The Eagles defense played a pretty well-rounded game on Sunday against the 49ers, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday morning about their decision to move Jalen Mills back to corner, why Nate Gerry gets blamed for some mistakes, and about their effective pass rush.
Schwartz also talked a little about preparing for the Steelers defense, and he admitted that they are one of those teams that if you devote too many resources into taking away one part of their offense, they can make you pay in other ways.
“They challenge the whole field with the run game, with the pass game. You obviously have an experienced QB who isn’t afraid to throw the ball into tight coverage.”
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On Nate Gerry
“Nate’s been a very solid player for us, and helped us win a lot of games.
I would just caution this, that there’s probably a lot of plays that people outside of our building think might be his fault, that he just happens to be the closest guy when someone else made a mistake, and I think they end up blaming him a lot of times. He’s sort of the closest guy to some plays, and, I mean, that’s just sort of how the ball bounces.
We just need to be more efficient overall, and more consistent overall, and he just plays his part in it. I think that anytime that you have people outside the building that grade players, you can gets things like that. I tend to try and keep our evaluations in-house, and just work on improving in our own building.”
On the pass rush
Schwartz talked a bit about Genard Avery and said that he’s done a good job refining his technique and sticking with what works best for him. Avery had too big of a pass rush repertoire earlier in his career, and the Eagles coaching staff has done a good job honing in on what he does well.
“That’s sort of the break out game we’ve been waiting for from him.”
The DC went on to talk about how Malik Jackson is “playing outstanding football for us,” and he’s not only played well on the field, but has been an outstanding leader for the team.
“He’s got one of the best set of d-line hands that I’ve been able to be around or coach. He’s really good and it’s a tough matchup for some of those guards.”
Schwartz said that once they got a bit healthier on the defensive line, and got Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave back, there’s been a big jump in production throughout the entire group.
On the secondary
Schwartz was asked about Jalen Mills going back to the cornerback, and he explained that they were a little bit deeper at safety with all the injuries the first few weeks at CB. They like Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre’Von LeBlanc in the slot, so Mills was the best option to move back to corner.
The DC thought it was a very unselfish thing for Mills to do to step into his former role, and when the team was in need, there was never a hesitation. Whether or not Mills will stay at corner once they get some injured guys back, Schwartz said they’ll do what’s best for the team each week.
“We’ll see going forward.”
Schwartz was also hesitant to call K’Von Wallace or Marcus Epps the starting safety, and rather pointed out that they started in different packages. He explained that they compartmentalized some of the game plan and spread out the contributions.
He was later asked about Cre’Von LeBlanc specifically, and he pointed to his three most important traits: “He’s a worker. He’s tough and he’s very competitive.”
Schwartz noted that everything with LeBlanc’s size and skills go into a different category, but those three traits are really good attributes for him to lean on. LeBlanc is also a good tackler, and his tenacity and effort are what allowed him to beat the guard for the takeaway against the 49ers — a takeaway that Schwartz pointed out led to an offensive touchdown.
“That was such a key moment in that game, being able to generate that pressure, being able to create that turnover.”
LeBlanc has made a lot of plays like that for them, and Schwartz said he’s super versatile and has carved out a significant role for them on defense.
Schwartz was asked if Darius Slay has been even better than they had hoped, he agreed that he’s been a guy that has come in and made the defense better. Slay has stepped up with the game on the line the last two weeks, and is someone they can count on in those moment.
Each week his job in the game plan is different, but he’s got good length as a corner, good height and long arms so he can match with some of the bigger receivers, but he’s quick enough to match with some of the younger guys.
Schwartz admitted that they were trying their best to stop George Kittle but didn’t have much success, and that the TE made plays against just about all of their coverages. He tipped his hat to Kittle but also noted it was a little disappointing from the defense — they tried a lot things and nothing really had any affect.
Jordan Mailata credited his success on Sunday to Joe Ostman, and Schwartz said that Ostman is a guy who is just one injury away from being in the game. The practice squad is looked at a little differently this year, and it’s not a group of guys who need development, but rather a group of guys who are ready for their name to be called Sunday morning.
Schwartz said that Ostman is one of the best workers they have, and he’s helped guys throughout the offense get better from that competition from the scout team. The DC noted, however, Ostman isn’t necessarily trying to help those guys get ready, he’s trying to get himself ready.
He was also asked about Alex Singleton, and even though he’s a young player, he has a lot of experience and had a lot of defensive success in Canada. Schwartz disagreed that the interception was Singleton’s best play on the game on Sunday, and pointed to a few plays in the run game that were probably better for him. But, Singleton is a guy who can play on the inside and outside, and he’s made the most of his time and opportunities.