Coach Washington on Luis Castillo: "Complete"

There are two kinds of players who can really help a defense: those who can be stars and make game-altering plays, and those who allow the stars to have the impact that they do. Just as Shawne Merriman is being expected to make his living in opponents' backfields, Luis Castillo is likewise being counted on to free Merriman up to do exactly that.

Luis Castillo has elite bulk and power for a defensive end, and his quickness and game smarts make him an ideal fit in the Chargers' defense. At six-foot-three and 303 lbs., many have said that Castillo has all the makings of a dominant performer. Eric Washington, Castillo's defensive line coach at Northwestern, was quick to second such notions.

"He was the most complete defensive lineman I've ever worked with," Washington said. "He's very consistent and plays with a very high motor."

It is not surprising that Castillo impressed Washington as he did. He finished his collegiate career with 251 total tackles, an incredible number for a defensive lineman. He also used his quickness to disrupt plays before they ever developed, as evidenced by the 19.5 tackles for a loss he recorded while at Northwestern.

But while his on field productivity was impressive, it was Castillo's understanding of the game that most impressed Washington. It is something that set him apart, and allowed him to best maximize his phenomenal potential.

"In terms of his character, he's very dependable, and that's what you look for in a player," Washington said. "I could depend on Luis to know his assignments, to execute them and to be where he was supposed to be. That's huge for a coach, I mean, that's everything."

Now that is has been established that the Chargers got themselves a heck of a player in Castillo, it remains to be seen where to will use him. There appears to be an opening at the defensive end position opposite Igor Olshansky, but Castillo can play nose tackle as well.

"I think he'll probably line up as an end and then reduce to the classic three-technique position," predicted Washington. "He can really collapse the interior B gap. I think he can do extremely well in that role. He can also slide over and play some nose. I think he can do a lot of good things as a point of attack defender."

Although Washington was full of praise for his former player, he did point out that Castillo is not yet a finished product. While his potential is exciting, he still has some fundamentals to improve on if he is going to get the most out of his enormous physical capabilities.

"He's still working on his pass rush technique and his pass rush recognition, which is what will allow him to get pressure and to be an effective player," Washington said. "That and just some of the technical aspects of the defensive line position."

Still, those are all areas of Castillo's game that will improve with experience. But his size, strength, quickness and passion are all things that can't be taught. The Chargers will happily take those admirable characteristics and simply coach up the rest. That is why Castillo was such an appealing pick, among other reasons.

"What was really attractive about him, based on the feedback that we got, is that he has incredible versatility for a big man," according to Washington.

Once versatility is added to Castillo's laundry list of exemplary attributes, it becomes easy to see why the Chargers were so excited to land him. The only people happier than the Chargers' coaches to have Castillo on board are the Chargers' linebackers. Players such as Donnie Edwards, Steve Foley and now Shawne Merriman must be thrilled, because each of those stars just had their job made a little easier.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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