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Jim Schwartz talks ever-changing Eagles’ secondary, calls losing Rodney McLeod a ‘gut punch’

Plus, the Eagles’ DC talks Javon Hargrave and prepping for Kyler Murray.

Baltimore Ravens v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters Tuesday about the “gut punch” of losing Rodney McLeod for the season, the ever-changing secondary, and why he was proud of Kevon Seymour on Sunday. He also talked a bit about Jalen Mills’ evolution as a player and where he might lineup against Arizona.

Here’s what the DC had to say:

On losing Rodney McLeod for the season

“I would say this about Rodney, No. 1, he’s proved that he can comeback from an injury like this. And it’s such a gut punch when a respected player like Rodney, and who is a very productive leader for us, has had a really outstanding year; when you lose him for the game, but you also find out that you lose him for the season, everybody feels that. Increases the urgency for the guys that have to replace him. They have to step up to be able to fill those gaps, not just on a one-game basis but for a rest-of-the-week basis.”

Schwartz went on to say that last time McLeod was injured, he stayed really involved with the team and on the sidelines, and he would expect the safety to keep up with his leadership through the rest of the season — including being active in meetings and finding ways to contribute that weren’t on the field.

On the ever-changing secondary

Schwartz acknowledged injuries happen, especially to defensive backs, where they’ll have muscle pulls and also tend to be smaller guys that take a lot of contact. As far as getting some of the young and new players ready to play quickly, Schwartz noted balancing the game plan and the skill-set of any specific player.

I think just in the previous game, the game plan was to play a lot of zone, trying to keep as much vision on the quarterback as we could, so that translated pretty well to when we had to replace both corners and both safeties and the only guy that was really playing in the same position most of the second half was [Nickell Robey-Coleman], who was playing the nickel, who I thought really played a good game for us.”

The DC pointed out that every week is going to be a little bit different depending on the game plan, but he thinks the guys did a good job stepping up against the Saints. He admitted that it wasn’t always easy for them and they gave up a couple of plays, but when all is said and done, they made enough plays to win the game.

Schwartz quizzes his coaches the night before a game to cover all sort of contingency plans, but he admitted that you don’t often plan to lose 75 percent of the guys. They just had to do the best they could when they were in that situation on Sunday.

“We were scrambling. After the missed field goal, being up two scores, we were trying to put our last play sort of Hail Mary type defense in and we didn’t even have enough guys to do it. We were going to have to go get one of the offensive players to go play a backline guy.”

The defensive coordinator also talked a bit about some of the younger guys who stepped up on Sunday and will likely be called on throughout the remainder of the year. Kevon Seymour is someone Schwartz called a “young veteran” because while he hasn’t played in a couple years, he did see some considerable playing time in Buffalo in 2016 and 2017, and has more experience than the rookies.

“It was like, all right, we’re going to need to do this, and he was sort of processing it in his own way on the sideline. I thought that Marquand [Manuel] did a really good job of communicating with him during the game, communicating back to me what we were comfortable with in the game plan, what he was comfortable with. But it wasn’t just him. You know, K’Von Wallace stepped in. Marcus Epps stepped in. Jalen Mills had to move to corner. There were a lot of moving parts in those things and like I said, we were playing a lot of zone. Generally, zone defenses take a lot of adjustments and calls and things like that and for the most part I thought those guys did a pretty good job.”

He went on to say that communication is going to be very important, because they’re going to need all those guys to come back and play significant snaps on defense. Schwartz was also sure to point out that Seymour gave up a touchdown, but didn’t let that affect him, and went back out there and played physical football.

“I was proud of him for that. It was a great step for his career. He’d sort of been sidetracked a little bit but to get back on the field and play winning football, that’s a real tip of the cap to him, staying ready, keeping his faith through some tough times, and he was rewarded for that and we were rewarded for that.”

As far as where Jalen Mills will play moving forward, Schwartz wasn’t sure if he’ll stay at corner or go back to safety. The DC said Mills is a totally unselfish player and didn’t bat an eye when they moved him to corner against the Saints. Not only that, but he went after Michael Thomas and traveled with him across the field.

“He wasn’t looking for a place to disappear and just disappear into the scheme. He took it on himself and that’s the kind of guy that Jalen is. He’s really starting to come into his own as a safety. He’s played some of his best games over these last few weeks and just the fact that he would be willing to go in and play corner for us and finish a game like that and take the load on himself, just says so much about his team-first attitude.”

Where Mills will lineup against the Cardinals could be a decision they make as late as Saturday night when they have a good idea of what guys are available and where they’ll need some help.

On Javon Hargrave

“Just I think what you see is just steady progress from him. You can’t always judge a guy, and we’ve said this a long time, you can’t always judge a guy just on sack numbers. There’s a lot of other things that go into it, freeing up other people, sometimes you have a great rush, and somebody else will make a sack and sometimes you make a great rush and the ball comes out so fast that you really can’t affect it but you have to keep making steady progress.

And I think Javon has done a good job of making steady progress. He’s getting more and more comfortable in the scheme. We knew it was going to be a little bit of an adjustment period. It took a minute or so for him to get with all the intricacies and techniques that we play. But he does make an impact on the game and I think we’re seeing the reason we liked him so much and the reason we added him to our team.”

On facing Kyler Murray

Schwartz said that they’ve faced a lot of mobile quarterbacks this season like Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, and while they’re similar to Kyler Murray, they’re all also unique.

“All of them had a different way that they ran the ball. All of them had a different skill set passing. Whether they were throwing quick passes, whether they were scrambling to buy time to make big plays down the field.”

He went on to talk about how they’ll prepare for Murray, along those lines, will be different for how they prepared for the other QBs this season. Schwartz noted that it’s easy to put all those guys in a box, but they they each have a particular way of doing things.

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