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Eagles fire defensive coordinator Castillo

Eagles fire defensive coordinator Castillo

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Juan Castillo's offense-to-defense coaching experiment backfired in Philadelphia, costing the defensive coordinator his job.

Castillo was fired by Eagles coach Andy Reid on Tuesday and replaced by secondary coach Todd Bowles. It was the first time Reid dismissed a coach midseason in his 14 years in charge.

``I put Juan in this situation and things didn't work out the way I had hoped,'' Reid said. ``I take full responsibility for putting him in that situation.''

Reid's decision last year to promote Castillo after 13 seasons as offensive line coach was a stunner. It came after a long search and with new defensive line coach Jim Washburn already in place running a wide-nine scheme that isn't widely used.

Castillo was under the microscope right from the start, with nearly every move he made scrutinized intensely. He seemed overmatched in his first season and the defense struggled as Philadelphia started 4-8. But Castillo's unit showed enough improvement during a season-ending four-game winning streak that he stuck around.

Until now.

``I have to do what I think is right whether it's with public opinion,'' Reid said, ``or against public opinion.''

The move came two days after the defense blew a 10-point lead with 5:18 remaining and lost 26-23 in overtime to Detroit. A week earlier, the defense allowed Pittsburgh to rally for a winning field goal in the final seconds.

The Eagles (3-3) are on a bye this week, and Reid hinted more changes could be coming. An offense that features several dynamic players is next-to-last in scoring and turning the ball over in bunches.

``Please understand that offense, defense and special teams right now, we need to get better,'' Reid said. ``I'm going to continue to work through that and it's my responsibility to do that. I'm just bringing this to you because this is what's happened so far. I'm still evaluating.''

Does that mean Michael Vick may get benched for rookie Nick Foles?

``As I sit here today, Michael's the starting quarterback,'' Reid said.

That's not much of an endorsement.

Reid doesn't have much job security himself, so he'll likely try anything to win. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie already stated in the preseason that another 8-8 season would be ``unacceptable.'' Lurie even said last year that he considered firing Reid after the team failed to live up to high expectations.

``You fight to win football games as a football team,'' Reid said. ``You try to make your football team the best possible football team they can be. You try to better yourself every day. You want your coaches to better themselves every day. You want your players to do it and you hope you have an influence on helping them become the best they can be.

``That's my job and that's how I go about doing it.''

Castillo was with the Eagles for 18 years, longer than any coach in franchise history.

``One of the tougher things I've had to do,'' Reid said.

Castillo's defense held the Lions in check for three quarters on Sunday, allowing just a pair of field goals. All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson had one catch for 28 yards and Matthew Stafford was 7 of 21 passing. But, according to defensive players, the Eagles inexplicably changed their game plan in the fourth quarter. They started blitzing more in an effort to pressure Stafford. Also, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn't shadow Johnson the way he did the first three quarters.

Stafford picked apart the defense, Johnson had a big day and the Lions scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

``I was on him most of the game,'' Asomugha said of covering Johnson. ``I think when we got to the fourth quarter, there was a lot more trying to give him a different look.''

Reid disputed that assessment a day later, saying ``there wasn't a great change of scheme on what we did in the first three quarters.''

Regardless, Castillo is gone.

Castillo joined the Eagles in 1995 as an offensive assistant under coach Ray Rhodes. He was promoted to tight ends coach in 1997, and then offensive line coach in 1998.

Bowles becomes Philadelphia's third defensive coordinator since longtime assistant Jim Johnson died in 2009 following a battle with cancer. Sean McDermott had the job for two seasons and Castillo lasted 22 games.

``I'm very familiar with the personnel,'' Bowles said. ``That's not going to be a problem. Our thing right now is to go over our self-scouting, see what we do well and what we don't do well and try to minimize the things we don't do well, if not get rid of them all together. Make sure we're playing to each player's strength.''

Bowles was 2-1 as the interim head coach for Miami last season. The former Temple star played eight seasons in the NFL as a safety, including seven years with the Washington Redskins. Bowles is in his 13th season as an assistant coach. He began his NFL coaching career with the New York Jets in 2000 as a secondary coach, spent four years in Cleveland, three in Dallas and four with the Dolphins before coming here.

``Well being a player, you can put yourself in the same situations because you've been in them so when a guy is coming to you with problems, you can refer back to your playing days,'' Bowles said. ``You don't have to agree with them. You say, `This is why you're doing this, so this is why they're doing this to you.' It just helps the relationship go a lot better.''

Reid wanted to interview Bowles after firing McDermott, but was denied permission by Miami.

``He has a good understanding of the game, not only the secondary but the whole picture,'' Reid said of Bowles. ``He gets it and he understands how to tie it all together. He's detailed with his techniques. He relates well with the players. He's a smart guy and he works hard. Those are normally good qualities to have.''

The decision comes at a critical time for the Eagles, who are just one game behind the Super Bowl-champion Giants (4-2) in the NFC East. New York is already 0-2 in the division, including a loss in Philadelphia last month. The bye allows Bowles time to set his strategy and move forward. He has to figure things out quickly, however, because the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) on Oct. 28.

``I don't think there will be a transition period,'' Reid said. ``I'm not looking at that as I'm making this move. He understands it and knows it. I'm not looking for transition periods right now. I'm looking for him to step in and do his job to the best of his ability with the players that he has. I think he has good football players and good coaches around him. I expect us to do better.''

If not, Reid could be next to go.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Capitals Goal of the Year Bracket: Oshie's Kung Fu kick vs Ovechkin's snipe

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Capitals Goal of the Year Bracket: Oshie's Kung Fu kick vs Ovechkin's snipe

With less than a month before training camp opens in mid-September, we are taking one last look back at the 2018-19 season as we dive into the best goals of last year. We compiled our bracket based on the cumulative rankings of our Capitals team, from reporters to producers and everyone in between, and now is your turn to help us determine the best Capitals goal of 2018-19. Below is a Slack conversation between the members of our Capitals content team.

jmurph: Day 3 of our Goal of the Year bracket pitting T.J. Oshie’s kung-fu kick goal from Game 2 of the First Round last year against Carolina and an Alex Ovechkin slot snipe against the Avalanche. Where shall we start?

JJ Regan: First, I want to here from McNally who had this Ovechkin goal ranked 5th. To me, I would put both Ovechkin's one-timer (No. 16) and Vrana's goal (No. 15) over this one.

So please, defend yourself

Rob Carlin: Here?? Really JJ?? Let’s work on your grammar before taking shots at McNally.

Don’t you write for a living??

JJ Regan: I am not a morning person.

Mourning person

Missed opportunity

jmurph: well Brian, what do you have to say for yourself?

bmcnally: I also am not a morning person and probably watched the video at 8am. There's my excuse.

Rob Carlin: I’m stunned this Ovi goal even made the list. It’s pedestrian for him.

bmcnally: It's still pretty, pretty good. It's not 5th. It's a nice move to cut to the middle and I think we're underrating the shot

JJ Regan: Let's be clear, it's a good goal. A fine goal. Impressive in fact. But it had no business coming up against TJ Oshie's kung fu kick.

bmcnally: But I'll concede this could probably go on the "Worst goals allowed by the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19" list and not this list

Ryan Billie: It’s a fine goal. Seen it tho a million times.

Rob Carlin: I love the Oshie goal. But the whole thing is Matt Niskanen’s pass through the neutral zone. It’s a thing of beauty. Sure, Osh finished in style. But that outlet was perfection.

bmcnally: And to be fair....I don't think I ranked it ahead of T.J. Oshie's goal. If I did I had a brain injury that day. The kung fu kick is an all timer for me. I love its so much

jmurph: this is true, you ranked the Oshie goal #1 on your list

so you're not a complete loony

Ryan Billie: All timer. One of the best Oshie goals as a Cap

JJ Regan: What makes it even better was that it was against Justin Williams who seemed to take that entire series personally. Pro athletes always find ways to motivate themselves so maybe that was just his way of pumping himself up for the series, but I loved Oshie kicking the stick right out of his hands.

jmurph: Agreed, even thinking about sticking your leg up is something most wouldn't come close to attempting in a playoff game. To try it, and successfully knock the stick out of Justin's hands is something else

bmcnally: The reaction to the kung fu kick is great, too. Like he wants to argue with the ref or have some penalty called but instead just goes "Aw, hell that was ridiculous."

JJ Regan: Not every underdog matches up. This one is a blowout.

Ryan Billie: I didn’t know that was allowed, kicking it out of his hands. Very resourceful.

bmcnally: Yes. This one isn't close. This goal will face stiffer competition later in the tournament. But not today

Ryan Billie: Not even close. The Oshie goal may win the whole damn thing

Rob Carlin: Yeah, this is just an overmatched MAAC team going up against Duke or Kentucky. To quote Dickie V - Its blowout city, baby!

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What can we expect from the special teams?

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What can we expect from the special teams?

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Luka K. writes: What will the power play and penalty kill units look like in 2019-20? Do you think the Caps need to make adjustments to the PP considering last year? Should Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos play on the second power play unit? What about the penalty kill without Chandler Stephenson? Better or worse? Do you see the PP in the top 5 and PK in the top 10?

A lot of special teams questions to unpack. Let’s start with the power play.

Do I think the power play needs to adjust? Yes, in one very specific area.

*Pulls out bullhorn*

GET. RID. OF. THE. SLINGSHOT.

The power play was fine last year. When it actually got the puck in the offensive zone, it looked just as lethal as ever. The problem was on the zone entries, which were atrocious. If the penalty kill cleared the puck once, the power play was essentially over. The Caps use a technique called the slingshot in which a defenseman, usually John Carlson, skates the puck to the neutral zone, then turns around and passes it back to a trailing forward who takes it in stride. The point is to maintain possession heading into the offensive zone and the puck carrier can either use his speed to take it himself or pass it to teammates left open by the penalty killers who are defending against the speedy puck carrier. That is how it is supposed to work. In reality, it is garbage and should be burned with fire.

Lots of teams use the slingshot, some of them successfully. The issue is that the Caps are bad at it. They need to either get better or scrap it altogether and I would prefer the latter. If they can figure out how to get the puck into the offensive zone, the power play will return to the potent offensive threat it has been in the past.

Jakub Vrana should absolutely play on the second unit. He was a power play specialist in Hershey and his speed makes him an ideal candidate to attack the offensive zone in the way I described. For now, I would give the nod to Dmitry Orlov over Djoos. I feel Orlov has the higher offensive upside, plus you also have to consider what happens if the puck is turned over and the PK counters. I would rather have Orlov as my only defenseman on the ice defending a rush than Djoos.

With all due respect to Stephenson, the penalty kill should be just fine without him with the additions of Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and a full season of Carl Hagelin. I did not see him as the penalty kill specialist that Todd Reirden seemed to last season and I fully expect he is going to spend most if not all of next season in Hershey.

I believe Reirden wanted the penalty kill to look like what Arizona had last season; a strong defensive unit with a counter potential that opponents have to account for. That is why we saw him experiment with players like Evgeny Kuznetsov on the PK.

A strong penalty kill is not built with three good defensive players plus one offensive threat. You need four players who know what they are doing in the defensive zone who can also transition the puck into a counter-attack. What makes Hagelin so effective is that he is incredibly smart in his own zone and also has dangerous speed that can lead to offense.

With more options for the penalty kill and personnel more suited to what Reirden envisioned last season, I expect a much-improved PK. Top ten may be a stretch, but if they can fall somewhere in the 8-15 range, Washington will be good.

Phillip M. writes: T.J. Oshie may end up with more time on the third line to rest him this year and reserve him for use in both power play and penalty kill teams. Do you see that as a likely scenario?

I wrote about this very topic early in the offseason and agree with you. It would certainly benefit Oshie for the reasons you listed. Keep him on the power play and the penalty kill, but reduce his minutes. He has great chemistry with Lars Eller and it makes the third line very dangerous.

Is it likely? Probably not.

This was something the team could do more easily when it had Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky who you could move to the second line. I am not sure they have that option now with Hagelin or Panik.

Hagelin can absolutely play on the second line if you need him to, but I would not put him there for an extended period of time. He scored five goals and 19 points last season. Part of that was playing in Los Angeles which was a bad fit for him, but I do not think he can give you the offense you need from a top-six forward.

Just like all free agents, Panik is a wildcard. He cracked 20 goals once in his career, but he did that while playing on a line with Jonathan Toews. I just do not think Reirden is going to look at the players he has available and elect to play Hagelin or Panik on the second line over a guy like Oshie, even if it would ultimately benefit Oshie over the course of the season.

Douglas F. writes: Everyone knows this is a big season for Lucas Johansen who has shown lots of bright spots every now and then but hasn't shown a lot of consistency. What do you see in the future in the former first-round pick?

I wrote on this earlier this month. You can check out the article here.

When talking about Johansen, we have to remember that he suffered an upper-body injury last year that essentially cost him half the season. The issue for him is that the team is very high on Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary. You can be patient with a sixth-round pick, but when a first-round pick falls behind in the organization depth chart, it is not long before he becomes more valuable to you as a trade asset than as a player.

The knock on Johansen when he was drafted was that he was too skinny and needed to put on weight. When I spoke with him last season, he said he managed to get up to 190 pounds and keep that weight on. When I watched him play, however, it is clear that his puck-moving skills still lag behind where you would expect them to be at this point for a puck-moving defenseman. He is always quick to get the puck off his stick which is good in the defensive zone, but he is too reactionary which leads to turnovers. It seems almost instinctive at this point that whenever the puck is on his stick, his primary goal is to pass it away as quickly as possible. This limits his offensive effectiveness. It is hard to score or set up plays when you instinctively fling the puck off your stick every time it gets close.

If you want my prediction, I think he will ultimately be traded and I would be surprised if he is still in the Caps’ organization a year from now.

Phillip M. writes: I’m all about the Caps but I have a soft spot for our former coach Barry Trotz. Everyone is projecting the New York Islanders being at the bottom of the Metro this year. What are your feelings about the islanders? Could they be the Capitals toughest competition in the Metro again?

The Metro is really hard to predict this season. The knock on the Islanders is that they essentially did nothing in the offseason and replaced their Vezina-winning goalie with Semyon Varlamov. It is dangerous to stand pat in a division that improved as much as the Metro did.

I do believe the Islanders will take a step back, but I could see them reaching the postseason again. Trotz is a tremendous coach so you can expect the same type of defensive performance. Plus, goalie coach Mitch Korn is a wizard. It is probably unreasonable to expect Varlamov to replicate Lehner’s season, but he will undoubtedly improve under Korn.

I do not think New York will challenge the Caps, but I do not seem the falling into the division basement which I have squarely reserved for Columbus.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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