Juan Castillo endured awkward circumstances and heavy resistance to his blocking techniques and coaching methods during a rough season last year as the Ravens' run-game coordinator.
Despite the challenging year, Castillo was named the Ravens' offensive line coach this season.
That's why it didn't come as a surprise Thursday when Castillo repeatedly declined to elaborate on what went awry a year ago.
- VIDEO: Juan Castillo pleased with growth of o-line
- Ravens training camp highlights for Thursday, Aug. 14
- Harbaugh expects starters to play one quarter Saturday
- Ravens 23, Cleveland Browns 21 [Pictures]
- Mike Preston grades the Ravens' 23-21 win over the Browns in Week 3
- 2014 Ravens cheerleaders [Pictures]
See more photos »
"Well, I'd rather not talk about last year," Castillo said three times during his first interview since last year's training camp. "This is this year."
And so far, this season has gotten off to an encouraging start for Castillo and the offensive line.
Highly respected in NFL circles for his work coaching the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line for 13 seasons, Castillo was hired as the Ravens' run-game coordinator last year and signed to a three-year contract averaging $1 million annually following a small bidding war with the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Things didn't go smoothly, though, for Castillo or the offensive line one season removed from winning Super Bowl XLVII. Castillo, 54, was hired to oversee the offensive line, but the Ravens kept offensive line coach Andy Moeller last season and the two had different philosophies.
The Ravens couldn't run the football, ranking 30th in the NFL. They averaged just 83 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry as the line didn't create enough holes and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce struggled with injuries. It was the worst rushing season in franchise history, with only 1,328 yards gained.
The offensive line couldn't consistently protect quarterback Joe Flacco, who absorbed brutal hits as he was sacked a career-high 48 times.
Following a 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 13 in which the Ravens rushed for only 47 yards on 22 carries, team sources confirmed several linemen complained to coach John Harbaugh about new blocking schemes implemented by Castillo and told Harbaugh they wanted to return to the old-school, physical tactics used during their Super Bowl run.
There was an emotional meeting with Castillo during which offensive linemen voiced their issues, saying he was too regimented and unwilling to tailor his techniques to the Ravens' personnel, team sources said.
Traded to the Miami Dolphins after the Ravens acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe in a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, left tackle Bryant McKinnie told The Baltimore Sun last year he respected Castillo, but emphasized that a disconnect existed between Castillo and the linemen.
"Juan likes to develop young players, because that's what he did in Philly," McKinnie said. "He is a good coach and he does help you with your technique, but he wants it done a certain way. My thing is everybody doesn't have the exact same talent or learn things the same way. I don't feel like you can coach everybody exactly the same, not everyone is going to react the same.
"Five individuals can't do the same thing instead of trying to make everybody a robot. You need to learn about your players and know their strengths and weaknesses and coach them that way. Juan is highly rated, but it takes time to adjust to what he's looking for."
During a January news conference after the Ravens failed to make the playoffs for the first time since his arrival in 2008, Harbaugh said he could see why Castillo became a subject of controversy. The run-game coordinator title was removed, and Castillo is now just the line coach. Moeller left to become the Cleveland Browns' offensive line coach.
"I can understand why Juan is a lightning rod right now because of the way that was set up and structured," Harbaugh said in January. "We have our worst year ever running the ball, and he's got that title. So, that's on me."
A year later, Castillo is encouraged by the way he's meshing with his players.
The Ravens have two new starters: center Jeremy Zuttah, acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and right tackle Rick Wagner. And left guard Kelechi Osemele has made an impressive return from back surgery.
"I think the important thing as any coach is the players know you and really trust you, and I think that happens through time," Castillo said. "I think the guys now, they're getting to know me a little bit, and hopefully they trust me."
A new-look offensive line had an encouraging debut last Thursday. The Ravens rushed for 237 yards and a touchdown on 48 carries during a 23-3 preseason victory over the San Francisco 49ers.