LAKE FOREST – Wednesday was welcome to Chicago day for new Bears coaches, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, offensive line coach Juan Castillo, quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo and tight ends coach Clancy Barone.
Press conferences throughout the morning were unusually informative as these things normally go.
Possibly the biggest story is some clarity around an emerging plan to fix the Bears ground game.
It is fairly common practice around the league for teams to have a run game coordinator.
Whether or not the Bears had anyone in that roll during Matt Nagy’s first two years is uncertain, but it was assumed those duties were shared by or belonged to either former OC Mark Helfrich or Harry Hiestand.
The Bears newly configured coaching staff does boast a passing game coordinator in Dave Ragone, but much like Nagy’s first two seasons no run game coordinator has been publicly designated.
But it appears all but certain Castillo is that guy.
I have no idea if Nagy has intentionally tried to keep it quiet, but it was actually Barone who first spilled the beans answering a question about how he expects his tight ends to block for the run.
“Well, part of it is from my background of having been an offensive line coach in college and also in the National Football League, and being very, very familiar with the run game that Juan (Castillo) wants to install, the fact that Juan and I were kind of brought up the same way in the run game.
“I absolutely see the run game the same way through Juan's eyes.”
While Barone left little doubt as to who’s overseeing the ground game, Lazor cemented the answer later in the morning telling us, “Juan and I have had conversations already about the formations we would like to use in the run game for our opening game of the season. It's our job when your title is coordinator, you have to make sure it all fits.”
This could be promising or it could be scary.
Castillo was the offensive line coach in Philadelphia from 1998-2010 and while I haven’t confirmed it, sources indicate to me they think he was the run game coordinator there towards the end of his tenure.
In 2010 the Eagles were fifth in rushing yards and first in average gain per run.
With both the O-line coach and run game coordinator titles in Buffalo, Castillo’s Bills were 6th and 14th in 2017 and 9th and 21st in 2018 running the football.
However in 2013 when he had the run game coordinator title in Baltimore, the Ravens were 30th in total rushing and 32nd in average gain per rush.
Here are two things we did learn about Castillo’s plans for the offensive line.
We now know where we’ll find James Daniels after I asked him if he thought Daniels projected better at center?
“The thing about James Daniels is that James Daniels is smart, he’s an athlete. All right?
“So he’s going to be a good player whether he plays guard or center. So you say which one is better?
“If you’re a really good guard, you’ll be a good center because everything is a little tighter.
“So I think with the length and the size that James has, I think he has a chance to be a very good guard. I think he’s going to come in about 10 pounds heavier than he was last year.”
Castillo is also excited about free agent Germain Ifedi at the other guard spot.
“He’s 6’6, right now he’s currently 335 lbs, OK?
“How many years did he start for the Seattle Seahawks?” The answer to that one is four and Castillo continued, “And they’re pretty good, right?
“Imagine getting something like that and now, would you be excited to work with something like that?
“Am I excited? Oh, buddy, am I excited.”
Clearly Castillo and the team are comfortable with Cody Whitehair at center and prepared to go with Charles Leno and Bobby Massie at the tackles.
Will that be enough to allow David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen to reach their ceilings and are those ceilings high enough?
That remains to be seen, but now we know who is trying to make it happen, how and who is going to get either the credit or the blame.