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Juan Castillo’s offensive line fix for the Bears: ‘My guys are going to outwork everybody’

The Bears’ new offensive line coach passionately believes in simple solutions to a 2019 problem area: fundamentals and repetition. “It’s about doing it over and over and over and over.”

Bears guard/center James Daniels (68) has a lot of room for growth in his third NFL season after starting 26 of 32 games the past two seasons. “With the length and the size that James has, I think he has a chance to be a very good guard,” new offensive line coach Juan Castillo said.
Bears guard/center James Daniels (68) has a lot of room for growth in his third NFL season after starting 26 of 32 games the past two seasons. “With the length and the size that James has, I think he has a chance to be a very good guard,” new offensive line coach Juan Castillo said.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If Matt Nagy was looking for a new voice to motivate his offensive line, he found it.

Juan Castillo’s approach is profoundly simple, old-school and cliche. “It’s about fundamentals, man,” the Bears new offensive line coach said Wednesday in a Zoom teleconference with reporters. “It’s about doing it over and over and over and over. . . . That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about plays. It’s about fundamentals. Because a lot of people teach the same thing, but it’s about coming across, so you can get the job done.”

Nagy is counting on Castillo to make the difference. All but locked in to bringing back four starters after the offensive line struggled in 2019, Nagy fired well-respected line coach Harry Hiestand and hired Castillo, who was out of football in 2019. The 60-year-old Castillo has had success as a line coach in the NFL — most notably with the Eagles (1998-2010) and the Ravens (2014-16).

His familiarity with Nagy — they coached together in Philadelphia from 2010-11 — and his experience in Andy Reid’s offense would seem to be beneficial. And his personal style — a bit more in-your-face — might be a needed jolt for an offensive line that disappointed in 2019.

While Hiestand was an outsider from Notre Dame when Nagy hired him in 2017, Castillo is a familiar face.

“I think we understand each other,” Castillo said. “We were right across from each other [at the Eagles’ facility], and he was in my office a lot. So I think he feels comfortable with me.

“I think what coach [Nagy] saw in me is that I’m an overachiever. I work hard. My parents are from Mexico. I’m the first generation [born in the U.S.], so I only know one way, and my thing with my players is, I try to lead by example. My guys are going to outwork everybody. And if they’re going to outwork everybody, then I have to do that.”

There’s likely a lot more to Castillo’s plans for improving the Bears’ offensive line than fundamentals, hard work and being physical and aggressive. But Castillo wasn’t about to go there.

“One thing we’re taught is not to talk too much about scheme — about run or pass or what we’re going to do,” Castillo said. “If I answer that question, I might get into some . . . I get excited, you know? I might get into something that we’re going to do or we’re not going to do and I don’t want to do that. I’m sorry about that.”

Castillo knows his passion sometimes gets the best of him. Asked about veteran left tackle Charles Leno, Castillo spoke for nearly three minutes straight — without mentioning Charles Leno. “Offensive line play, for the 25 years I’ve known it, is all about being consistent,” he said. “The more consistent you are, the better the player you are.” And on and on it went.

But all was not for naught. Castillo is looking forward to getting the most out of new right guard Germain Ifedi. “Here’s a guy who’s 6-6, 335 pounds that’s got some God-given ability; some big heart; that’s tough; that wants to be good. Am I excited? Oh, buddy, am I excited. He’s been working his ass off. So I am excited about him.”

And he also said guard James Daniels is 10 pounds heavier than last season. “With the length and size that James has, I think he has a chance to be a very good guard,” Castillo said.

But even then, he was a little caught up in the moment.

“He’s a Hawkeye,” Castillo said of Daniels, who played at Iowa. “My son played at Iowa just like James did. We have a little Hawkeye in us, so I’m really excited about it. Any time I can coach a Hawkeye, I’m excited.”