Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Monday, and touched on having to make final roster decisions this week, as well as how some of the young guys and new additions are doing.
Schwartz also talked about the return of Rodney McLeod, the cornerback position, and what he remembers the last time they faced Case Keenum — who has recently been named Washington’s starter for Week 1.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On final roster decisions
Schwartz talked about how he was on record last year saying the same thing, but he roots for everyone in this business. He appreciates their hard-work, effort and contribution to the team.
“And, not everyone can make the team, but when it’s all said and done, everyone that was in camp with us will have contributed to our team somehow and to our success going forward.”
He went on to say that guys do and don’t make teams for various reasons, whether it’s because of the depth at one position, scheme fit, or injury. But on the other hand, he’s seen a lot of guys scrap their way up into a roster spot.
Schwartz also noted that from the human aspect, seeing his kids work hard and have successes and failures gives him more empathy toward the guys who end not making the final 53. The DC admitted his empathy for those guys has certainly increased over the tenure of his career.
On Daeshon Hall
Schwartz said that pass rush players are really important to the team, and guys who can create havoc up front and Hall has been great at that. Hall also gained weight like the team had asked him to, and battled injuries throughout the preseason but showed toughness in returning. Plus, when he’s on the field he’s been productive.
The DC noted that all of those things are what they ask of guys, and while sometimes — like he mentioned — players don’t end up on the final roster for different reasons, Hall has at least put himself in a good position heading into those decisions.
On Zach Brown and other new vets
Schwartz said that with any new player, there is an adjustment period and there was for Zach but he’s making good, steady progress. He’s a physical player, you see that when the lights come on, and he’s multi-dimensional. the accumulation of practice reps covers a lot of things that might come up during the year.
The DC also noted that Brown is no different than Andrew Senedejo, Malik Jackson or any of the other veterans they’ve brought in this offseason. He said those kinds of growing pains are expected, it’s not so much that they are learning how to play, but rather how things are done specifically in Philadelphia.
On Rodney McLeod’s return
Schwartz said that it was really nice to have McLeod back out on the field in last week’s preseason game, and that the safety made a really nice play on the zone read. The DC mentioned that there were a few times during camp when McLeod took some hits, which he thinks is important mentally as he gets back from injury.
He also mentioned that it’s good for the whole defense to have Rodney back, and that he brings a really calming influence to the team. Plus, McLeod does a great job communicating and executing the scheme, and it was good to have him back and they are looking forward to having a great year from him.
Schwartz was asked to elaborate on what he meant by “calming influence”.
“Some guys are like super ‘rah-rah’ guys, like getting guys jacked up. He’s one of those guys that everybody just knows it’s going to be ok when he’s in there. I think there’s an important part of that too. He’s stone-cold with his communication and he’s always in the right spot, do his job, I mean those guys are valuable.”
He made sure to say that it’s not that McLeod doesn’t play with a lot of fire, because he does, but when he’s on the field, the rest of the secondary gets a nice sense of calm because he is such a good communicator that he keeps them ahead of problems.
On the CB position
Schwartz said that the good thing with Ronald Darby, is that even though he hasn’t played this preseason, he’s gotten some work in training camp — and not just with the team, but when they were going up against Baltimore last week, as well. The DC went on to note that Darby is a veteran player, is comfortable in the scheme, so now it’s just a matter of getting the final touches to get him ready for the season.
He also talked about the silver lining to having so many injuries in the secondary last year, is that they had so many other players get playing time and experience. Schwartz said that it not only puts those players in a better position heading into 2019, but puts the whole defense in a better position, having more experienced players — like, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, and Avonte Maddox.
When asked about who was getting the start opposite Ronald Darby, Schwartz joked, “nice try.” But then pointed out that they are still working and evaluating and they aren’t set in stone with any of it.
Later on, Schwartz touted Avonte Maddox and his quick-learning versatility, noting that he can’t think of another player who started at three different positions in his rookie season. And not just start, but also to experience success at each of those positions.
On facing Case Keenum
Schwartz was asked about the last time they faced Case Keenum in the NFC Championship game — as Keenum was named the starter for Washington Week 1. The DC said that he and the Vikings both had really good seasons that year, but it just happened to be the Eagles’ and the city of Philadelphia's day.
He went on to reminisce about the first half against Keenum and how he remembers Patrick Robinson’s Pick-6 and Derek Barnett having a strip sack, but then noted the second half of the game feels like it was in slow motion and sped up simultaneously. Schwartz said that by the second half, it was pretty clear they were going to win that game, but it was pretty cool party atmosphere to be apart of.
But, he was sure to point out that all of that doesn’t take away from Keenum, who had a great year and the Eagles had to play really good defense to come away with the win.