The Eagles are now a few days removed from their Thursday Night Football victory over the Packers and are setting their focus on the Jets. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media for the first time since last week and talked about the team’s cornerback depth and his thoughts on the penalties by Derek Barnett and Zach Brown.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On CB depth and injuries
Schwartz was asked whether the injuries to the cornerback position and not having the same guys week-to-week has held them back over the past couple of seasons. The DC emphasized what he’s said many times over the years that it’s just the nature of playing in the NFL and noted that he doesn’t think it’s held them back, and it’s their job to be ready to play despite those things.
The DC was asked about Sidney Jones, who is listed as having a soft tissue injury. Schwartz said that he wasn’t the guy to ask about injuries. He did go on to talk about Jones and how he had been playing up until the injury.
Schwartz specifically spoke about Jones’ performance against the Packers, and said that on the third play of the game when he gave up the deep pass, Jones was actually in pretty good shape if he got his head around a third of a second quicker. But, he also has to make a cleaner tackle on the touchdown run.
He went on to say that some of the cornerback errors can start with a misstep by a linebacker, and it often goes unseen by media or fans. Schwartz said that those two plays by Jones come down to two little technique issues, and they have to live with the fact that those errors resulted in touchdowns.
Schwartz was later asked about Avonte Maddox and he, again, said he was the wrong guy to ask about injuries. He did say that it was nice to have Maddox back on the plane after the game, the DC got to talk to him a little bit and Maddox is in a good frame of mind.
He was asked to evaluate Maddox’s play before he went down with a head and neck injury, and Schwartz noted that he was moved into the corner position to fill in for Sidney Jones and he hadn’t practiced in that spot since training camp. The DC said Maddox made a few plays, gave up a few plays, but that he’s a great player and someone they have a lot of confidence in.
But, with Maddox probably out for Sunday’s game, and Jones and Ronald Darby also likely out, Schwartz said the depth for Week 5 was to be determined. He emphasized that’s where they are at this point in the week, but they’ve got a long time until Sunday so they’ll figure it out over the course of the week and see who’s healthy enough to play.
On that note, Schwartz said the good thing about bringing Orlando Scandrick back is that they did have him with the team during training camp, so he has a good familiarity with what they’re doing and has those built up reps. Plus, there’s no concern about him not being in shape since he was with them during camp, so they expect him to be ready if he’s called upon.
Schwartz was also asked about Craig James, who was promoted from the practice squad last week and made a play after Maddox went down.
“Well, I didn’t see anything from him in practice, because he didn’t get any practice reps. I mean, that’s just the way it was. Those were the first two defensive snaps he’s played in the NFL. He’s played some special teams snaps before, but those were the first two snaps.”
When they were in the huddle trying to figure out what they were going to do personnel-wise, Schwartz said they were talking it over with Malcolm Jenkins, because he had already been playing safety, nickel, dime, etc... and for a minute were thinking he’d have to go in at corner. When they decided to go with Craig James, Jenkins told the young CB that they were probably going to target him, and he said “I know”.
Schwartz said he liked that and that James was game and up for the challenge, and he made a play that helped them win the game.
Schwartz said he wasn’t concerned with the penalties by Derek Barnett or Zach Brown, because they really had few penalties as a whole in the first three games.
He explained that on that first play, Barnett was running to the football — which is what they coach — so he was trying to get the ball out. Barnett wasn’t targeting anybody, he was trying to go in and get the football.
And on Brown’s facemask penalty, he got up on the side of the helmet and even if it’s not the classic definition of a facemask, it’s going to look bad and get flagged.
“You don’t want to be undisciplined. You don’t want to play outside the bounds of the game. I don’t think either of those guys would fall onto those categories.”
On blitzing and effectiveness
Schwartz was asked about seemingly blitzing more but not having as much success doing so. He noted that it’s just how the game goes, and there are probably other things that they do that are more or less effective that doesn’t get as much attention as the blitz.
“It’s a quarter-way through the season, we’re 2-2, and we’re just trying to improve every week. And I know that sounds so vanilla and so cliche, but that’s what we do. You try and tighten up your areas that have been loose, you try to improve your areas that haven’t been up to par, you try to accentuate the things you’re doing well. You try to find your formula.”
The DC said it’s a long 16 game season and they have to stay focused on the longterm and can’t over-react to a game situation or an injury situation.
Schwartz was then asked if he saw improvement from their 4-man rush. He said that he wouldn’t say he’s seen improvement, but he has seen some good things from it. Against the Packers, he said there were times they had opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground, but all credit to Aaron Rodgers who is a very elusive QB.
He did talk about Derek Barnett’s sack and how it showed how important getting to the quarterback is, particularly because it can cause turnovers. Schwartz said that there are a lot of ways they can get a loss of yards aside from a sack, so they real benefit is the turnover opportunity when getting a hit on a quarterback.
On preparing for the Jets
Schwartz was asked if it’s challenging preparing for a team whose starting quarterback isn’t named yet. He mentioned that they prepare to face anybody who is on their opponents 53-man roster, so they’ll keep that in mind this week. The DC did note that their scheme isn’t going to change a whole lot based on who is in at quarterback, so they’ll be ready for anybody who is on roster.