The Eagles were back at practice on Tuesday after a day off, and are now just over a week away from their first preseason game of the 2018 season.
With the quarterback room getting most of the headlines from the offensive perspective, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media about the youth of the team’s secondary this season, and how the team is cross-training players throughout all positions.
Here’s some of the notable points from his time with the media:
On the young secondary
As has been the emphasis for concern over the past few seasons, the secondary once again is a bit of a question mark heading into the 2018 season. There are a host of talented rookies and second-year players, but Schwartz admitted it would be challenging with only two true veterans back there in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.
By cross-training some of the young guys, he expects the vets to elevate the game of the players around them, and is expecting pretty big jumps in production for the guys heading into their second season. Players like Sidney Jones, who despite being injured last season, has seemed to really embrace his extra time in the film room and working on technique.
Schwartz didn’t mention wanting or needing to bring in any additional help at this time, claiming, “right now we’re just concentrating on the guys we have” and working to put the team in a good position to utilize the talent already on the roster.
On cross-training throughout the defense
It isn’t just the secondary players who are cross-trained in other positions. In fact, it’s not even just the defense. The Philadelphia Eagles have made it their priority to be prepared in a worst case scenario and that includes preparing for injuries.
Schwartz was asked about LB Jordan Hicks taking snaps elsewhere on the field, and the defensive coordinator pointed out that they had him doing the same type of training last season. Same goes for Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, who cross-trained a bit during OTAs.
Ultimately, Schwartz contends, the cross-training approach allows the team to be ready if further on down the line “a guy needs to play different positions, its not the first time he’s done it”.
On how Michael Bennett is settling
Schwartz had high praise for the new Eagle defender, but the team isn’t rushing Michael Bennett into things. Schwartz didn’t want to use the phrase “easing in” to describe their approach, but rather that they are letting him melt into the scheme.
He continued that Bennett “can play inside, outside, right or left” but that as one of the new guys on the team, they’re letting him settle in before they start moving guys around. Schwartz emphasized that they don’t really operate with a depth chart, but like to rotate guys in and out of different positions.
The DC did specifically tout Bennett’s skill set though, saying he’s got “a great combo of physical skills and experience”. Schwartz kept listing Bennett’s attributes, including “great use of hands, developed technique” and being “a consistent rusher over the course of his career”.
On the new tackle rule
Schwartz admitted that tackling in general — with or without a rule change — is challenging since it’s not something you can really practice. So, while the tackling looked a little sloppy during Tuesday’s practice, it’s also the first time they’ve been able to work on it since February.
Sure, the team utilizes certain drills to help in that arena, but drills can only take the team so far, and it’s up to the coaching staff to emphasize technique and leverage.
He continued that tackling is probably a defensive coach’s biggest concern heading into the first preseason game of the year. Once you finally get a sense of where things stand, the remaining preseason games can be used to tighten up any issues.
Schwartz isn’t too concerned with the new tackling rule, however, noting that, “every year we see different rules and different points of emphasis” but that the players adapt pretty quickly. There are rule changes every year, so this is just another adjustment they’ll have to make.
Jim Schwartz press conference video
Watch Schwartz’s presser below (or click here if you can’t see it).
Eagles DC Jim Schwartz speaking nowPosted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Tuesday, July 31, 2018