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Eagles’ DC Jim Schwartz talks tackling deficiencies, defends Jalen Mills (again)

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Plus, the defensive coordinator lauds rookie nickel-turned-safety Avonte Maddox

Let’s call a spade a spade; Adam Thielen had his way with the Philadelphia Eagles defense on Sunday.

Need to move the sticks on a 3rd and 1? Short pass outside to Thielen for 3 yards. Need a big statement coming out of halftime? Long pass to Thielen for 68 yards. Short passes with lots of yards after the catch kept the Vikings on the field all day long.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz hasn’t seem too phased by some of the struggles through the first quarter of the season, but it became obvious on Sunday that unless some MAKES A TACKLE, offenses are going to eat them alive.

Schwartz talked to reporters on Tuesday about some of the concerns they have and how they plan to improve as the head into division play.

Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:

On Michael Bennett’s penalty

Schwartz called it a really unfortunate play, and noted that they try and coach the guys to stay within the strike box, but sometimes they get knocked off their feet or what have you and that’s not always possible.

He continued that whether Bennett forcibly knocked Cousins off his feet is a judgement call, and Michael Bennett was trying to do the right thing, but Schwartz knows that it was a critical call in that game. He noted that you don’t always get the call in your favor and you just have to deal with it.

You could tell that Schwartz was holding back some colorful words on his true feelings about these types of penalties, but he echoed what he has all season: It’s not their job to officiate, it’s up to them to play to the officiant.

But for the most part, he said, the Eagles have avoided some of those questionable calls compared to other teams in the league, but this one “bit us”.

On rookie Avonte Maddox

Schwartz said that the rookie brought some energy to the field and shows great range in his play style. He emphasized what he said last week, that playing nickel for the Eagles is pretty similar to playing safety.

He also noted that when Corey Graham got hurt against the Vikings it changed the dynamic for how much Maddox would play, but that he was up for the challenge. Schwartz also said that if the end of the game had gone differently, we might be pointing at his big play in the open field earlier in the day as keeping four points off the board.

Making that stop and controlling the situation was a sign for Schwartz of good things to come from Avonte.

Schwartz was also asked what the rookie’s ceiling looks like and if they would consider keeping him at safety moving forward. The DC noted that Maddox isn’t the ideal size for the position, but he is the ideal quickness and range, and having that dual skillset is invaluable.

“The things we liked from him as a nickel we also like from him as a safety,” Schwartz continued. “We’ll see going forward, I mean that’s where we are right now.”

On Jalen Mills

Schwartz was asked about Mills performance on Sunday, and the defensive coordinator continued to support his corner.

He noted that Jalen has made a lot of plays for the Eagles, including against the Vikings. Schwartz specifically pointed out the first third-down stop, where Mills gets his hands on the ball and played great technique.

Schwartz also took the blame for the big play he gave up, saying “I’d put that more on me than him”. He noted that he put Mills on a big island and were being aggressive, but it didn’t work out.

He continued to talk about how that’s just the nature of the position, occasionally you’re going to get beat, but Schwartz felt like Mills bounced back from that play and battled.

The defensive coordinator also pointed out that corner is the one position that people are going to see each and every mistake. Schwartz admitted that mistakes from linebacker or linemen might not be as noticeable to viewers, but when the corner whiffs, it’s there for everyone to see and they can’t hide it.

“That’s just the hat those guys wear, and they can’t lose confidence because they gave up a play.”

Schwartz was then asked if Mills needs to do a better job keeping his emotions in check — seemingly addressing his back and forth with the Vikings receiver, and then Fletcher Cox — but the DC didn’t bite. He said it’s a competitive game and you want players who are fully invested and energized.

If anything, he said he likes that Mills was combative and pushed back. Schwartz pointed out that the last thing you want is a corner that is shell-shocked and “Jalen’s never been that way”.

He was asked again to detail Mills’ specific performance against the Vikings, but Schwartz quipped that he doesn’t do that in front of the media — as we all know. Bottom line, he thinks Mills played with good technique, and some of the calls were on Schwartz for being too aggressive in some situations.

On defensive scheme

Schwartz agreed that the problem wasn’t so much Kirk Cousins getting the ball out so quick on Sunday, but rather the yards after the catch that became the real issue. He said there’s some scheme-type stuff that he can help the guys with, but that it’s limiting the yards after catch that is the real priority.

He continued to point out that most of the catches were on short-yard passes, but the runs they were making afterward were killer. Schwartz did say that later in the game he was happy with some of the adjustments they made, resulting in a few nice stops on the sideline.

“We have to be a good tackling team,” Schwartz emphasized.

Related to that, he said that’ll be a big sticking point as the prepare to face guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley. Schwartz noted that Barkley isn’t your typical receiver, but he gets a lot of short passes and is able to really make the most of his room after the catch.