Eagles

Ronald Darby’s play, Fletcher Cox’s health, blitzing and more in Jim Schwartz takeaways

Ronald Darby’s play, Fletcher Cox’s health, blitzing and more in Jim Schwartz takeaways

There were plenty of interesting topics talked about with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz at his Tuesday press conference. 

Here are some of the highlights: 

Is Darby healthy?

It seemed pretty clear the Falcons were targeting cornerback Ronald Darby on Sunday night. Darby’s 2018 season finished on IR with an ACL tear, but he returned for Week 1. In Week 2, Matt Ryan kind of picked on him Sunday night. 

Schwartz mentioned that despite the obvious struggles, Darby “made a couple big plays” for the Eagles. And Schwartz doesn’t think the injury is the problem, but perhaps the time the injury forced him to miss. 

“I think he has all of his speed back,” Schwartz said. “I don't see the ACL as being an issue at all for him. He's done a great job of rehab. He didn't practice a ton in training camp, so I think — and we have a few players that are in that boat. So I think that sometimes you can see some of that, I don't want to call it rust at this point, but there is a reason that we still do training camp and we still practice.”

The Eagles have been rotating at the outside cornerback position — previously under the guise of Darby’s return — and Darby led that group with 59 snaps (89 percent) on Sunday. Schwartz said they enter games with a plan for their rotation, but then basically change it on the fly. 

But if Darby is still working himself back into game shape and the Eagles are already rotating, it would make a lot of sense to limit his reps, especially when it’s clear the opposing teams are going right at him for a reason.  

Fletcher doesn’t look like Fletcher 

Among that group of players who missed summer practices is Fletcher Cox, who hasn’t looked like his usual dominant self through two games. I guess it would have been unfair to expect Cox to return after missing training camp and be back to his All-Pro form, but the Eagles could certainly use that right about now. 

Even Schwartz admitted that Cox doesn’t look like himself. 

“Again, I don't really even consider the injury part of it,” Schwartz said. “It's more just where he is in coming back. Didn't practice a ton in training camp, but there's nobody grading on a curve this time of year because you didn't practice in training camp. Like when they put a ball in the air, the officials don't say, ‘Well, this guy's coming back from an injury,’ or, when it comes time to rush the passer, they don't say, ‘Well, we're going to pull a guy out because of that.’ Nobody cares about that stuff. It's a production league. It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. He'll get there.”

Cox will get there. I believe that, but now with injuries to Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, every team is going to double him. And a less-than-100 percent Cox going against constant double (and sometimes triple) teams is going to be tough.  

Did the Eagles blitz more? 

Jim Schwartz disagreed with the assessment that the Eagles blitzed more than usual against the Falcons. This seems like a semantics issue. Because maybe the Eagles didn’t blitz much more than usual, but they certainly used zero blitzes more. And that was the call on the game-winning touchdown to Julio Jones. 

“They made a good play,” Schwartz said. “I don't know how many times I can say today that it comes with the territory in the NFL, whether it's injuries, whether it's dealing with different situations during the game. But that's part of the risk/reward of blitzing. You want to blitz, you can make some plays, you can sack — but if they do get a guy blocked, there's nobody behind him.

“We took an aggressive approach. Tried to win the game right there.”

For the most part, Schwartz’s aggressive game plan worked wonders on Sunday. The Eagles forced Matt Ryan into his first three-INT game since 2017. And Ryan even noted to reporters that he hadn’t before seen a team run as many zero blitzes against him in a game. 

Pressure without sacks 

Through two games, the Eagles have just two sacks. That ties them for the second-worst total in the NFL. But Schwartz is unworried about that total. 

“I mean, the ball can come out,” he said. “I’d rather have an interception on Darby's play than a sack. Sometimes — I mean, sacks are always good, but you force the quarterback to make an errant throw and you get an interception, that's pressure from blitz, whatever.”

Schwartz has been saying this for years and he has a point. Pressure can affect a game even when it doesn’t result in a sack. Would the Eagles like more sacks? Absolutely. Which is why it’s a fair question to ask. But the answer is fair, too. 

Sidney Jones has a day

Schwartz thought Sidney Jones had a “bounce back” game against the Falcons. The former second-round pick had his first-career interception, but Schwartz was most pleased about Jones’ physical play against the run. That’s an important part of Jones’ game that he needed to improve in Year 3. 

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Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

A day after ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player upset the team didn’t land cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Anderson is now reporting on some frustration brewing about the offense. 

Here’s what Anderson said on NFL Live on Thursday afternoon: 

“With the team being 3-3, obviously, an Eagles source also talked to me about how they feel like that offense is functioning. One of the things that they said is, ‘We need to make bleep simpler. Sometimes we just need to handle what is manageable.’ They said, ‘Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down.’ Carson Wentz right now is 38 percent on passes that travel 15 air yards, has three interceptions on passes like that, which is tied for most in the league. He also has 148 passes on those that are 10 yards or fewer. Right now, he has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes like that. So I do think it is an apt point.” 

While the specific criticism doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I suppose it is newsworthy that there’s criticism of Carson Wentz and maybe (?) Doug Pederson at all. 

But the whole thing seems a little strange. Here are some thoughts on the report, its contents and what it means:

1. The actual criticism doesn’t make much sense to me. Who has watched this team over the past month and thought, ‘Hey, they really ought to check down more!’? The biggest problem with this offense since DeSean Jackson has been missing is the lack of a downfield passing game. And this source wants Wentz to check down more? It doesn’t add up. The stats are also kind of weird. Of course more interceptions happen on passes with lower probability rates. 

2. And … “Even Peyton Manning knew when to check down.” Even the most cerebral quarterback in NFL history knew what to do? Is that what we’re saying here? I guess maybe this means that even the best quarterbacks don’t take deep shots all the time, but Wentz really hasn’t done that this year. In fact, he’s 10th in the league in air yards per attempt. 

3. While the exact criticism seems strange, it is still probably noteworthy that there’s any criticism or frustration at all, and that someone felt strongly enough to leak those thoughts to a reporter. It’s not the first time we’ve seen anonymous source(s) speak critically of Wentz and/or the offense. 

4. And this isn’t the first time Anderson has reported on frustration within the Eagles locker room. Last year, there was a report that one player thought Wentz was “over-targeting Zach Ertz.” 

It would be speculation to assume this is the same player, but it seems like Anderson has become a sounding board of sorts for frustrations about the offense. 

5. Source-guessing isn’t worth it. I’m sure everyone has their hunches on who said what and I’m sure the Eagles and Wentz would like to know, but it’s a pointless exercise. 

6. The only thing more pointless than source-guessing is going back to the Wentz vs. Foles debate. Nick Foles is gone. The Eagles are Wentz’s team. 

7. If this is supposed to be a criticism of Wentz, I don’t really understand it. Could he play better? Sure. But he’s so far down on the list of Eagles’ problems this season. He hasn’t been the one dropping passes or fumbling the ball or getting burnt by deep passes. In fact, he’s played pretty well, considering all that. I also give him credit for how well he’s handled these anonymous criticisms in the past. He’ll probably handle this one the same way.

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Eagles Injury Update: Nigel Bradham misses practice again ahead of Cowboys game

Eagles Injury Update: Nigel Bradham misses practice again ahead of Cowboys game

Nigel Bradham on Thursday missed his second straight practice because of an ankle injury, which is not a good sign for his possible availability Sunday night in Dallas. 

Bradham injured his ankle in the loss to Minnesota. On Wednesday, he limped through the locker room with his left ankle wrapped. 

If Bradham doesn’t play this weekend and without Zach Brown, who was cut on Monday, the Eagles’ top linebackers are likely to be Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry and undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards. The Eagles also have Duke Riley and recently called up Alex Singleton. 

DeSean Jackson (abdomen) wasn’t practicing either. It’s looking like a long shot that he’ll be able to play against Dallas. 

Here's the official injury report: 

Cox (illness) returned after missing Wednesday. He’ll be good to go this weekend. 

Darby (hamstring) was a limited participant to start the week, but he was able to practice again on Thursday, again as a limited participant. 

Mills (foot) is not active yet, but there’s an open roster spot waiting for him if he’s able to return this week. Since he’s not on the 53-man roster, he’s not required to be on the injury report. It’s a good sign that he was practicing again today. 



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