Eagles

Jim Schwartz won’t spill on starting CBs, gives Cox expectations, more

Jim Schwartz won’t spill on starting CBs, gives Cox expectations, more

Jim Schwartz wasn’t biting. 

Now inside of two weeks before the start of the season, Schwartz was asked flatly by a reporter on Monday who won the competition for the starting cornerback job opposite Ronald Darby. 

“Nice try,” the Eagles defensive coordinator said. 

The Eagles signed Darby to a one-year deal this offseason and it’s been assumed that once he’s healthy coming back from his ACL recovery, he’ll start on one side. And based on training camp practices, it looks like Avonte Maddox will be the nickel cornerback. That leaves either Rasul Douglas or Sidney Jones as the other starter. 

Schwartz was not ready to divulge that plan just yet. 

“Honestly, we’re still working,” Schwartz said. “We’re not 100 percent set in stone. I’m sure the Washington team would like to know where we are right now with all that stuff. We’ll just play it close to the vest and see what are best groups are and see how we can manage. 

“I don’t know if it’s realistic for some players coming back from injuries, and we have a lot who haven’t played in preseason, I don’t know it’s realistic for those guys to play every single snap. That’ll probably be a case-by-case basis. We’ll see where it is.”

The last part of that answer is interesting. Perhaps if Darby does start in Week 1, he won’t play the whole game. That would give the Eagles an opportunity to play Douglas and Jones against Washington. But it seems like only one of them will be a starter. Either way, that means sending a talented player to the bench. 

Expectations for Fletcher Cox

The Eagles’ best player is still recovering from surgery on his foot from an injury he suffered in the Saints playoff game. While Doug Pederson said he was confident Cox will be ready for Week 1, the Eagles’ All-Pro defensive tackle missed practice again on Tuesday. 

It’s becoming fair to be concerned about if or how much Cox will be able to play in the season opener on Sept. 8. 

While other players returning from injury — like Darby, Nigel Bradham and Derek Barnett — have been at least limited participants in practice, we haven’t seen much of Cox in a while. He again missed the first two practices of this week. 

“He’s a veteran player and he’s been around,” Schwartz said. “The main thing is making sure he’s healthy and in shape and focused. I know he’s focused and he’s driving with all the other things. We’ll see where he gets.”

Even if Cox is able to start the opener, it’s fair to wonder how much he’ll play. He’s been doing some things, but it can be hard to stay in football shape when a guy isn’t playing football. Just think about how long it took Brandon Graham to round into form last year after starting the season with an ankle injury.  

Will Daeshon Hall make the team? 

If Hall doesn’t make the Eagles roster, it won’t be for lack of effort. He leads the Eagles in sacks (3), TFLs (4), QB hits (8) and forced fumbles (2) this preseason and Schwartz on Monday seemed impressed by the 2017 third-round pick, who flamed out quickly in Carolina. 

Schwartz, in particular, seemed impressed by the work Hall did this offseason to put on weight and about Hall’s toughness after returning from a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. 

“Sometimes numbers can be different at positions, sometimes there’s all kinds of different things whether somebody makes the team or not,” Schwartz said. “But he’s certainly put himself in a good position.” 

If Hall doesn’t make the team, we’ll have a better sense of just how little the preseason can mean. Earlier this month, Pederson revealed that the team puts less weight into preseason games vs. practice when making their evaluations. 

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Miles Sanders breaks down his case for Rookie of the Year

Miles Sanders breaks down his case for Rookie of the Year

Down the stretch of the 2019 season, Miles Sanders didn’t want to talk about his chances to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was focused on winning games. 

Now that the Eagles’ season is over, though, it’s a discussion worth having. Because Sanders should definitely be in the mix. 

On Thursday, the Eagles’ running back was on the FS1 show “Undisputed” and was asked about his chances to win the annual Associated Press award.

“I think I have a pretty good shot,” Sanders said. “With the other guys that's being nominated, there's Josh Jacobs, [he] had a good year too and Kyler Murray too. All had great rookie years. But I got a lot of confidence in myself based on the type of production that I gave, basically, I think, in half of a season, with (Darren) Sproles going down, going on IR, and Jordan Howard going down for the rest of the half of the season.”

While he didn’t want to talk about ROY late in the season, it’s pretty clear Sanders knows when he’s been slighted. 

The Eagles haven’t had a Rookie of the Year since tight end Charle Young won the award way back in 1973. But Sanders definitely has as strong case for his performance in 2019. 

After a pretty slow start, Sanders got better with every week and then he helped carry the Eagles once Howard went down and was a big reason why the Eagles got into the playoffs. He finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. 

Sanders set an Eagles rookie record and led all rookies this season with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. 

There’s plenty of competition, though. Jacobs was just named the PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year a couple days ago but that doesn’t always match the AP list, which is considered the real award. Jacobs, fair or not, might have an advantage as a first-round pick. 

And then there’s Murray, who might have an advantage as a quarterback. 

Why does Sanders think he has a chance over an impressive rookie QB? 

“I think you can say how important those last four games were, that run that we went on. And just knowing that we had to win those four games in order to get to the playoffs. … I think those four games were big and I stepped up pretty well. They asked me to do a lot, they like to find ways to get me the ball. And I’ve been doing well as far as each game just getting better and better at it.”

Sanders is right. He stepped up in those big games. In the final four games of the regular season, he averaged 4.73 yards per attempt and averaged 112 yards from scrimmage per game. And unlike Murray and Jacobs, Sanders helped get his team to the playoffs. He was sixth in the entire NFL in scrimmage yards in December. 

Let’s take a look at the top candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year and their respective cases: 

RB Miles Sanders (Eagles): Finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage, added 314 return yards earlier in the season  

QB Kyler Murray (Cardinals): Led rookie quarterbacks with 3,722 passing yards and 544 rushing yards, threw for 20 touchdowns (12 INTs) and rushed for 4 more. Led bad Cardinals team to a 5-10-1 record.  

RB Josh Jacobs (Raiders): Led all rookies with 1,150 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, finished second with 1,316 scrimmage yards, had five 100-yard games 

WR A.J. Brown (Titans): Finished with 1,051 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns to lead all rookies, averaged 20.2 yards per reception, team is in AFC Championship Game

There’s definitely some stiff competition this year. Any of those four guys would be deserving but Sanders definitely has one of the strongest cases. And a running back has won in four of the last six years. 

So does Sanders think he’s going to win? 

“I could just say I feel confident in myself,” Sanders said. “I just pray to God I could be blessed with the opportunity. That would be a blessing and a dream come true.”

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Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

For the last month of the 2019, the Eagles finally saw how much a healthy Tim Jernigan can help their defensive line. 

Will that be enough reason to bring him back? 

That’s a question the Eagles will have to ask themselves this offseason as Jernigan is set to become a free agent. On one hand, when Jernigan is healthy, he’s been pretty good and Jim Schwartz has previously said Jernigan “means something to our spirit.” And he’s still just 27. 

On the other hand, Jernigan has struggled to stay healthy the last few years and the Eagles might not be able to rely on him. 

An emotional Jernigan spoke to our Derrick Gunn just after the playoff loss earlier this month and was well aware his future is up in the air. 

It hit different when you’re a free agent because you don’t know what’s going to happen with you. At the end of the day, man, as long as my teammates know that I gave everything I had on Sunday, when those lights turned on, I gave y’all everything I had. I’m at peace with that. 

“However it turns out with me in this free agency thing, I’m at peace with that. As long as y’all boys know I gave y’all everything I had. The city knows I gave them everything I had. It’s always love from here, from me there’s always love.

As of earlier this month, Jernigan said he and the Eagles hadn’t had any discussions about a possible contract. That doesn’t mean they won’t. 

Remember, the Eagles traded for Jernigan before the 2017 and he played really well that season before an ankle injury began to limit him. Still, he started 15 regular season games that year and all three in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII. 

He played well enough that during the 2017 season, the Eagles gave him a four-year extension worth up to $48 million. 

But then Jernigan hit some hard times. He suffered a mysterious back injury in the offseason and needed surgery. Jernigan still hasn’t said publicly how he suffered the injury. He and the team renegotiated the deal and Jernigan played just three regular season games in 2018, but then played in the playoffs. He fought his way back. 

Last offseason, the Eagles unsurprisingly declined the option on his renegotiated contract but still signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million for the 2019 season. Jernigan hurt his foot early in the season in 2019 but returned to play 10 games and eventually played at a pretty high level. 

So, yeah, there have been some ups and downs. 

“I’ve been through a lot the last two years,” Jernigan said. “I’ve had my highs and lows, I’ve had my times where I didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I went through every emotion but I made it. That’s definitely a positive to take from the season. I was able to finish this thing the right way.” 

The Eagles know they’ll have Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at defensive tackle in 2020. It would seem like Jernigan would be an obvious choice to be the third guy in the rotation but Hassan Ridgeway is also going to be a free agent and is two years younger. 

But Ridgeway hasn’t been able to stay healthy either. He’s actually played one fewer game than Jernigan over the last two seasons and he hasn’t had the highs, especially not in this city. 

There’s a decent chance the Eagles try to bring Jernigan back for another season. But if it doesn’t happen, there won’t be hard feelings on Jernigan’s side. 

“Either way it go, whether I’m with the Eagles next year or I’m not,” Jernigan said, “I can promise you, I am one of those people, I’ll always be around this city, you know what I’m saying? I’m gonna always be around this city, even a long time from now. I met people away from football that I found love for. It’s love from me. 

“If I ain’t here, then y’all know what it is, man. I’m six years into my career, 27 years old, I can always end up back here. It ain’t over till it’s over, man.”

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