the Ravens offense leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (194.0) while Bernard Pierce owns a league-best 5.4 yards per carry average and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro has produced the NFL’s most rushing yards (130) this preseason, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 29 attempts.

Granted, it’s only the preseason but isn’t that where the problems started in 2013?

Maybe, just maybe the resurgence can start in the preseason too.

And if and when that happens all of Castillo’s critics should swallow a little humble pie and give him his fair share of credit.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one though.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

5 Raves on “Juan Castillo: Ravens Villain to Hero?

  1. Vic on said:

    I was one of those fans that cried foul, I’ll readily admit. However, what was I to do? The only variables were Juan Castillo and Gino. To top that off, I couldn’t blame Gino for the running back woes, as they were terrible not just running inside the tackles. So, where do I lay the blame? The clear answer was Juan Castillo. That was my thought process then.

    However, should the entire team have bought into the zone scheme and with Gary Kubiak’s imprint on the zone schemes, I believe we’ll be alright this year. But, should the credit really go to Juan or Kubiak? I’ll be more than happy to eat humble pie, should it be proven that our O-line is vastly improved and running game explodes. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath based on a couple of preseason games.

  2. Mike on said:

    Nothing is proven yet. If the running game falls on it’s face against the Bengals, Steelers and Browns, who happen to rate in the top ten in defenses, will you post a story saying you were totally wrong and perhaps Castillo is the problem. I doubt it. No more than fans will say the reason is Castillo. Chances are the issue is that Monroe came in blind halfway through the season, Osemele was so injured he didn’t make it through the season, Yanda was half of what he was due to surgery, Oher didn’t want to play anymore because he was unseated from his “Blind Side” job, and oh yea, the new center you blasted. Now these issues are resolved Castillo is a hero? Some people may buy your logic but I’m not that gullible.

    • Vic on said:

      There are doctors and there are quacks and there are journalists and there are bloggers. Tony is just sharing his opinion like we all do on these blog sites. Let’s all just be grateful that there are people like Tony who bring us additional coverage on the Ravens.

  3. Mook on said:

    I just love everything I’ve heard as a whole, scheme wise on Offensive side, physical big bad Ravens run game! Flacoo not getting banged up? But it’s one week at a time. So let’s be patient for week one! Thank you

  4. ok on said:

    Tony,

    I think this is a misguided article. They arent running Castillo’s system (thank god!). This is Kubiack’s system and his running game is much different then Castillo’s! Kubiack is a one cut and go system. As far as Castillo’s system we never saw that last year even when everyone was healthy!

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