During the dog days of summer up at Lehigh, Juan Castillo preached patience. Head coach Andy Reid had put him in charge of this shiny new defense with all of these expensive new parts. But he warned that it was going to take time for all of the new parts to properly work together.
"To win the Super Bowl, it takes 16 weeks, and then really, whoever is playing their best during the playoffs," Castillo said in August. "When you look at it, there's time to develop."
With 2 weeks left in the regular season, Castillo's defense finally appears to be hitting its stride. Unfortunately, it may be too late to help get the Eagles into the playoffs.
His unit put together a second straight impressive performance yesterday, forcing four turnovers and holding the Jets to 241 total yards and 13 first downs in a 45-19 win.
In the last two games, the Eagles have allowed just 29 points, 24 first downs and 445 total yards. They've registered 13 sacks, forced seven turnovers and allowed their opponents to convert just six of 28 third-down opportunities.
"All phases are playing well now," said defensive end Jason Babin, who became just the 10th player in NFL history and the first Eagle to record three sacks in back-to-back games. "The secondary, the linebackers, the d-line. We're making hits, making plays for the ball, interceptions, strips, fumbles. You watch tape and everybody is swarming to the ball. We're playing together as a team.
"I don't know what took us so long. But everybody's happy with where our defense is going."
It needs to be pointed out that, despite the 8-5 record they brought to the Linc yesterday, the Jets were ranked 25th in the league in total offense. The Dolphins, the team the Eagles held to 10 points last week, were ranked 24th.
Castillo admitted that it took longer than he thought it would for his unit to mesh, longer than he thought it would to integrate new players like cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie into his scheme.
"Initially, I started too fast," he said. "And what I found out was I had to go backward with some of those guys because they had missed some of that. And they were making mistakes just on some of the fundamental stuff. Now everybody understands all our packages and we're able to add stuff.
"There is still a lot to add. But the first thing everybody had to do was understand our fundamental packages. Once you know what you're doing, you can play fast. We talked about playing fast and physical. But it was hard because we had new guys."
Castillo's unit forced four turnovers yesterday, including two interceptions of Mark Sanchez. It was only the second time in the last nine games that Sanchez has had multiple interceptions in a game. The pass-rush that made life a living hell for Dolphins quarterbacks Matt Moore and J.P. Losman the week before, did the same to Sanchez.
Any hope by the Jets that they would be able to do their ground-and-pound thing with Shonn Greene all game, evaporated quickly as the Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead that they managed to double before the game was 20 minutes old.
Castillo's defense provided the first points when safety Kurt Coleman knocked the ball loose from wide receiver Santonio Holmes and defensive end Juqua Parker picked it up and rambled 47-yards for a touchdown.
"That play gave the whole team a lift," said Parker. "It gave us a spark. It has come together for us these last two games. We're jelling like we've been together for years."
With four more sacks yesterday, the Eagles now have 46 for the season. They are first in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
"We want a team to have to throw the ball on us and play catch-up," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We want to get teams in that position. We can cause a lot of damage up front."
Said Babin, who now has 18 sacks and needs just three more in the Eagles' final two games to tie Reggie White's franchise record: "At some point, we got ahead too much. They conceded [in the fourth quarter] and started running the ball more. At the end, we would've liked to have gotten more sacks. But they decided to run it and put some other guys in. That's the way it goes."
It has been a difficult season for Castillo. He realized his dream when Reid promoted him from offensive-line coach to defensive coordinator. But his unit's erratic play, which has included blowing a league-record five fourth-quarter leads, is one of the big reasons the Eagles are 6-8 and still looking at an uphill playoff climb.
"I don't ever want to fail my head coach," Castillo said, his voice cracking, in the locker room after the game. "Coach Reid outworks everybody. Coach Reid is more detailed than anybody I've ever met. Coach works 20, 21, 22 hours [a day]. I don't want to fail him, man. I don't want to fail my boss."
DID YOU NOTICE:
-- Two of the Eagles' first three plays were out of two-tight-end formations. LeSean McCoy gained a yard on the first and Michael Vick picked up 2 yards on the other one.
-- Michael Vick's poor third-down pass to Jeremy Maclin on the Eagles' first possession. He had Maclin open for a first down and missed him. It was one of the few poor passes Vick made yesterday. He had just seven incompletions in 22 attempts.
-- Safety Kurt Coleman, who forced the first-quarter fumble that Juqua Parker returned for a touchdown, knocked the ball loose from Santonio Holmes with his helmet.
-- Shonn Greene gained 33 yards on four straight runs on the Jets' first possession, all of it up the middle.
-- On Vick's 26-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek, the Eagles used a two-back set with fullback Owen Schmitt lined up on the wing. He was a key in pass protection on the play, giving Vick enough time to get the pass off.
-- DeSean Jackson's 16-yard, third-and-7 completion, right before Vick's 11-yard touchdown run came against Darrelle Revis.
-- The horrible roughing-the-passer penalty on the Jets' Marcus Dixon on the Eagles' second-quarter scoring drive. For starters, it should have been ruled a fumble rather than an incompletion. Secondly, Michael Vick dipped his head, which led to the helmet-to-helmet contact.
-- Trent Cole was covering tight end Dustin Keller on his 41-yard reception in the second quarter. The Eagles ran a fire-zone blitz and Cole dropped into coverage.
-- The two first-half special-teams turnovers by the Eagles by Curtis Marsh and Dion Lewis. Marsh also had a fumble last week against the Dolphins on that ill-conceived lateral from DeSean Jackson.
-- The nice hustle by DeSean Jackson to chase down Brodney Pool after he recovered LeSean McCoy's second-quarter fumble.
-- Mark Sanchez' second-quarter fumble came on a busted play. He went to hand the ball off to Shonn Greene, but Greene wasn't there, forcing Sanchez to ad-lib. Mike Patterson knocked the ball loose and Joselio Hanson recovered it.
-- The nice block by fullback Owen Schmitt on safety Brodney Pool to spring LeSean McCoy on his 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
-- Asante Samuel left the game with an injured hamstring late in the first half. He appeared to injure it trying to make a tackle on wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
BY THE NUMBERS:
-- LeSean McCoy's second-quarter fumble was his first in 300 touches this season. It was his first fumble in 490 touches dating to last season.
With four more turnovers, the Eagles have a league-high 35 giveaways. That's their most in a season since 1999, when they had 39.
-- The 45 points the Eagles scored are their most since they put up 59 last November against the Redskins.
-- Jamar Chaney notched his third interception of the year in the third quarter. He's the first Eagles linebacker with three picks since William Thomas did it in 1996.
-- The Eagles have never lost to the Jets. They are 9-0 in the series.
-- The win improved the Eagles' home record to 2-5. They are 6-10 at home the last 2 years.
-- The Eagles are 5-1 this season when LeSean McCoy has rushed for 100 yards.
-- The Jets converted just two of five red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. In the last two games, the Eagles have allowed just three TDs in eight red-zone tests. In the previous five games, they gave up 12 in 16 opponent trips inside the 20.
-- In the Eagles' six wins, opponents have converted just 17 of 74 third-down opportunities (23.0 percent). In their eight losses, they've converted 46 of 104 (44.2).
-- Jets tight end Dustin Keller had three receptions for 73 yards. For the season, opposing tight ends have 57 receptions for 684 yards and five touchdowns against the Eagles.
-- The Eagles have given up 13 touchdown passes in the last seven games.
-- For the 12th time in 14 games, the Eagles failed to score on their first possession.
-- With his 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter, Juqua Parker became just the second Eagles player to return two fumbles for scores in the same season. The only other player to do it was Seth Joyner in 1991. It was Parker's third career touchdown. Only Clyde Simmons has more, with four.
-- Andy Reid won another replay challenge in the second quarter when a LeSean McCoy fumble was reversed. He is 9-for-11 this season on replay challenges.