Replace Jalen Mills?
“I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills as a corner,” Schwartz said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “One of the reasons we had a big parade on Broad Street was Jalen Mills. He’s played a lot like a 2-2 corner. We played a lot like a 2-2 defense, we’re playing a lot like a 2-2 team right now.
“There’ve been a lot of inconsistencies all around, but it’s our job to help him through that and his job to get out of that and I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills. He’s played a lot of good football for us. He epitomizes a lot of things we’re about defensively — toughness, competitiveness, ability to bounce back. And I’m confident he will.”
Mills and the secondary struggled through another rough afternoon in Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss at Tennessee, but the Eagles are forging ahead in the wake of safety Rodney McLeod’s season-ending injury with Corey Graham as his replacement and with rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox as the top choice for center field in some nickel packages because of his versatility, his skillset and his mind.
“Avonte is another guy who’s very competitive,” Schwartz said. “He’s quick, he’s really smart, we really like him as a player.”
Mills and Ronald Darby will remain on the outside, with Sidney Jones remaining the primary slot corner.
The only thing that might change is the number of plays for the the 33-year-old Graham, who was in for all 71 snaps on Sunday.
“That’s probably a lot,” Schwartz admitted. “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.”
Schwartz explained the rationale for trying not to make too many changes during the season.
“We’ve done it in the past too when we’ve [had] injuries,” he said. “Try to leave as many people — I think some of our best work has been done trying to leave as many people as we can in the same position and just make one exchange rather than the waterfall of one guy and then somebody else moves into his, somebody else moves into his.
“It's hard to gain consistency when that happens where you move one guy into a role. You’re working on that guy developing and ironing out his wrinkles as everybody else is staying familiar to what they're doing.
Also speaking on Tuesday was offensive coordinator Mike Groh, who agreed that it was hard to stay on script and run the ball as often as they would have liked because they were behind the chains so much on Sunday.
“When you don’t stay on schedule, then you’ve got to call the game accordingly,” Groh said. “We had some drives and series where we may make a couple first downs but then fall behind the chains. We’re just trying to make first downs.”
Interestingly, Groh disputed a contention that the team was having trouble picking up the blitz following a game in which quarterback Carson Wentz was under siege from the start. He was sacked four times and hit 11 others.
“I wouldn’t say that. We’ve got as good an offensive line as there is in the league, and wouldn’t trade any of those guys,” Groh said. “The guys on the other side, they do a lot of studying too and they work hard. They had a couple good pressures. They have a good pressure scheme. We knew that going into the game. They do a good job … the offensive linemen up front knocking guys off the games and making it difficult [on] pass games and getting on edges. A couple instances that happened.
“And we’ve had a couple of nakeds [bootlegs], where we naked right into pressure and it’s resulted in a sack. So it’s a little bit of bad timing too.”
More points from the coordinators:
♦ Groh, on the return of WR Alshon Jeffery: “You can see that he presents a matchup problem and advantage for us. So it’s just nice to have him out there. I think he's somebody that Carson can always look to and feel comfortable with in a one-on-one situation.”
♦ Groh, on whether Wentz has the same elusiveness as he did before getting injured last December: “I think he’s a pretty mobile quarterback for the size that he is. And in this league, he does a good job of standing there, sliding the pocket, getting out of the pocket and looking to run or throw once he breaks outside the pocket.”
Sounds a lot like “no.”
♦ Schwartz, on the state of the Eagles: “We’re one play away from being 3-1. We’re also two plays from being 0-4. We need to face that. And we’re sort of right in the middle of that being 2-2. But [Falcons WR] Julio Jones makes a catch or [Colts QB] Andrew Luck escapes out of a sack and finds somebody in the end zone, and all of a sudden, we could be looking at a completely different thing.
“So I think whether it’s home, whether it’s road, we need to play more consistent as a team and particularly as a defense.”
The Eagles on Tuesday released DT Bruce Hector, signed DT Treyvon Hester from the practice squad and added LB Kyle Wilson to the practice squad.