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Jim Schwartz confirms Avonte Maddox is the Eagles’ starting cornerback when healthy

Plus, the DC talked defensive tackle rotation with injuries.

Eagles’ DC Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday morning and talked about a few specific players and why they don’t evaluate guys solely on individual production, as well as Avonte Maddox’s role when he’s healthy, and what they’ll do with the defensive tackle rotation.

Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:


On Alex Singleton

Schwartz was asked about Alex Singleton blitzing against the Giants and how he’s been playing overall.

“He’s continued to make plays for us. It started with that 49ers game, where he was able to get some playing time, and he’s gotten a little bit more in each game.

I don’t know that we actually called blitzes for him, it just sort of — when he was in the game, we sort of rotated our guys through, and when the situation called for it he made the most of it. That was a big play in the game, you know, pressuring the quarterback, getting that holding penalty. It’s one thing to get a hit on the quarterback, it’s another thing to cause an incomplete pass, but, you know, it’s not quite as good as a sack, but a forced holding penalty is big and Alex has made a lot of plays. Hasn’t played perfect, but has contributed and has made some big plays for our defense.”

On stopping the run game/QB runs

Schwartz agreed that it’s been rare this season for offenses to methodically run the ball against the Eagles’ defense, it’s been more perimeter oriented and reverses, quarterback scrambles, and zone read-type plays. He explained that those are plays that stretch the whole defense and every single person has to be right, and one person out of his gap can be huge — opposed to an inside run, where one person out of their gap isn’t as costly.

He also admitted that the Daniel Jones run wasn’t their best and they didn’t come back to the quarterback the way they should have, and then the defense they were in left half the field empty. Schwartz pointed out that Nickell Robey-Coleman was doing his best to hold guys off so that the guy behind him could get there, but there was nobody behind him to do that.

But, if they can eliminate those kind of plays, they can make it hard for teams to drive the ball.

On rivalry week vs. Cowboys

Schwartz said that they are always ready to go 100 percent against the Cowboys, regardless of who they have at quarterback or any issues along the offensive line. He noted that Dallas has enough playmakers without the quarterback, that will keep their full attention. They have talented wide receivers, a good tight end group, plus Ezekiel Elliott — and they’re not going to change their game plan regardless of who is at QB.

The DC was later asked how they prepare for a rookie QB like Ben DiNucci, and he explained that they were watching some of his college film on Monday to get a feel for him as an athlete and some of the throws he likes.

“Anybody that makes an NFL team is good enough to play, so I think you start there. That’s going to get your respect right away. You’re good enough to make a 53-man roster, that deserves our respect, just watching him run some zone read stuff when he was at JMU, our scouting staff has really helped us that way. Our scout, [Midwest area scout] Jim Ward, has watched him since he was at Pitt. Actually, saw him when he was a high school player. Just those kind of inputs and that kind of perspective helps us.”

On Avonte Maddox

“He’s our starting corner outside when he is healthy. He was just coming back. It was a difficult week. We started his return to play and we didn’t have any practice, so it was really hard to gauge where he was. He wasn’t 100 percent sure. We weren’t 100 percent sure.

He was active sort of as an emergency player. He got pressed into service on some punt return stuff, and he was doing a good job staying warm in case we needed him. Because of some of the zones that we were playing at the end of the game we put him in at corner. We knew he wasn’t going to have to run 80 yards down the field to cover somebody, but we wanted him in there and he had felt good enough on those special teams snaps and kept himself warm.

He was trending the right way. Looks like he’s definitely trending to being able to get back in there. I thought Robey did a good job subbing in there, but Avonte is an outside corner for us and it will be good to get him back out there.”

On injuries and the DT rotation

The DC noted that they will have to see how Malik Jackson is rehabbing, but that it is disappointing to lose Hassan Ridgeway — Schwartz explained that Ridgeway wasn’t playing a ton of snaps, but was having a really good season and was a very productive player. He was a bit of a different player than some of the other guys, so they’ll need them to step into the roles Ridgeway filled.

Schwartz pointed to TY McGill as someone who has filled in a bit and given the defense some quality snaps this season, but they’ll have to see where they’re at with the position on Sunday. He lamented that Ridgeway being out will force other guys to take more snaps.

“But you know us, we like to spread those reps around and keep guys as fresh as we can. It will definitely be something we’ll be looking at and trying to find the best way forward with that.”

He was asked about Fletcher Cox only have 1.5 sacks so far this season, but Schwartz noted (again) that they don’t judge guys on the stat, but rather what the guys are doing as a group. A lot of times, guys have a great rush or contribute in other ways, and someone else might get credit for the sack, but it wasn’t an individual effort.

“I think it’s always — you can never look at any one stat and say whether a guy is productive or not. I think it’s the whole body of work and the way we play our guys up front, it’s the body of work of all the guys not just one.”

On Derek Barnett and the DE group

Schwartz agreed that the inside spin was effective for Barnett against the Giants, and he got a sack and some pressures throughout the game. He’s talked before about Josh Sweat and how developing a repeatable motion has helped him improve, and the same can be said of Barnett.

“I think one of the things with Derek that [Run game coordinator/defensive line coach] Matt [Burke] and Wash [Director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn] have done a really good job with is his repertoire is sort of down a little bit, down in numbers. He doesn’t need a whole lot. He’s got an edge move. He’s got a speed to power move, and he’s strong with his speed to power. Derek is not the biggest guy in the world, but he does have good speed to power and he sets that up with an inside move.

You really don’t need a whole lot else, and he’s been closing ground. He hasn’t been wasting a lot of time in his pass rush. He’s been closing ground where in the past he was probably foot-faking a little too much, and not putting the pressure on those guys.”

The DC explained that some of Barnett’s success also has a lot to do with the other guys on the line. All of those guys — Sweat, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Genard Avery — have been productive in their roles, which is another reason they don’t look at individual production as much as how they’re doing as a group.