After an impressive performance against Tom Brady and the Patriots, Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday about Jalen Mills’ return, the linebacker situation, and how they’re preparing for the Seahawks.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On Jalen Mills
Schwartz said that Mills isn’t just playing well in the red zone right now, he’s playing at a high level across the field.
“He’s tackling well. He’s covering well. He’s up to the challenge of covering guys. And, he brings us a lot of spirit, a lot of competitiveness, and toughness. I think you’ve seen the level of our defensive play increase since he’s been back. He’s always been a respected member of our defense, and a guy that the coaches and players both have a lot of confidence in.
He was down for awhile, he worked really hard to get back, and all that hard work is paying off for him. I’m really proud of him.”
Schwartz noted that the CB never checked out during his injury recovery, so you could say that it was surprising how quickly Mills brought stability back to the secondary after his return. But, he also saw how hard Mills worked, and was actively engaged while he waited to get back on the field.
The DC said that — along with some of the guys on the practice squad — the guys who succeed are the ones who stay ready and never have to get ready.
On Genard Avery
“He’s a bit of a hybrid player, and when we got him, we had to have a specific plan for the way we were going to use him. First week we used him just a little bit, used him a little bit more as a defensive end in this last game, but we’ve used him as a hybrid linebacker in there also. He’s done a nice job working really hard to make the most of his opportunities when he’s been out there.
It’s a little tough to sub this last game, because of — whether it was tempo, or, that’s a team that’s really savvy to catch you with too many guys on the field. So, it’s hard to sub willy nilly, so you really have to be surgical with your substitutions. So, sometimes it’s hard to get specialty players out there, but he’s been a nice addition for us.”
On the linebackers
He was asked about how Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill have done with their added responsibility and snaps. Schwartz said they’be both stepped up the challenge. Grugier-Hill started off a little slow — which he saw with a few of the guys — but he’s been consistent creating plays behind the line of scrimmage and making big open field tackles.
Schwartz later talked about how during training camp, all the linebackers get opportunities to work on communication, so that hasn’t been a surprise with Nigel Bradham sidelined. He also noted that they do drills to make the players extra communicate the signals in case the communication ever goes down in a game.
On facing the Seahawks
Schwartz was asked about the challenges they’ll face trying to tackle a quarterback like Russell Wilson.
“Well, there’s scrambling quarterbacks, there’s running quarterbacks, there’s drop back quarterback, there’s quarterbacks that are good from the pocket, there’s quarterbacks that are good outside of the pocket, there’s quarterbacks that can throw on schedule, there’s quarterbacks that can create on their own — and he’s all of the above.
So I think you layer all of those things together and it makes it a tough challenge. You have to defend parameter plays, like boots and play actions. You have to defend RPOs and zone reads, you have to defend all schedule plays. But, he can also be as good as anybody in the league when it comes to dropping back and throwing it. He’s very talented that way. And, he can scramble, not just for first downs, but he can scramble for big plays down the field.
Just an excellent competitor, and it’s a great challenge for us this week.”
The defensive coordinator said that all their schemes — whether it’s to contain him in the pocket or flush him to one side — are designed to prevent the quarterback from scrambling for a big play.
Schwartz later was asked about rookie receiver DK Metcalf, and the DC mentioned that he’s averaging 17 yards a catch, and that’s a lot of yards.
“Not a lot of high percentage plays, I think he’s only slightly above 50% in — targets to receptions, or receptions to targets I should say. But, he is a big, strong guy and he’s got good size to go up and get balls. And, he’s also a guy that’s extremely strong in run after the catch. So, you know, it’s not just defending the deep balls, it’s also tackling the short ones.”
Schwartz also talked about how the Seahawks also have Tyler Lockett, who’s very good, and they added Josh Gordon, so they have plenty of playmakers out there.