The Eagles were back for a full-speed practice on Thursday and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media beforehand after how the defense performed against the Texans, and how several players have been like anchors for certain position groups. He also talked a little about Washington’s not very well known, league veteran quarterback.
Here’s what Schwartz had to say:
On Avonte Maddox
The DC was asked how he takes a young player like Maddox, who can fit into so many different roles, and try to find the one spot to develop him. Schwartz said that Maddox reminds him of Cortland Finnegan and also likened the rookie Malcolm Jenkins, someone else who can play so many positions.
Schwartz said that he doesn’t look at that versatility as a problem with Maddox, and they’ll figure out what’s best for him and for the team over the course of his career, but that flexibility is helpful from a defensive standpoint.
On the defense’s struggles in the 4th quarter
Schwartz said that every game is different, but if you were going to pinpoint a common thread, it would be their lack of depth which can catch up to them late in games — but the DC did point out that it’s no excuse.
He went on to talk about how every game ebbs and flows and there’s going to be times they give up big plays early in a game, but they often go overlooked. Giving up big plays late in the game are often highlighted because they are more critical.
Schwartz said he was most disappointed with the score they allowed against the Texans when they took the field at the 5-yard line. He explained that it would have been a real turning point had they been able to hold them to a field goal. Which, he talked about, they did do in the middle of the third quarter, when the defense got a three-and-out after taking the field around the 50.
The DC talked about how it’s football, and the quarterback made an insane play on one of those drives, but that they had a lot of opportunities to stop their momentum before he even made the throw.
On Malcolm Jenkins
It was pointed out that Jenkins has been on the field for all but one play this season, and Schwartz was asked how valuable that kind of durability is for the Eagles defense. He explained that they like to rotate guys, particularly upfront, more than they’ve been able to this season, and that the backfield doesn’t often get that opportunity.
Schwartz noted last year they were able to take Jenkins out a bit more solely because they had a big enough lead to do so, but that they were rotating the secondary much last season either.
He went on to say that Jenkins fills a lot of roles for the defense, and his leadership is important, but that the veteran player has been able to keep things together in the secondary because he’s been the constant. Schwartz said that every other secondary position has seen changes, but Jenkins has been out there through it all.
Schwartz even said that the team’s ability to get some wins over the last few weeks has a lot to do with Jenkins’ ability to provide the secondary and defense with that consistency.
On Washington’s offense
He was asked about QB Josh Johnson, whose been on 12 different teams over the course of his career, and whether he has the kind of athletic ability that could cause the Eagles’ defense some problems. Schwartz noted that he’s made some big plays for Washington in the past few weeks, and has the ability to extend plays.
Schwartz went on to talk about how that’s only part of the equation, and that Johnson has made some pretty good throws for Washington as well. He continued to say that you can tell he’s been around the NFL for some time, and he’s very composed and knows how to run their offense — so even if he hasn’t played a lot, there’s a reason he’s been around for so long.
On the Nickel defense
Schwartz said using the nickel has been a constant for them over the years, but the safety situation hasn’t always allowed for it, but getting Corey Graham back and Tre Sullivan getting more in-game experience, along with Malcolm Jenkins’ help, they’ve been able to get back to it a bit.
He likened it to the Eagles’ offense, and how they utilize the tight ends in various ways, and when you have a multi-dimensional offense, you need a multi-dimensional defense. Schwartz went on to say that package doesn’t work if the safeties aren’t good tacklers, or if they can’t play in the box and on the outside, so that flexibility is a big part of it.
On Chris Long on and off the field
Schwartz was asked what Chris Long provides on and off the field, and the DC noted he would just talk about on the field stuff — mostly because he could sit there for two hours talking about everything he does for the team and community.
He went on to say that Long is really been the epitome of a pro player and a very unselfish player, and he’s made big plays for the Eagles when they’ve counted. Schwartz cited the strip-sack against Houston, noting that they don’t often turn the ball over, and that was a huge play in that game.
On Jordan Hicks’ return
Schwartz noted that Hicks wasn’t back 100% against Houston, but that his presence was important. He continued to talk about how Hicks is important, not only on the field, but also from a leadership standpoint for the team, so it was good to have him back even in a limited role. The DC also admitted that Hicks was a little fatigued late in the game, but that it’s always good to have a guy like that back in the mix.
Schwartz wouldn’t entertain questions about personnel or other things that won’t be addressed until after the season, and while he didn’t want to use the word “disrespect” he did say those questions take away the focus on this week’s game against Washington. He said once their done playing, and hopefully they continue into the postseason, that’s when he’ll talk about performances on the season as a whole.