The Philadelphia Eagles got some good news when they returned to the NovaCare Complex on Monday: Tim Jernigan was cleared to return to practice.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media Monday afternoon and talked about what it means to get him back and what kind of timeline they are looking at for him to be active on game day.
Here’s was Schwartz had to say:
On Timmy Jernigan returning
Schwartz said it was good to see Jernigan back in a uniform and back on the field — even if it was just for a walk-through — and that he’s got an infectious smile and a good demeanor around the game that is good to get back. Now, they’ll just ease him back in, start with some individual drills and take things one day at a time.
The DC also unequivocally noted that he has no expectations for when Jernigan will be ready for a game, and that it’ll just depend on where he is in his progression. Schwartz noted that Jernigan is a veteran player and works hard, but that his body will tell him when he’s ready to go and they’ll go from there.
He was asked what Jernigan has been doing around the facility in terms of his rehab, and Schwartz likened it to what Sidney Jones was doing last year, “he’s haunting the hallways, he’s staying current with what we’re doing”. And while he couldn’t participate in the walk-thrus in any fashion, he was still out there observing.
Where Jernigan and Jones differ though is the former is a veteran and has been around this team and the league long enough that once he’s physically able to get back out there, he’ll slide back into the flow of things.
He did say that setting any kind of expectation isn’t helping Jernigan at all, so they just want to take things on a day-to-day basis and go from there, “when he’s ready, we’ll get him back out there”.
Later on he circled back to Jernigan and said that the things he adds to the defense are all reason that they traded for him and re-signed him last year, and that he was a big part of their success last season. Schwartz went on to say that Jernigan didn’t rush a ton on third down, but he was a guy who could win the one-on-one away from Fletcher Cox.
Schwartz also lauded Jernigan’s lateral ability in making those sideline-to-sideline plays and make some tackles for loss. But even aside from those things, the DC noted that he’s a guy who brings some energy to the defense and loves to play and plays with personality — something he noted will be welcomed back just as much as his physical talents.
On creating turnovers
Schwartz said the turnover by Avonte Maddox against the Jaguars created a spark for the team heading into halftime. He went on to talk about how some takeaways just happen and others are earned, and Maddox earned that ball in London. The DC said Maddox did a good job cutting his coverage and getting through the tackle.
He went on to say that it was a good first step, but next they want to have multiple takeaways in a game, and then after that to get back into the endzone — something that hasn’t happened this season after being a constant in 2017.
Schwartz said that turnovers are game-changing plays, and the one by Maddox served as such against Jacksonville.
On Dallas prep
The DC admitted that he’ll have to watch the tape from Monday night’s game to figure out how the Dallas Cowboys will use wide receiver Amari Cooper, but that they didn’t spend a first-round draft pick on a guy that would ride the bench.
Schwartz pointed out that Cooper is a young guy but a bit of a veteran, and that he has some experience learning new offensive schemes as he’s been on a couple teams, and he’ll probably pick up the Cowboys playbook quickly.
He went on to talk about all the changes on the Cowboys offense since last season, notably Jason Witten retiring and the team moving on from Dez Bryant, so it’ll be a bit of a different dynamic. Adding Cooper adds another playmaker on the field for them, and he’s definitely a guy they’ll have to account for.
But while those two guys might be gone, the team does still have Ezekiel Elliott who is playing good football both in the run game and in the passing game, and Dallas still has some wrinkles they’ll have to pay attention to, including quarterback Dak Prescott getting more comfortable with what the team is doing.
Later on he was asked if he anticipates any changes on the Cowboys’ offensive line with their OC being fired mid-season. If anything, Schwartz noted, he would expect them to get back to what they had been doing the past few seasons technique-wise, but that there’s a body of work to reference.
On the run defense
Schwartz was asked about the Eagles tackling and run defense this season, and the DC noted that against the Jaguars, the field conditions made it challenging to push through the line and that they ended up calling double the blitz packages than they normally do.
But, he pointed out that stopping the run is something the defense takes pride in, and if you look at the stats most of their struggles defending the run were against quarterbacks. Schwartz noted that the bulk of the rushing yards allowed the past few weeks came from quarterback scrambles.
So, while it might seem like they aren’t doing as well against the run, the quarterback plays are what’s affecting those stats. He admitted that some of their opponent’s rushing success was due to errors, but when you’re facing guys like Cam Newton those things could happen.
Schwartz went on to explain that QB scrambles fall into two categories for defensive coordinators to get concerned about: 1) when they scramble for first downs and move the sticks, and 2) explosive plays.
Those two things can be made up of a variety of reasons, but he admitted that limiting some of those explosive plays is something that they need to get better at.