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The Linc: The Eagles’ rookies are learning plenty on the job

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It’s been trial by fire for most of the rooks.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles news and notes for 11/16

McLane: Eagles learning a lot about their rookies - Inquirer

Smallwood has obvious ability. He could develop into a No. 1 tailback, but the Eagles likely envision him as a complementary piece. Depending upon how they handle next offseason, though, he could have the job by default.

The Eagles talked up Vaitai's potential upside during the draft. With Johnson and left tackle Jason Peters ahead of him, he would have time to watch and learn. But the coaches felt that he was far enough along to throw him into the fire even though he clearly wasn't ready.

Has he shown enough that the Eagles would feel comfortable moving Johnson to left tackle next year? Or could the team hang on to Peters for another season considering his health and how well he has played?

The Eagles did not trade cornerback Eric Rowe to the Patriots specifically because of Mills, but their comfort with him certainly made the decision to part with their 2015 second-round pick that much easier. The team clearly has expectations for Mills, but could it be in the slot rather than on outside, where his lack of long speed could catch up to him?

These are all valid questions, but ones that come with no immediate answers. It could be years before any accurate deductions are made.

All-22 Review: How the Eagles’ defense dominated the Falcons - Birds 24/7

*Jim Schwartz turned in another terrific game calling the shots, and while the Eagles have plenty of talent on defense, he’s a big reason the Birds rank third in the NFL in points per game allowed, sixth in yards per game allowed and sixth in takeaways. Against Atlanta, Schwartz’s unit held the Falcons to season lows in points (15), yards (303), first downs (11), offensive plays (48) and time of possession (21:50). Before the game on Sunday, Atlanta ranked first in the NFL in points per game (33.9) and second in the league in yards per game (429.2).

*Schwartz dialed up blitzes at the right time, consistently giving Matt Ryan trouble in the first half on third downs (Atlanta was just 2-of-11 on third down in the game). Schwartz’s blitzes caused quick throws, forcing Ryan to miss open receivers, throw the ball downfield before the play developed or hit shallow targets behind the chains. Schwartz often called on Mychal Kendricks to bring the pressure, which is what the linebacker does best. Kendricks had perhaps his best game of the season against Atlanta, in part because of how Schwartz deployed him.

Domowitch: Eagles’ Grymes living the dream - Daily News

Grymes was active Sunday. He didn't play any defensive snaps, but did play nine special-teams snaps. Might get a chance to play this week in Seattle if the Eagles' other starting corner, Nolan Carroll, doesn't clear concussion protocol.

"Aaron is still kind of working into the system just a little bit," coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "He's only been active a week. So we've got to keep bringing him along with some more reps."

The Eagles made Grymes no promises when they released him in late August. He was pretty sure he had made a positive impression on them, but he also is aware of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind maxim.

"As far as words of encouragement, I got a lot of, 'You were having a good camp,' and 'You impressed a lot of us.' Things like that," he said.

"But nothing was ever said like, 'Don't worry. You'll be back.' At the same time, I was kind of sick (about getting released). And I didn't want to hear too much. Words of encouragement weren't really doing anything for me at the time. Because I was still being sent home.

"But the guys in the locker room really kept my spirits up. They kept telling me, 'Hey, you made plays and it's on film. If this team doesn't want you, there will be somebody out there who would love to have you on their roster when you're healthy."

As Barbre returns, Wisniewski back to bench after playing well - CSN Philly

“It’s great to have a guy like Wiz, veteran, experienced, played a lot of games prior to joining our football team,” Doug Pederson said on Monday. “It’s great to have that kind of backup guard/center combination out of him. He’s played well. He’s been a solid addition in there, been real consistent. A little limited as an athlete, but smart. Makes up for it with his brain and being in the right position.”

During his two starts against the Giants and Falcons and while playing most of the game against the Cowboys, Wisniewski has filled in nicely. In those three games, he gave up five quarterback hurries, but no QB hits and no sacks.

He was a part of the offensive line that helped the Eagles rush for 208 yards in the 24-15 win over the Falcons on Sunday. “Wiz did a great job this game,” left tackle Jason Peters said.

Wisniewski hopes he has shown enough over the last few weeks to again be viewed as a starter in the NFL.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “And my tape from my whole career has shown that I’m a good starter. Hopefully people look at that, but I’d sure love to stay here. But we’ll see what happens.”

If Wisniewski has played well enough to earn a starting job somewhere in the league, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be in Philadelphia.

Jalen Mills: The Making of an NFL CB - PE.com

"I had so much fun out there going against Julio and competing," said Mills after the Eagles' 24-15 win at Lincoln Financial Field. "I understand why he's so great, the way he gets into and out of his breaks, how fast he is, how strong to go get the ball he is. It was a challenge and I accepted it."

Jones was targeted 16 times and had 10 catches for 135 yards. Great numbers, for sure. But Jones didn't destroy the Eagles' defense and he didn't break down Mills, not for a second. It's not in Mills' DNA to back down, one of the characteristics the Eagles like so much about a player they had rated much higher than the seventh round of the NFL Draft in May, where they eventually took him off the board.

In a season of "new" for the Eagles with all of the changes the team made after a plummet in 2015, the defensive backfield wasn't spared. The Eagles, after all, allowed a franchise-record 36 touchdown passes last season and they knew they needed to be more competent and competitive in the Jim Schwartz defense.

Some under-the-radar signings in free agency helped as the Eagles added Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, who both played well for Schwartz in Buffalo during the 2014 campaign. They retained Nolan Carroll, who had his solid 2015 season end on Thanksgiving with an ankle injury. Safety Rodney McLeod was a huge signing in free agency.

In the draft, the Eagles selected Mills with the 233rd overall pick. He's turned out to be a valuable piece and he's improving every week as he impresses with his tenacity, his competitive nature and his dedication to being as good as he can be.