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August 06, 2018

Jim Schwartz expects big things in 2018 from Eagles CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills

The Birds defensive coordinator also sang the praises of the 42,000 fans at he Linc on Sunday night

In about 72 hours, the Eagles will be putting on their game day uniforms for the first time since beating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII back in February. It's been a long six-plus months for Philly fans as they've waited patiently for the start of their first season as defending champions. 

In many ways, however, it's amazing just how fast that time has flown — one month from today, on September 6, the Eagles will open the regular season against the Falcons. And on Monday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked about what he hopes to see out of his unit on Thursday night against the Steelers.

"I mentioned a little bit a couple weeks ago, a week ago — whatever it was when we had our first day of tackling in that live period — [the] biggest thing is communication and tackling," he said. "We see a lot of stuff from these guys on the field, but we have very few chances to tackle live. You want to see that, see guys finishing to the quarterback. I mean, it's hard to rush in training camp when you're not trying to hit the quarterback. You finish a rush by laying out and trying to knock the ball away or trying to power through, and we don't do that in training camp. See those guys finish rushes, to see guys finish tackles. 

"It's one thing to say, ‘Yeah, I would have had it.’ Well, guess what, they're good players too. And then communication. You get into a stadium, it gets loud. I thought that was a benefit for us last night of just so many young guys understanding the home crowd."

Schwartz, of course, is referring to the 40,000 Eagles fans that packed into the Linc on Sunday night for the first of two open practice. For the veterans, that noise was nothing compared to the last time they played a game at the Linc — it was a 38-7 drubbing of the Vikings, in case you forgot — but it was certainly an eye-opening experience for the rookies.

"Took a long time to get home," he added with a laugh.

But it was worth it, especially when the crowd broke into a competition over which section could cheer the loudest.

"Training camp is tough," Schwartz continued. "You go out and it can get monotonous playing against the same guys. Sort of just keep repping the same things. You go over to The Linc, and you get a little different vibe. Players can feed off of that energy. It's not just game day that they feed off of that energy, it's other things. It was really cool. 

"When they started, all the sections started competing, I generally don't even hear the crowd. You're focused in. But that's one time I did. They were all competing doing the Eagles chant. That was a real special moment for our young guys to see how much the fans are behind [the team], to see the enthusiasm. They'll see it Thursday night, but that gave them a good taste of what they're going to get."

As for the veterans, well, Schwartz sang the praises of cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, as well as safety Corey Graham, who signed with the team on Sunday. Here's the rest of the defensive coordinator's back and forth with the media following Monday's practice at the NovaCare Complex... 

How are you going to rotate your corners on Thursday?

JIM SCHWARTZ: "I’ll let Coach Pederson hit the substitutions and how much guys are going to play and things like that. Just speaking generality on all preseason games, we have multiple preseason games to get a lot of different looks, just like we do at practice. So, we probably won't roll the same way in any of our preseason games. You'll see different groups because that's the whole idea is to try to get the same evaluation of a lot of different guys, and the only way you can do that is to mix up your lineup." 

What does S Corey Graham bring to the secondary?

"Same thing he did last year. He's a veteran player, smart player. He's got some flexibility position-wise, and he's a really good tackler too. I think that helped us last year."

It seems like CB Ronald Darby and CB Jalen Mills are having a really impressive camp coverage-wise. Have you been reassured by that? Have they done anything to surprise you?

"They're both having outstanding camps. They’re making plays on the ball, they're playing with confidence. Those are two important things for corners. I think that both of those guys really elevated their games."

How much do they need to do? How do they need to improve?

"I think that really the biggest thing with Darby is last year when he came to us, he was just so far behind scheme-wise, and it seemed like he was always playing catch-up. Whether it was trying to play catch-up early in the season with the scheme, and then trying to play catch-up with his injuries. He just never really got his feet sort of underneath him, so to speak. He's had an outstanding offseason. I'm not just talking about training camp, I’m talking about OTAs and phase one, phase two. He’s in a different place than he was last year. 

"Jalen Mills, like his biggest thing is that confidence and his ability to play the ball. He’s done both of those things, and he's continued to do both of those things."

What do you see from S Tre Sullivan so far in camp?

"Yeah, he's had an outstanding camp. He's a young player. He plays fast. He's still a work in progress, but he's trending the right way."

Your thoughts on Doug getting that extension to be here another five years?

"We're all for everybody getting extensions. That was exciting news. It wasn't just, I'm sure, the Pederson family or the Roseman family. That went to our locker room, that went to our coaching staff, that went to the whole building. That's well deserved. Now we just need to back him up on it, and that's not just Coach Pederson, that's not just Howie [Roseman], that's the whole staff behind those guys, having those guys' backs, and I like where we are with that."

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