Jim Schwartz

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Rivera thinks Pederson has been 'outstanding'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Rivera thinks Pederson has been 'outstanding'

There were plenty of people who were surprised last year when Jeff Lurie decided to hire Doug Pederson as the Eagles' head coach. 

Ron Rivera wasn't one of them. 

The head coach of the Panthers, the team the Eagles will face on Thursday Night Football, has known Pederson for nearly 20 years. Back in 1999, when Pederson was brought to Philly by Andy Reid to be the Eagles' quarterback until Donovan McNabb was ready, Rivera was brought in to coach linebackers. 

At the time, Rivera was a 37-year-old getting a position coach job for the first time and Pederson was a 31-year-old quarterback finally getting the chance to start.

Pederson spent just one year with the Eagles as a player but he left enough of an impression that 18 years later, Rivera didn't hesitate to answer this question. 

Did you think then that Pederson could be a head coach? 

"Oh yeah," Rivera said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters on Tuesday. "If coaching was going to be the path he took, I had no doubt that this young man was going to get the opportunity. He's so smart, he's a hard-worker and he's got the passion to want to win. 

"You look at what his situation was when he got to Philadelphia with Andy and you can see him help with the development of Donovan. He was right there. He was what you hope to have in a guy that's coming in to be in that role. And that's exactly what he did. I just remember saying a couple times, 'he's going to be a good coach one day.'"

Rivera remembers Pederson as a team player in '99. He said Pederson was in a "tough" situation back then and the Eagles simply weren't very good. "He stood tall and never complained about anything," Rivera remembered. 

The two went their separate ways after 1999. Pederson went on to stay in the league as a player for five more seasons before eventually beginning his ascent in the coaching ranks. Rivera had three stops before the Panthers hired him as a head coach in 2011. 

Now both head coaches, they're just two of several who have learned under Reid and then got a team of their own to lead. 

"I just think the one thing [Reid has] done, and personally in my case, is he allows his assistant coaches to grow within the system, within the offense or defense," Pederson said. "So the defensive guys, back when they were under Jim Johnson, when they were here, have flourished. And listen, it helps to have successful seasons, too, and good offenses and good defenses. Whether they have gone on to get other coordinator jobs or what, if they were a position coach and just watching their careers over time and the success that they have had, that's the biggest thing. He just allows you to work and to grow and further your career that way."

Rivera's first two seasons at the helm in Carolina didn't go that well. The Panthers went 6-10 his first season and 7-9 in Year 2. It wasn't until the third season that they made the playoffs. They lost in the divisional round in 2013 and 2014 before making it to the Super Bowl, losing to the Broncos, in 2015. 

That's probably why Rivera understands patience. And it's probably why he thinks Pederson has done a pretty good job so far. 

"I think he's done outstanding," Rivera said. "I think last year was one of those things where they got off to a hot start and expectations rose way too quick for them, to be fair. I think right now, they're exactly where they should be. I think that first year is always tough and you just try to win as many as you can but at the same time, you have to temper your expectations. I think he's done a great job with that. I love the way they've come out. I like the energy and the way he coaches."

No Fletch, no problem
The Eagles have been without Fletcher Cox for the last two games and the defensive line has held it together. Sure, the Eagles really miss their best defensive player but Beau Allen has played well in his place and Tim Jernigan has taken his game to a different level. 

"They're just taking it upon themselves," Pederson said. "I did challenge the D-line last week [that] we’ve got to generate some pass rush and they were able to do that last week and create some edges and it just boils down to each man just doing his job and doing his assignment. Whether your top pass rusher is there or not, you’ve got to figure out ways. With [Jim Schwartz] and (defensive line coach) Chris Wilson, they are utilizing the stunt games and line games and things that create some edges for the D-linemen to get to the quarterback."

In place of Cox, Allen and Jernigan have gotten most of the work, but Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham have been playing inside on third downs. And Elijah Qualls and Justin Hamilton have gotten snaps as well. 

In addition to Cox, the team has also been without fourth option Destiny Vaeao, who is questionable heading into Thursday's game. 

Seeing Seumalo? 
Isaac Seumalo, who began the season as the Eagles' starting left guard, has been inactive for the past two weeks, but should dress on Thursday because of Lane Johnson's concussion. That doesn't mean he'll get playing time at his old post. 

The Eagles are going to continue their left guard rotation on Thursday, but Stefen Wisniewski will start and get most of the snaps, with Chance Warmack rotating in occasionally. 

There's a chance we could see Seumalo, though. This season, the Eagles have used Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an extra tackle/tight end in some run formations. “Big V” won't be able to do that against the Panthers because he'll be starting at right tackle. 

Maybe we'll see Seumalo fill that extra tackle spot on Thursday. 

"Yeah, we train all — we pretty much have all of our offensive line ready to step into that role," Frank Reich said. "It just depends, by game plan, how much of that we want to do, depending upon certain things that they do schematically [and] certain personnel matchups. Sometimes in coverage, we're trying to do things where sometimes when you're — well not to get into some of the details — but there's just certain different ways we like to use it, so that's why it's important those guys all know how to play that position."

Quote of the Week I: "Yeah, I mean it's a lot easier when you don't have to do the long press conferences, then you can get back to work." — Schwartz on dealing with a short week 

Quote of the Week II: "When you go in there, there's a bunch of old people in there. Sitting in the cold tub, laying down, just getting their bodies right." — Rasul Douglas on the Eagles' cold tub room this week 

Quote of the Week III: "The celebration was pretty good. I have to admit. It was good." — Reich on the Eagles' baseball celebration on Sunday 

Random media guide note: Something on Najee Goode's bucket list is a HALO jump — a 30,000-foot skydive at a small landing target. 

'Not a one-trick pony,' Cam Newton a serious challenge for Eagles

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'Not a one-trick pony,' Cam Newton a serious challenge for Eagles

Cam Newton is no longer the two-way threat he used to be. It doesn't mean he's less dangerous. In reality, he's more dangerous than ever.

"He's not a one-trick pony," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.

Newton, now in his seventh year with the Panthers, is completing 68.3 percent of his passes — far above the 58.4 percent figure he averaged coming into this season.

From 2011 through 2016, Newton ranked 34th in accuracy of 39 quarterbacks who threw at least 1,000 passes.

This year? Newton is fourth out of 32 qualifying QBs, behind only Alex Smith, Josh McCown and Drew Brees.

Conversely, after averaging 38 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry in his first six years, Newton's running for only 18 yards and 3.1 yards per carry so far this year.

Newton, a three-time Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro during the 2015 Super Bowl season, is more dangerous than ever because he can still run when he has to and he's very tough to bring down, but he's quietly developed into a big-time pocket passer.

"I think that the thing that you have to take into account is he can sit back there and rip it out of the pocket," Schwartz said. "This is not schoolyard football. He can sit back there and throw as pure as anybody in the NFL.

"But he also has the ability when it does break down to be able to create. So not only do you have to cover the timing of the route and the reception point of the route, but you do have to plaster [the receivers], and our [pass] rush needs to do a good job eliminating places so that he can step up.

"Our blitz needs to do a good job of putting him on the clock. And when we have opportunities, we've got to get him on the ground. That's easier said than done. There's a lot of people that have free runners, free people in the open field, and he has the ability to make guys miss. That’s always been a skill set of his."

The Eagles have faced Newton three times over the years. He threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-22 Panthers win in 2012 at the Linc, then he threw for 306 yards again but with three interceptions in a 45-21 Panthers loss to Mark Sanchez at the Linc in 2014. And in 2015, he threw three INTs again in a game the Eagles won 27-16 in Charlotte.

Newton makes his fourth career start against the Eagles at 8:30 p.m. Thursday when the Eagles and Panthers meet in a national TV game at Bank of America Stadium.

Both teams are 4-1. The Eagles are seeking their 10th start of 5-1 or better but only their third in the last 35 years (2004, 2014). They started 6-0 in 1981 and 2004. The Panthers have opened 5-1 or better twice and lost in the Super Bowl both times — in 2003 they started out 5-1 and went on to beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. In 2015 they were 6-0 on their way to a 15-1 record.

Newton in each of the last two weeks has completed over 75 percent of his passes and thrown for 300 yards with three touchdowns, something he hadn't done once in 102 previous career starts.

He's only the 16th quarterback in NFL history to post those numbers in consecutive games.

How much has Newton grown as a passer? He has 14 times more passing yards this year (1,237) than rushing yards (90).

Coming into this season, he had six times more passing yards than rushing yards.

"He can be a pocket passer, he can run the read-option, he can run designed runs, he can run off-schedule runs, but he's as good a pocket passer as there is," Schwartz said.

"So I think that's what makes it's difficult — to defend every one of those. He's got mobility, he's got designed runs. They do a lot of different things and we'll have to play our best team defense."

Jim Schwartz Q&A: Missing Fletcher Cox, Kendricks' frustration, facing Fitzgerald

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Jim Schwartz Q&A: Missing Fletcher Cox, Kendricks' frustration, facing Fitzgerald

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz held his weekly media briefing Tuesday afternoon and addressed the defense's fourth-quarter breakdowns, the absence of all-pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks' frustration, facing future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald this weekend and much more.
 
Here are some highlights:
 
Q: You guys have allowed 52 fourth-quarter points, most in the NFL. How concerning is that and what do you see happening?
Jim Schwartz: "Yeah, we've been thinking on that. We were in the exact opposite position last year. Last year, we were struggling a little bit in the first half and second half we were pitching shutouts. I think there's a lot of layers to everything that goes on on the football field. Fifty-two points in any quarter is too many. Whether it's the first or the fourth, we've got to do a better job of keeping points off the board."
 
Q: Is it fatigue?
"No. I mean, there's other challenges that everybody has, but I certainly wouldn't place it on any kind of fatigue."
 
Q: Before Fletcher Cox got hurt, the defense was allowing fewer than 6.0 yards per play. With him out, that number has gone up to 7.5. How badly do you miss him?
"I'm glad that didn't happen before he signed his contract because he probably would have asked for more. We miss him, and we need to do a better job of playing as a unit when guys like that are not in there. We've had our challenges. Everybody has their challenges plugging guys in and still trying to have a high level. There's no explanations, no excuses. We have to do a better job of playing all around that position. Not just filling in for him just from a defensive tackle position, but everybody else doing their job well enough that those things don't make as big a difference as they did."
 
Q: Patrick Robinson really struggled early in camp but seems to have settled down since moving full-time into the slot. What have you seen from him?
"I think he's performed at a really high level. He's really taken that position over. He's limited his focus to that position. I think that's helped, also, and he's quietly done his job. I mean, sort of offensive tackles, maybe quiet is a good word. Corners, it can be a good one. Certainly don't want to be quiet when it comes to pass breakups or interceptions or things like that, but he's given us good, consistent play."
 
Q: You'll be facing Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday. What challenge does he still present?
"Yeah, another Hall-of-Fame quality player. It is not just about Larry Fitzgerald, though. They can put a 4-by-100 (relay) team together. They have got a lot of speed and a quarterback (Carson Palmer) that has — I know [Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians] has said he's playing at a level that he has not seen him play before. They have had their struggles here and there. But I think (Fitzgerald) is really playing good football and we have our work cut out for us. Again, it can't just be about Larry Fitzgerald and it can't be about one player. If you make it that way you're going to be susceptible to other things and we've got to do a better job of not being susceptible to other things."
 
Q: Derek Barnett hasn't had any sacks, but how's he playing overall?
"He's had his ups and downs as a lot of rookies have had, or sort of have in general. I thought he played an improved game against the Chargers, as opposed to the week before. He was a factor in the pass game. Made a great play on that draw. That's a hard play to defend and he made a play on the draw for a [minus-four-yard play]. He's had very few missed assignments. I don't want to give gold stars for that because that's what's expected of us, but I think that's also a good sign coming from a rookie that's getting significant playing time, particularly in some key situations."
 
Q: On one zone blitz he dropped back and was covering Keenan Allen. What does that say about him?
"We didn't draft him for coverage. We drafted him to rush the passer. Obviously, coverage is going to be a part of any blitz game, whether you're covering a running back or whether you're dropping into zone or doing those kinds of things. But it certainly showed his athletic ability and his speed."
 
Q: What have you seen from Vinny Curry?
"I think he's playing at an improved level over last year. A little bit like quarterbacks and touchdown passes, defensive line gets judged by sacks a lot of times and it's just life in the business. We need to be more productive across the board. We started off good with a couple four-sack games, and it was going to be hard to sack Eli Manning. We could have rushed 12 and I don't know if we could have got him on some of those. That ball was coming out so fast. But that's the way that game plays, and you have to be good in other areas. Until the end — and we looked awful on the 35-yard touchdown run. We did a really good job stopping the run and Vinny had a lot to do with it. He's played very physical at the point of attack and has been physical in his pass rush and alive in his pass rush a lot more than in the past. I'm happy with the track he's on. We all need to be more productive."
 
Q: Mychal Kendricks is frustrated with his playing time. Any thoughts on that?
"I think we look at everything every week when it comes to it, and Mych has found a way to be productive. We can all be more productive. We are starting to use a few more personnel packages than we have in the past, and we'll just see the way it goes after that."
 
Q: Does Kendricks let his frustration show?
"He's been a pro. I've said this from the beginning of training camp: He's gone out and worked really hard and done anything we've asked him to do. Any conversations I have with the player I like to keep between the player and myself. I think from the very beginning of training camp, we talked about him coming into what he's going to be asked to do and then doing that well. I couldn't be prouder of him."
 
Q: How has Malcolm Jenkins been playing?
"I think Malcolm's play has sort of flown below the radar. He doesn't have interceptions or sacks and things like that but he's played consistent football. Early on, talking about some of our positions where we're striving to get consistency, you can scratch Malcolm off of that list. He's played very consistently and he's also had to handle a lot of different situations from losing his running mate at safety (Rodney McLeod) next to him, plugging another guy in, and plugging another guy in. There hasn't — he's taken a lot on himself to stay productive and I think he's playing at a higher level than I've ever seen him play, and that says an awful lot because he's been a good player in this league for a long time."