July 28, 2017
The Eagles pass rush was one of the strengths of Jim Schwartz's defense in his first year as the team's defensive coordinator. But after getting off to a hot start and being among the league leaders in sacks for the first half of the season, Schwartz's unit fell off, in part because opposing teams continued to see more film of the Eagles new-look defense as the season progressed.
Schwartz will not only look to replicate that early success in Year 2 but also sustain for a full 16-game season. In an effort to ensure that happens, there are quite a few new faces on the along the defensive front – and a couple familiar ones are no longer with the team.
Former first-round pick Marcus Smith was released earlier this week in part to make room for those new additions, like Derek Barnett and Chris Long. Starting DT Bennie Logan signed with the Chiefs in free agency and has been replaced by veteran Timmy Jernigan and sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls, who many considered to be a steal that late in the draft.
Schwartz has been effusive in his praise for Jernigan and Qualls has played very little given that he missed spring practices due to school commitments. But he also likes what he's seen from his new defensive ends as well.
Earlier in the week, Schwartz spoke quite a bit about their first-round pick, Barnett, and what he needs to do in order to be NFL-ready. On Thursday, we got a chance to see the rookie face the likes of Jason Peters, who Barnett beat for a would-be sack, for the first time this summer.
The next day, Schwartz was again asked about Barnett, as well as Long, the guy projected to start ahead of Barnett. Here’s what he had to say about his new defensive ends following the second full-squad practice of camp on Friday:
Q. How difficult is it going to be for DE Derek Barnett to probably face a lot of (good offensive linemen) this season?
JIM SCHWARTZ: That's a good match-up right off the bat. We talked about the wide receivers in the corners. That's going to make it better. You know, it's going to come. I mean, offensive linemen in the NFL are much better than college offensive linemen. Quarterbacks are better. They get rid of the ball quicker. You know, all that stuff -- he's going to have the challenge of meeting each of those challenges. Wow, that's a bad way to say it, ‘The challenge of meeting the challenge.’ He's going to have the duty to meet every challenge that comes along. He's been up for it so far. He had a really good rush against JP [T Jason Peters] yesterday. Now maybe one out of four, but it still was, you know, it still was there, and we're excited about it.
Q. How similar is what DE Chris Long doing here to what he did with the Los Angeles Rams? And has that helped him adjust to the defense?
SCHWARTZ: Yeah, it's more similar to [the Rams] then what he did with New England last year. And there is nothing that we're asking him to do that he already hasn't done. And that's what happens a lot of times with veteran players, it's more just learning new terminology. They've already worked all the techniques. Even a guy like [cornerback] Patrick Robinson. He's worked every technique that we work. Now it’s just, ‘Okay, they call it ‘this’, I used to call it ‘this’.’ Those guys catch up pretty quickly. Chris is a veteran player.
He's another guy that's around the quarterback an awful lot.
Schwartz puts a premium on getting to the quarterback, and with the team’s current issues at cornerback, that’s going to be as important as ever this season.
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