Juan Castillo can be heard from across the field during practice.
The Ravens’ new run game coordinator is active and energetic, barking out commands as he runs the offensive line through drills. He makes his way from player to player, critiquing them and pushing them on every rep.
“His passion for the game is very evident,” second-year center
The longtime Philadelphia Eagles coach joined the Ravens during the playoffs last season, teaming up with Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller. Castillo has a reputation as one of the premier line coaches in the NFL, and the players gravitated toward his instruction almost immediately.
“He tries to simplify everything as best he can,” Gradkowski said. “I know Coach Moeller built me a great foundation my first year. Coach Castillo, I think, is just taking my game to the next level, and I’m very excited about where I’m going as a player. I think a lot of players feel the same way.”
In addition to the energy he brings, Castillo is known for his attention to detail. A number of players have praised Castillo’s focus on the fundamentals, which has been a point of emphasis during the offseason.
“He focuses on our technique, and that’s something that I kind of get away from sometimes,” McKinnie said. “Right now is a great time for us to work on our technique and me in pass protection – sitting straight back. So, Juan’s been a great help.”
Castillo works with everyone on the line, but he’s spending a good deal of time with the young linemen. He had a knack for developing a number of small-school prospects during his 10 years with the Eagles, and he’s looking to continue that trend in Baltimore.
Castillo played at Texas A&I in college and eventually went on to coach there, which is part of his attraction to coaching players from small schools.
“I never coached at a big school. I went from Division II to the NFL,” Castillo said. “Throughout my years, the biggest thing that I enjoyed coming from a Division II school is that at our place what we learned is that it didn’t matter who you got; you developed whatever you got, because you didn’t have that many players.”
The Ravens currently have eight rookies or first-year offensive linemen on the 90-man roster, including a number of undrafted or late-round prospects, and Castillo is relishing the opportunity to coach them.
“I really enjoyed developing players, and I think that’s something that throughout my career at Philadelphia that I’ve done, especially college free agents,” Castillo said.
That excitement is mutual for the players.
“We have fun with him,” Gradkowski said. “We work hard, but we have fun at the same time. He’s a very intelligent guy. He’s very intelligent and I think it’s going to be good for all of us.”