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May 15, 2017

Jim Schwartz has a history of playing rookie cornerbacks early

Last week in an Eagles mailbag, we answered whether or not rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas should be listed as a starting corner before training camp even began, seeing as how the Eagles corner situation is what it is.

The "too long; didn't read" version is that it is indeed too early to think of Douglas as a starter before anyone has even seen what he can do in a practice setting against NFL vets. A common response to that mailbag response was that the Eagles should just throw Douglas to the wolves to see if he survives or folds. After all, that's what they did with Jalen Mills to some degree last season.

Douglas won't play unless he gives the Eagles reason to believe that he can, beyond the fact that they drafted him. However, I was curious to see what Jim Schwartz's history is with rookie corners who have been drafted to play in his defense in his stops in Tennessee, Detroit, Buffalo, and now Philly. Here's what I found.

Year Player Draft slot Games Starts 
2016 Jalen Mills Round 7, pick 233 16 2
2014 Ross Cockrell Round 4, pick 109 7 0
2013 Darius Slay Round 2, pick 36 13 4
2012 Bill Bentley Round 3, pick 85 4 3
2012 Chris Greenwood Round 5, pick 148 0 0
2012 Jonte Green Round 6, pick 196 15 5
2010 Amari Spievey Round 3, pick 66 15 9
2008 Cary "Sconces" Williams Round 7, pick 229 1 0
2007 Ryan Smith Round 6, pick 206 0 0
2006 Cortland Finnegan Round 7, pick 215 16 2
2005 Pacman Jones Round 1, pick 6 15 13
2005 Vincent Fuller Round 4, pick 108 2 0
2005 Reynaldo Hill Round 7, pick 218 15 10
2004 Rich Garner Round 3, pick 92 15 1
2004 Michael Waddell Round 4, pick 124 16 4
2003 Andre Woolfolk Round 1, pick 28 6 2
2003 Donnie Nickey Round 5, pick 154 12 0
2002 Mike Echols Round 4, pick 110 4 0
2002 Tony Beckham Round 4, pick 115 14 0
2001 Andre Dyson Round 2, pick 60 14 12

Some observations on the above:

• Of the 20 players listed above, 18 played in at least one game in their rookie seasons. 12 started at least one game. Seven started at least four games. In other words, rookies play under Jim Schwartz, so Douglas has a good chance to contribute if he shows anything.

• Interesting, however, none of the above players started every game they appeared in. They all had to wait a few weeks before getting their shot to start. The only player would might have started Week 1 under Schwartz was Pacman Jones, who had a long holdout after he was drafted sixth overall in 2005, and didn't start that season until Week 3.

• Schwartz doesn't care where you were drafted. In the above chart, four corners were drafted in the seventh round. Three of them played in at least 15 games their rookie seasons, and all three also started at least two games. 

• Of the 20 cornerbacks drafted while Jim Schwartz was either the head coach or defensive coordinator of his team, only two didn't make the team as rookies. They were Titans 2007 sixth-round pick Ryan Smith, and Lions 2012 fifth-round pick Chris Greenwood. You could also maybe include Blake Countess, who played corner in college, but was always in the Eagles' plans at safety. Rasul Douglas would either have to be beyond awful (or he'd have to throw his own poop at Jeffrey Lurie or something) not to make the team.

• One more small observation in regard to the progression of Jalen Mills from Year 1 to Year 2. While I don't want to make any predictions here, I did find the following rookie statistical comparison interesting while compiling the above chart:

 PlayerDraft slot Tackles PBU INT 
 Cortland Finnegan (14 games, 2 starts)7th round, pick 215 70 
 Jalen Mills (14 games, 2 starts)7th round, pick 233 62 

Finnegan made it to the Pro Bowl his third year in the NFL in 2008, not that we're predicting the same for Mills.

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