Juan Castillo

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Cousins, Packers, Workouts, Bears, Castillo

The Vikings fell to 1-5 after their lopsided loss to the Falcons on Sunday, and Kirk Cousins had another bad game. He ended up leading a few scoring drives in garbage time to make his final numbers not look too bad, but his three early interceptions sealed the loss. It was his second game of the year with three picks, and he now has a league-high ten on the year. Speaking to the media after the game, Cousins acknowledged that his turnover issues could lead to a benching if he doesn’t get things cleaned up. “The reality is if the pace that I’m on, in terms of the interceptions, if that were to continue, I won’t finish the season. I won’t,” Cousins said bluntly, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

There’s a little bit of – you’ve got to improve whether it’s them telling me ‘hey, we’ve got to improve’ or them pulling me, you’ve got to get better and that will be what the rest of the season will be about for me,” the Vikings’ signal-caller said. For what it’s worth, head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that he didn’t consider benching Cousins during the loss. Minnesota’s backup is former Jared Goff clipboard-holder Sean Mannion, who isn’t exactly the most appealing second-string option. Cousins signed an extension back in March that has him under contract through the 2022 season. His dead cap hit would be $41MM next year, so moving on after this season isn’t really an option. As such, Zimmer is in a pretty tight bind if Cousins keeps playing like this.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Packers worked out kicker Giorgio Tavecchio earlier this week, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). There’s no indication there’s any problem with Mason Crosby, so this was probably just Green Bay doing some due diligence in the event of an injury of COVID-19 problems. Tavecchio has kicked for the Raiders and Falcons in recent years, and also spent time with the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL.
  • Tavecchio isn’t the only one the Packers are planning on working out. Green Bay will host linebacker Alvin Jones as soon as he clears the COVID-19 protocols, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Notably, Jones is the win brother of Packers star running back Aaron Jones. A fellow UTEP product, the linebacker spent the past couple years with the Ravens, mostly on injured reserve and the practice squad. He’s yet to appear in a regular season NFL game. “I’m glad he’s going to get his opportunity and get a chance to work out,” Aaron said to the media. “I know he’ll do whatever he needs to do and hopefully he’s on the team with me. I’d love to have that. That’d be a true joy.
  • The Bears improved to 5-1 with their win over the Panthers on Sunday, and they did it without one of their position coaches. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo is away from the team as he self isolates due to a close exposure to someone who is COVID-19 positive, Brad Briggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Castillo is apparently considered high risk, and the positive he was in contact with was someone away from the team and not a player.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Cook, Bears

Having dealt with back trouble for two years, Matthew Stafford missed half of this season with fractures in his back. He will not undergo surgery and expects to be back in time for the start of the Lions‘ offseason program in April. Last season, Stafford played through a transverse process fracture in his back. This will be OC Darrell Bevell‘s second year in Detroit, so Stafford’s participation in the upcoming offseason program will not be as critical as last season’s attendance. Still, Detroit’s soon-to-be 32-year-old passer appears on the way back.

Oh yeah, I’ll be good to go,” Stafford said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “I feel really good, which is good. I’ve had quite a bit of rest, obviously. I think I’ll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon, to tell you the truth.”

Shifting first to one of the division’s teams still playing, here is the latest out of the NFC North:

  • The Vikings‘ plan to sit Dalvin Cook (shoulder, chest) for the final two regular-season games looks to have paid off. Minnesota’s Pro Bowl back took part in a full practice Wednesday, putting him in line to suit up for the Vikings’ first-round game against the Saints. Alexander Mattison (ankle) was also a full participant, giving Minnesota a good chance of having the best version of its backfield in action Sunday in New Orleans.
  • The Bears quickly identified their next offensive line coach. A day after firing previous O-line instructor Harry Hiestand, Chicago will hire Juan Castillo to replace him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Castillo’s most recent role was with Buffalo, where he served as the Bills’ O-line coach from 2017-18, but he was on the Eagles’ staff for each of Andy Reid’s 14 years in Philadelphia. Nagy broke into coaching during those years, spending time on Reid’s final five Philly staffs. The Bears ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric, with their offensive front frequently struggling to open running lanes.
  • Back to the Lions, they have starting guard Graham Glasgow set for free agency. The team moved Glasgow back to guard after he’d started at center in 2018, but this season’s Lions featured a three-guard rotation. That may or may not impact Glasgow’s offseason decision; he was non-committal about a desire to stay in Detroit. “It’s been a long year and I’d like to feel like — I’d like to kind of feel like I’m wanted, sort of,” Glasgow said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “So, yeah. It’s been — it’s just been a long year. And ideally, I’d like to — we kind of need to talk about it.” Glasgow started 58 games with the Lions from 2016-19 and graded well, in the view of Pro Football Focus, this past season. With the guard market gravitating toward sellers in recent years, Glasgow could be in for a nice payday in March.

Coaching Notes: Packers, Bucs, Broncos

Despite Pat Fitzgerald emphatically proclaiming he was staying at Northwestern following Monday night’s Holiday Bowl win, the Packers are still going to make an attempt to interview him, Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. The Packers were expected to reach out with an interview request, with GM Brian Gutekunst expressing great admiration for the Northwestern coach and Packers president Mark Murphy having hired Fitzgerald when he was at Northwestern, but nothing has transpired yet. The 13-year Wildcats leader said Northwestern was “not going anywhere” and Chicago was “home forever.” Mike McCarthy made more than $8MM last season, according to Silverstein and Owczarski, who suspect the Packers may have to offer at least that — despite Fitzgerald having never coached in the NFL — to entice the 44-year-old college coach. The Packers have thus far requested interviews with Josh McDaniels, Mike Munchak, Dan Campbell, Matt LaFleur and Brian Flores.

Here is the latest from the coaching front on New Year’s Day:

  • The Buccaneers will have a chance to interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards. The parties will meet Thursday for a head coach meeting, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Thus far on the coaching carousel, Edwards — the Vikings’ DC for the past five seasons and formerly the Bills’ and Redskins’ DC — has only been connected to Tampa Bay’s vacancy.
  • Gary Kubiak may well be returning to the sideline, in a non-HC capacity. Kubiak stepped down from his role as the Broncos‘ head coach after the 2016 season, citing health concerns, but John Elway said his longtime friend may end up as part of Denver’s 2019 offensive staff. “We’ll see. We’re still in that process,” Elway said. “We still have a lot of things to go over before that, but I think it could be where it is, it could be on the offensive side [as a coach]. We’ll see what that role may be, but Gary will be around.” Kubiak has worked in the Broncos’ front office the past two years. Denver is expected to interview Vic Fangio, Flores and Chuck Pagano (while also set to meet with Rams QBs coach Zac Taylor and Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak). Going defense for a second straight hire would point to Kubiak being in line to take over as offensive coordinator.
  • Dan Quinn‘s Falcons staff continues to undergo changes. The Falcons have parted ways with tight ends coach Wade Harman, multiple sources tell Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Harman had served in this role for four seasons and had been with the Falcons for five, operating as Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2014.
  • The Bills‘ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator the past two years, Juan Castillo received his walking papers on Tuesday, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. Castillo has worked on both sides of the ball, serving as the Eagles’ DC from 2011-12 before shifting back to offense in his roles since.
  • Despite going 4-12, the 49ers will not shake up their staff. Robert Saleh will stay on as San Francisco’s DC, doing so after his unit set NFL records for fewest interceptions (two) in a season and takeaways (seven) in a season. Kyle Shanahan said (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle) his entire staff will be back in 2019.

Staff Notes: Tomsula, Callahan, Bills, Broncos

Jim Tomsula was out of football this season after a 5-11 campaign as San Francisco’s head coach in 2015, but it appears he’s about to resurface. The Redskins are targeting Tomsula, tweets Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, though he doesn’t specify which position the 48-year-old would take in Washington. It seems likely Tomsula would coach the Redskins’ D-line, though, considering he held that role with the Niners from 2007-14. The Redskins have an opening there thanks to the firing of Robb Akey earlier this month.

More on several coaching staffs:

  • Newly minted Rams head coach Sean McVay has already reeled in one experienced coordinator in defensive chief Wade Phillips, and he could next add one on offense in Bill Callahan, reports Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson (Twitter link). Callahan is currently the Redskins’ offensive line coach – McVay, of course, was their offensive coordinator – and has been a coordinator in both Oakland and Dallas.
  • Along with officially hiring Leslie Frazier as their new defensive coordinator, the Bills announced the additions of Juan Castillo (offensive line coach/run game coordinator) and Bob Babich (linebackers) to their coaching staff Friday. They’ll also retain special teams coach Danny Crossman for a fifth season. Castillo, who spent the past four years with the Ravens, was previously a longtime staff member in Philadelphia – where he became familiar with new Bills head coach Sean McDermott. Babich coached the Chargers’ linebackers this past season, which came after a three-year run as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator.
  • The Broncos have a couple candidates for their special teams coach job in Marwan Maalouf and Derius Swinton II, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter links). The Dolphins granted the Broncos permission to interview Maalouf, who’s Miami’s assistant special teams coach. Heading to Denver would mean once again working on the same staff as rookie head coach Vance Joseph, who was the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2016. Swinton is currently the 49ers’ special teams coach, but his future there is in doubt with a new head coach on the way. He worked as the Broncos’ assistant special teams coach from 2013-14.
  • The Browns have hired DeWayne Walker to coach their defensive backs, according to Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. Walker was in Jacksonville as its DBs coach over the past four years. In going to Cleveland, he’ll reunite with Browns head coach Hue Jackson and new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Walker worked with each of them in previous stops.
  • Chargers defensive line coach Giff Smith, defensive backs coach Ron Milus and assistant DBs coach Chris Harris will remain in place under Anthony Lynn, relays Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). They could end up on the defensive staff of Gus Bradley, who will interview for the Bolts’ D-coordinator job.