Reports from Eagles training camp seem to support the notion that the defense has been winning more than the offense. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Monday morning about how the DL benefits from the energy of players like Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry, and also how Avonte Maddox will benefit from focusing on playing outside corner. He also gives an update on Sidney Jones — who hasn’t been active on the field yet.
Here’s what the coordinator had to say:
On the defensive line
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson has brought a lot of energy to practices, and now that he’s healthy, has something to prove. Schwartz said that Jackson knows what it takes to be successful, and now has that perspective of an injured player and having to come back from that.
“Malik did a great job last year of staying active with our team. Even though he was injured, he did his rehab here. He was in our meetings. He still served a role on our team and I was really impressed by that. It’s hard for a young player to do that but a veteran guy like Malik who has seen a lot of different things, he’s still brought something to our team and I was really pleased, and it just shows you what kind of man he is, what kind of player he is that he was selfless enough to do that. He never felt sorry for himself. He went out and did his rehab and found a way to contribute and that’s all we can ask for players. You can see his excitement. Maybe it would be a little bit different if he had played 17 games last year and went out but he’s excited. He’s got that sort of almost a rookie excitement about being out there every day because he realized how quickly it can be taken away from you.
Malik is long. He’s a little bit different than some of our defensive tackles. He’s in the quarterback’s way an awful lot because he is so long, and he can be a different kind of match-up from some of our other defensive tackles on those guards. He can get on some edges inside and he also has the ability to swing inside and outside. That’s something that we wanted to use him a little bit last year and things like that, and never were able to do it, but he’s played 3-4 defensive end and he gives us a good physical presence doing those sort of things, whether it’s by game plan or because of injury.”
He went on to say that Jackson brings his spirits up everyday and he’s just a guy embracing everyday. Schwartz noted that it’s a similar energy to Vinny Curry, who even though he signed on late in the offseason, brought that kind of enthusiasm to the field.
Josh Sweat has appeared to be having a good camp so far, but Schwartz was careful not to put too much emphasis on what he’s seen during non-live practices.
“Josh is making really good strides toward that, having a repeatable motion at defensive end and it looks the same all the time and that consistency has shown, and as a result, I think his production has shown a little bit more.
Let’s be careful about reading too much into thud practices and non-padded practices and things like that because sometimes that stuff can get a little bit skewed, and a guy can look different in practice than he’s really going. That being said, Josh has had a good camp and I think he’s a much-improved player and we look forward to him playing a big role for us this year.”
On Avonte Maddox
“I think that size matchups are always a concern. But, what I’d say about Avonte is that the only time he looks short is when he’s in the lunch line. When he gets on the field, he’s never, in my mind, played small. He’s a physical player, he’s got great timing and the ability to jump — there’s been a lot of guys who has that kind of skillset.”
Schwartz also noted that Maddox brings some things to the table that some of the big guys dont have — change of direction, he can get up to speed super quick which allows him to play a little different technique on the outside — he’s also really strong. He said not to confuse short with small.
He also talked a bit about how they’ve been able to move Maddox around the entire secondary during his first couple of seasons, and while it served the defense, it didn’t necessarily serve the CB. Now that they have guys like Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Robey-Coleman on the inside playing a lot of nickel snaps, Maddox can focus on being the outside corner — and Schwartz thinks Maddox will benefit from staying at one position.
On Sidney Jones
Fifth straight missed practice for Sidney Jones as we’re 20 days away from Week 1. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 24, 2020
Schwartz admitted that their time is running short to get ready for Week 1, but with Sidney Jones still being sidelined, the DC said they only can coach the guys that are available to practice.
“Sid is into it. He’s done a good job of staying up and everything else when he hasn’t been able to practice. But as coaches, guys that are on the field are the guys that are getting the reps, and the guys that are available and doing those kind of things and just unfortunately he has not been there for this last week or so. There’s still time, but time is starting to creep in on us. We’re less than three weeks from our opener right now.”
On Duke Riley
“He helped last year. He was out there a bunch in our short-yardage situations and our four linebacker situations, and did a good job every time he was on the field. He was ready to play a more expanded role if we had had injuries and he had been forced to.”
Schwartz said that Riley was in the same category as TJ Edwards. As the year went on last year, both guys provided quality snaps for them and their knowledge of the scheme increased throughout the season.
“Duke’s got great speed — he’s not the biggest linebacker in the World, but he does have good movement skills, and good speed.”
The DC went on to note that Riley isn’t in a situation where he’s trying to learn the defense during training camp, or in the middle of the season. He’s able to present his skill set more clearly.
“He’s had a good training camp, so far.”
On the rookie LBs
Schwartz mentioned again this week that linebacker is one of those positions where the young guys really benefit from a full offseason and the preseason game reps. They had a lot of meetings, which were productive, and scrimmages, but that live-game speed is what the guys need.
“So I’d probably throw our linebackers and our safeties all in the same basket. All those guys are making good, steady progress. They have a lot on their plate, not just with defense but with special teams, and all those guys have shown some really good things in training camp so far. It’s just a matter of being up against the clock and how quickly they can have complete command, not just mentally but then command physically to be able go in and play the position for us. Been very impressed by those guys, though. It’s a tough situation, but they have handled it really well.”