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Castillo's return vs. Broncos to add depth to defense

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 9, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: ESPN

    By Len Pasquarelli

    <img width="203" height="219" align="left" alt="Luis Castillo" title="Luis Castillo" src="http://www.bolttalk.com/images/castillo01.jpg" />In a case of the talent-rich growing even richer, the San Diego Chargers, tied for the best record in the AFC and angling for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, will welcome back a star defensive player to the lineup for the second week in a row.

    Left defensive end Luis Castillo, who missed the past four games with an ankle injury, will be back on the field for Sunday's home game against the Denver Broncos. Last week, the Chargers got linebacker Shawne Merriman back in the lineup following a four-game suspension for a violation of the league's steroids and banned substances policy.

    The latter of the Chargers' two first-round picks in the 2005 draft -- Merriman was the earlier selection in the opening stanza -- Castillo was enjoying a breakout-type season before suffering a high sprain to his left ankle in a Nov. 5 game against the Cleveland Browns. The ankle injury, which was initially considered fairly innocuous, occurred when Castillo tripped over Charlie Frye after sacking the Cleveland quarterback.

    It took longer than anticipated for the swelling in the ankle to subside and Castillo acknowledged that the idleness was frustrating for him.

    "You have good days and bad days," said Castillo, the 28th player chosen overall in the 2005 draft, and a starter in 15 games as a rookie. "It's the days when you don't see any progress, or when you suffer a little bit of a setback, that are the toughest. You don't feel like part of the team, you're anxious to get back on the field, and it all kind of drives you crazy."

    As was the case during Merriman's absence, the Chargers were undefeated while Castillo was sidelined, and Jacques Cesaire and Ryon Bingham played well for a unit that statistically ranks No. 8 overall and is No. 6 versus the run. But Castillo, a former Northwestern star, is regarded as a future Pro Bowl performer, and having him return now will certainly boost the Chargers for the playoff stretch run.

    In the eight games in which he started before the ankle injury, Castillo posted 46 tackles. More surprising, given that Castillo is principally regarded as a run-stuffer, was that he also registered five sacks and seven quarterback pressures.

    What makes those numbers so impressive is that Castillo rarely plays on third down. In the San Diego 3-4 alignment, Merriman and fellow outside linebacker Shaun Phillips typically move to end on the obvious passing downs. But the 290-pound Castillo, who had 3"½ sacks in his rookie campaign, possesses excellent quickness and surprisingly good closing speed on the pass rush.

    Since his ankle remains a little tender, Castillo will wear a brace on Sunday, and coaches will monitor his snaps and keep tabs on his conditioning as the game wears on. Castillo acknowledged he is still a bit leery about the ankle, but that is superseded by his eagerness to return in what might be a special season.

    "The injury has made me put aside some of my individual goals," Castillo said. "Those can wait until next season. But the team goals are always the more important ones anyway. People are thinking big around here, and I want to be a part of that."
     

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