Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media after the team’s Sunday morning practices and talked about some of the new player acquisitions and how the linebacker role has changed over the years.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On specific players
Schwartz was asked about Josh Sweat getting some first team reps at Sunday’s practice, to which the DC quickly replied, “We don’t have first team”. The reporter than clarified that Sweat got some reps against Jason Peters, and asked how that might be helping the DE’s development. Schwartz said that he got some reps early in the first preseason too, so whether it’s live reps or against JP, Sweat is working hard to be consistent and to fill a role if they ask him too.
The DC noted that Sendejo didn’t a play a ton on Thursday and you don’t want to read too much into preseason performances, but rather look at his overall body of work — and for Sendejo that’s not just preseason and training camp, that includes what he’s done over the past couple of years in his career.
“He’s a smart player, multi-dimensional, he’s very instinctive and around the football a lot. He’s a good tackler. When you get all those things, we can use those things on defense.”
On new acquisitions
Schwartz was asked what they saw from Eli Harold to decide to bring him in.
“Good body for what we are looking for. Our scouts had liked him a couple years ago. He has had a little bit of production. He played sort of a hybrid role last year for Detroit, but we are a little bit different. Put his hand in the ground and let him come. He’s big, he’s strong and we will add him to the mix and see where it turns out, but he does have a little bit of experience.”
The DC noted that coming into camp late isn’t as big of a challenge for players with experience, like Johnathan Cyprien and Harold, because they have a base of experience and it’s more about learning the Eagles terminology.
Compared to younger guys like Ajene Harris, who has to not only learn what to do but also, how to do it — and Harris specifically had to go out and play a preseason games on like two days of practice. Schwartz noted, “I think he did a nice job with that”.
On the LB position
The DC said that evaluated players hasn’t changed, but that the overall build of a linebacker has evolved over the years.
“The guys that are old-school, first-down run stoppers that would come off the field on third down, I mean, are passing the ball sixty percent on first down. Then, even if they call a run, a lot of times it’s a pass.
So, I think one thing it has down is it’s limited the one-trick ponies. You could have a guy in the pass that the only thing he did was third down. The problem is that tempo and everything else, that guy has to get out and play. Same thing with the run stopper. Even sometimes the offensive coordinator doesn’t control if it’s a run or not. The ball gets ripped out and thrown. So I think that has changed profile into guys have to be good at both, you have to have the ability to match up versus tight ends and running backs. Every offense is looking for matchup tight ends and running backs, and we need guys that have enough multi-dimensional skill that can go.
Then you add to the linebacker group, you add those hybrid-safety guys that are filling linebacker roles sometimes. It certainly has changed the profile, but evaluations don’t change whether you are evaluating a corner or a defensive lineman. It’s just a different criteria; the way you evaluate is the same.”
He also said that the designations of MIKE, WILL and SAM have all been blurred over the years, so they cross-train all the linebackers into the different roles. Nigel Bradham was listed at MIKE in the initial depth chart, but Schwartz pointed out that all an offense has to do is motion the tight end and the LBs have to shift, anyway.
But, Bradham specifically communicates well and Schwartz thinks he runs the show really well, and has experience doing so when he had to step in for Jordan Hicks. So, if Nigel ends up in the MIKE position, they don’t have any concerns with him taking on those responsibilities.
“But, he’s not practicing right now so it really doesn’t make a difference.”
On preseason value
Schwartz said that it helps a little to see different offenses, but above all else, getting live tackling opportunities is the most helpful. He’s said it before and it’s good to see players in the right position in practice, but what might count as a tackle could end up being a missed tackle in a live period, so the preseason is where you get to develop those techniques.
He also noted that it’s not just seeing rush-heavy offenses, but seeing different schemes throughout their preseason opponents, and that’s good experience for the Eagles defensive players.