Not like this was any real surprise, but Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is shooting down any thought of putting Jalen Mills on the bench or moving him elsewhere in the secondary.
He spoke today during his weekly press conference, answering questions about the poor play of the defensive backfield in Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Titans.
Notes from the availability:
On safety options and whether he considered Mills to cover for Rodney McLeod
“No, we’re comfortable leaving Jalen at corner. When it came time to replace Rodney, who will be sorely missed this year. He’ll be back, but we certainly felt his loss. He’s been such an important part of our team. When we replaced him, we compartmentalized it into two positions: one was Corey Graham and the other one was Avonte. Of all the guys on our roster, we thought Avonte had a lot of the same traits that Rodney had. With Avonte playing the nickel position – there’s a lot of carryover between nickel and safety, also. So even though some things are new he’s got excellent quickness and great eyes for the football. He’s got the combination of being able to cover and being able to play the run. All the things we liked about him as nickel, we also like about him as a safety. And I think we’ll see more of him going forward in that role.”
On keeping Jalen Mills in the starting group
“I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills as a corner. One of the reasons we had a big parade on Broad Street was Jalen Mills. And he’s played a lot like a 2-2 corner. We have played a lot like a 2-2 defense, played a lot like a 2-2 team right now. There have been inconsistencies all around, but it’s our job to help him through that. It’s his job to get out of that, and I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills. That guy’s played a lot of good football for us, and he epitomizes a lot of things we’re about defensively: toughness, competitiveness and ability to bounce back. And I’m confident he will.”
Tennessee’s game-winning touchdown, was it zone coverage or should the defense have been deeper?
“That wasn’t a zone. That was an all-out blitz. We were going for the win right there, because if we can get a sack right there, or we can get a completion inbounds, I don’t know if they can get their game-tying field goal off or maybe they get up and try to run a quick fade or something like that. It was one of those situations that we were aggressive. We went for the win, and we sort of paid for it. But that’s a blitz.”
“That’s man (coverage). Everybody was one-on-one. Avonte got the one, he slipped on the play. Made up some ground, but it was too late after he slipped. They had the advantage and we ended up paying the price for it.”
(Schwartz says the other defensive backs were man to man on the correct guys)
What happened on 4th and 15?
“Coverage broke down.”
Does Jalen Mills need help schematically or does he need help with his confidence off the field?
“Do you know Jalen? Do you ever see him? Confidence, we don’t have to worry about that. But I do think there’s a combination of scheme and technique. Other things that go into that. And that’s part of a position coach’s job. That’s part of a defensive coordinator’s job. Our guys played with a lot of confidence. We don’t have to worry about that with them. We need to be more consistent. We played suspiciously like a 2-2 team. And that’s where it is. And probably any player you want to ask about how they’re playing, playing a lot like a 2-2, 2-2 player right now, a 2-2 team.”
Is it sustainable for Corey Graham to play 71 snaps per game at age 33?
“That’s probably a lot. Short term, you can do a lot of things short term. Long term, it’s probably a little bit unrealistic long term, but we’ll see how it goes going forward. We’re comfortable with him in roles that he’s played for us and he’s had to step up and play increased snaps at different points. But we’ll just see going forward.”
How did Sidney Jones play in the nickel spot and would you consider playing him at all on the outside?
“He’s played suspiciously like a 2-2 player also. He made a play on the sideline, the first play, I think it was him and Malcolm had a switch on a pick route. And came and made a great play. Big third-down stop for us. But then later on, he had his warts also. And he had a hand in a lot of those plays also and he just needs to work on being more consistent at the nickel position. We’re excited about him. He has made some really good plays. I think one that fell below the radar, we never talked about it last week, was he made a tackle on the blitz. It was an incredible effort. There are good things. He’s trending in the right way. We have a lot of confidence he can play outside. If he’s asked to do that, I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”
Do you have any concerns about Avonte Maddox’s size for playing safety?
“The thing about that is that was one thing said about Rodney also. They’re not a whole lot different as far as height. Avonte is maybe a little bit lighter. I think Rodney had some of those same things, he played corner in college. Avonte gives us great range, he’s quick. He’s a smart player. He’s just a little bit inexperienced and each rep he gets he will get better for us.”
Do you view Maddox as a safety moving forward with this season?
“We cross-train guys so much. And that’s been such a big part of our success. Malcolm plays linebacker positions, plays nickel and plays both safety spots. Corey Graham plays all over the place, you can see him all over. And I think that’s been a big part of our success. Guys that can cross-train are important to us. Gives us a little bit of flexibility. He can cover wide receivers. He’s got great range. Has really good eyes for the football. I think you see that on the interception, he’s just cluing the quarterback the whole way there. There have been some very successful safeties in the NFL that have that skill set. Just a little bit different than some of the bigger guys that have played a position, doesn’t mean you can’t be effective doing it.”
Does Rasul Douglas cross-train at safety and corner?
“He does get cross-trained a little bit. He’s mainly an outside corner. We think that best fits his skill set. He’s always ready no matter the situation. We saw that in the opener, had to come in for just a couple plays, and he made plays. He did for us last year. We have confidence that if he’s called on, he’ll do the same thing for us this year.”