Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters Tuesday morning, and talked a bit about some of the younger guys who have stepped up the past couple weeks, as well as what it means for Brandon Graham to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On Brandon Graham and the Pro Bowl nods
Schwartz talked a bit about the team’s reaction to BG being named to his first Pro Bowl.
“Man, there were some tears shed in the coaching staff rooms last night. Just a totally deserving guy. He’s had a long career and he’s been a very good player for a long time, but to get his first Pro Bowl nod, it sort of choked everybody up because we know what kind of guy — you guys know what kind of guy he is. I think the fans know what kind of guy he is. He’s persevered through some tough times early in his career. He’s battled some injuries. He’s an incredibly hard worker. He plays with a lot of spirit, all the things that you respect about a player, Brandon Graham personifies. So, for him to get that nod was big.”
Schwartz was asked about his favorite story about Graham, and the DC went all the way back to coaching the Pro Bowler in the Senior Bowl when Graham was coming out of Michigan. He recalled Graham having an outstanding game and really improving his draft stock during that game.
“So anyway, the night before the game, as I was the head coach, I had a coaching staff meeting and I said, ‘All right, I’ve got $500 for whoever picks the game MVP, but I get first pick.’ And I picked Brandon Graham, so I didn’t have to pay out any money to anybody because he was MVP. But that’s probably my best story with him.
Also, I think what you can’t overlook with Brandon is he wasn’t an immediate success as a rookie. It’s a tough business in the NFL. There’s a lot of scrutiny. There’s scrutiny from the fans, there’s scrutiny from the media, there’s scrutiny from the locker room, scrutiny from the coaches. It’s tough to deal with. He never lost his faith. He never wavered, and he got past that and has gone on to have an outstanding career, and he has a lot left on his career. I’m really proud of him.”
He also noted that it was a big deal for Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce to get recognized as well, and while it doesn’t count on the win-loss column, there are some personal stories in games that you root for.
On Michael Jacquet
Schwartz pointed out that Jacquet was set back in training camp because they didn’t have preseason game. He explained that nearly every rookie goes through some ups and downs ahead of the season, but that the preseason games sort shake off the doldrums of training camp, and Jacquet didn’t get that this season.
“One thing about him is he is a confident player, and that means a lot at the corner position. He doesn’t get down if he gives up a play. He knows what the score is out there, meaning he knows that you don’t pitch many shutouts on the outside part of the field. You’re going to have to battle, particularly against great players. They’re going to win some, you’re going to win some.”
The DC said that Jacquet continuing to battle is the thing that he’s been most impressed by, and went on to point out that the rookie is a former wide receiver and he’s played really tough and hasn’t shied away from contact. Schwartz reiterated that the offseason sort of stunted the development of a lot of young players, but Jacquet is gaining ground and improving every day.
“I was more impressed with the way he bounced back and the way he kept competing and the way he kept challenging as opposed to the plays that he gave up.”
On Alex Singleton
Schwartz talked about how the linebacker is another guy that is improving and is someone who had a hard stime starting his career — getting cut, going to the CFL, earning time on special teams.
“I think you see a lot of plays that he makes in the run game, and where he was still sort of a work in progress was in the pass game. There was a lot of things in the pass game that — mistakes that he would make or things that he could do better. But I really see his arrow being up in those categories too, now. He’s become a much more consistent, zone player. He’s become better at directing traffic back there, making all the calls and being on the field for every snap is a lot different than being a complementary player, so he’s grown in all those things, and knowing the kind of guy he is, he’ll continue to grow, and that speaks well for him and for us.”
On Jalen Mills staying at safety
Schwartz was asked about the decision to keep Mills at safety despite all the injuries at corner, and the DC noted it was because of their communication. He further explained that they knew they were going to have all those guys playing in different positions, so the idea was to keep Mills as the one rock in the same spot.
“His communication was outstanding.
He had a bad play in the game, gave up a short completion and then missed a tackle, and it was a big play. But I think a lot of the rest of the stuff sort of goes unsung with a player like that. He was working really hard during the game, sort of hand in hand with me to give me my eyes on the field, my ears on the field, ‘Hey, what’s going on out there, what can we do to settle these guys down?’”
He went on to say that Mills is outstanding on the sideline — intense, competitive, always positive, and with an impressive demeanor. Schwartz admitted that Mills was a big more fiery as a corner and in the one-on-one game, but he’s outstanding at safety when it comes to communication with the sideline and getting the guys together, and also putting out fires as they come up.