OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Praising a team effort not just among his players but also with his coaches, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made a key addition to his staff earlier this week that was lost in the excitement of the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in 12 years.
Former Eagles defensive coordinator and longtime offensive line coach Juan Castillo was hired as a consultant for the remainder of the season and will serve as the Ravens’ run-game coordinator next season, a new position that will aid offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Harbaugh announced that Caldwell would remain as the coordinator after being elevated to the position following the firing of Cam Cameron on Dec. 10.
Castillo will be working with a running game that finished 11th in the league by averaging 118.8 yards per game on the ground.
“He’ll be kind of a lead coach in terms of the run game and organizing the run game for us,” Harbaugh said. “Of course, he’ll work closely with Jim and all the coaches. Who’s in charge of what? Guys work together on a staff. Coach Caldwell’s done a great job of making that point time and time again. That’s true on the defensive staff, too.”
The decision to bring in Castillo isn’t surprising considering Harbaugh worked with Castillo for 10 years in Philadelphia, with Castillo serving as the Eagles’ offensive line coach and the Baltimore head coach serving as special teams coordinator and a secondary coach under Andy Reid. Castillo was promoted to Eagles defensive coordinator in 2011, but his tenure in that role turned into a disaster as Philadephia’s star-studded defense underachieved dramatically and the longtime assistant was fired on Oct. 16, 2012.
Reid was dismissed after the Eagles finished 4-12 in his final season. Castillo received opportunities to coach for several other teams but his familiarity with Harbaugh led to him joining the Baltimore staff at an ideal time.
“Juan is a tremendous football coach. He had lots of opportunities,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been coaching in the National Football League, both sides of the ball, obviously, with a lot of responsibility. Highly knowledgeable, great teacher. I had a chance to work with him for 10 years in Philadelphia, so I know this man very well.”
Given his wealth of knowledge working along the offensive line, Castillo figures to be a major asset for current offensive line coach Andy Moeller. The former Eagles assistant will also alleviate some pressure on Caldwell in terms of the running game, so he can continue to work closely with quarterback Joe Flacco.
Castillo’s role will be more clearly defined when this season ends and the Ravens get into the offseason.
“It’s an opportunity for us to improve our football team, the overall talent pool that we have here whether it’s player or coach,” Harbaugh said. “We try to get better — you either get better or you get worse — so we add him into our staff, which I think already is just a great stuff. It makes us better and that’s the whole idea.”
Suggs saving best for late
A simply look at the stat sheet tells you how much more of an impact linebacker Terrell Suggs is providing in the postseason after an injury-riddle season that included offseason Achilles tendon surgery and a torn biceps suffered in December.
Limited to only eight games in the regular season, Suggs finished with 22 tackles and two sacks. However, the 30-year-old has emerged in the postseason by posting 19 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble in three wins over Indianapolis, Denver, and New England.
Suggs is regaining his explosiveness in the latter portion of the season and played his strongest game of the season in Denver, collecting 10 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble in the Ravens’ 38-35 double-overtime win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
“We haven’t monitored or charted his explosive ‘quotient’ so far, but he is getting better,” Harbaugh said. “He’s becoming quicker, faster, more explosive, stronger, all those things. You can tell that it’s healing. He’s just playing more like a normal, 100-percent Terrell Suggs would play.”
With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick providing a challenge as both a runner and passer, Suggs’ ability to set the edge as well as to provide pressure in the pocket will be critical in slowing the zone-read attack from the pistol formation.
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