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5 things to know about TE coach Juan Castillo

Juan Castillo walks on the field prior to an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Juan Castillo walks on the field prior to an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

The Washington Commanders have hired Juan Castillo as their tight ends coach to replace Pete Hoener, who retired from coaching last week. Here are five things to know about the newest addition to the coaching staff:

1. He was a mainstay on the Eagles' staff for over a decade.

Castillo has been coaching for the majority of his life -- about four decades, to be more precise -- and a good chunk of that was spent with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After coaching at the college level with Texas A&M University-Kingsville, his alma mater which was then called Texas A&I, he got his NFL career started with the Eagles as an offensive offensive assistant in 1995. Two years later, he was promoted to the tight ends coach before switching to the offensive line.

There's a reason why Andy Reid kept Castillo in the same position for so long; his offensive lines displayed a high level of consistency. The Eagles rushed for an average of 1,854 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. Five different players earned nine Pro Bowl honors under his direction, including three-time selection tackle Tra Thomas (2001-02, 2004), guard Shawn Andrews (2006-07) and tackle Jason Peters (2009-10).

In total, Castillo spent 18 seasons with the Eagles, 13 of which were with the offensive line. In that time, three running backs (Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy) had a combined six 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

2. Ron Rivera holds him in high regard.

Like most of the Commanders' coaching staff, Castillo has a history of working with Rivera. They spent five seasons together with the Eagles, where Rivera was the linebackers coach from 1999-2003.

And when Castillo became Philadelphia's defensive coordinator, Rivera had nothing but praise to heap on him.

"First of all, Juan is one of the smartest and most dynamic coaches in the NFL," Rivera said in 2011. "If anyone could cross over to the dark side (of defense), he's the guy. Seriously, if anyone can do it, Juan Castillo is able to do it."

Castillo only spent two seasons as the Eagles' defensive coordinator, but there were some high points in the brief stint. The unit finished eighth in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed and 10th in passing yards allowed in 2011. The defense also recorded 50 sacks that season, which was tied with the Minnesota Vikings for the best in the league.

Rivera is a firm believer in trusting coaches and players with experience. Castillo certainly has that on both sides of the ball, and Rivera views him as someone who "prides himself in his work ethic."

"I don't know if I have seen anyone…more committed as a coach in this league than him," Rivera said. "I was able to call on him so many times to understand how certain offenses worked and attacked."

3. He's a big deal in his hometown.

How many coaches have a day named after them? It's probably a short list, but either way, Castillo is on it.

Castillo had already cultivated a successful career by the time 2009 came around. After a brief stint playing for the San Antonio Gunslingers in the USFL, he returned to his alma mater, where he coached for a total of eight years as the defensive line/linebackers coach from 1982-85 and the offensive line coach from 1990-94. During that time, he worked with four players who made it to the NFL: Jermane Mayberry, Jorge Diaz, Kevin Dogins and Earl Dotson. In the NFL, he helped the Eagles to four consecutive conference championships, a Super Bowl appearance and five place finishes in the NFC East.

All that played a role in the city deciding to make July 4, 2009 to be "Juan Castillo Day" in honor of his accomplishments. And if that wasn't enough, Castillo was inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor, which recognizes outstanding individuals who have brought pride and honor to the conference through their contributions either as an athlete or coach/administrator, in 2015.

So yeah, the town is proud of what Castillo has done over the years.

4. David Montgomery had success running behind his offensive line.

After taking a year off from the NFL to be an offensive analyst for the Michigan Wolverines, Castillo spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Bears as the offensive line coach. Third-year running back David Montgomery can credit a lot of his early success to Castillo's group.

In his first season with the Bears, Castillo navigated an offensive line group that featured six different starting combinations throughout the season and still produced a 1,000-yard rusher in David Montgomery. Montgomery's 1,070 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NFL, and he went on to record three 100-plus yard performances.

In 2021, Castillo helped the Chicago offense rush for over 2,000 yards, the seventh-most in the NFC. Montgomery recorded 21 rushes of 10 or more yards, tied for the sixth-most in the NFL.

Castillo won't be coaching the Commanders' offensive line, but the contributions his tight ends make in the running game should open up more lanes for Antonio Gibson. Veteran Logan Thomas has developed as a solid blocker for Washington's offense, and John Bates led all rookies in 2021 with a 87.6 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.

At the very least, it should be expected that the Commanders' tight ends will elevate their level of physicality under Castillo.

5. His mother showed him that anything is possible.

Castillo didn't need to look hard for a source of inspiration growing up. He had a living, breathing embodiment of that in his mother.

After Castillo's father, Gregorio, died at the age of 40 in 1970, his mother, Juanita raised him and his two sisters by herself. She cleaned hotel rooms and bused tables to support them. It served as a lesson about the value of hard work to Castillo.

"Watching our mom work, I think that just gave us a little extra push," Castillo said. "When I talk about being an overachiever and understanding that everything is possible through work, I think that helps me with players."

That work ethic got noticed often by his fellow coaches.

"He's had to work for everything," Reid said. "His mother worked for everything. He's got this tremendous work ethic, and then he's smart on top of that. If you had to pick one thing out about Juan, it's that he's a relentless worker, relentless teacher and obviously loves the sport."

Because of that, it's safe to assume that Castillo should be a good fit on Rivera's staff.

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