Jim Schwartz

How much will Jim Schwartz let Darius Slay travel with top WRs? 

How much will Jim Schwartz let Darius Slay travel with top WRs? 

Darius Slay better pack his bags. It sounds like he’ll be doing a lot of traveling this season. 

At least that seems to be the plan. 

On a Zoom call with reporters Friday morning, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz confirmed that the Eagles will use their new top corner to match up against top receivers all over the field (travel) this season. He just didn’t say how much. 

So, I don't know that it's going to be a 100 percent, all-the-time thing,” Schwartz said. “Maybe it's a particular game. Maybe it's 50 percent of the games. Maybe it's 75 percent of the games that Slay is matching a particular receiver, but you will see that from our defense. 

"And in order to do that, it's not just on Slay to know inside and outside, which we have a very good comfort level with and feel like he can do that. But now it's going to put all of your corners, your safeties and your nickels have to be just a little bit more into, they have to be more multi-dimensional. If Slay lines up at the nickel, the nickel needs to be able to line up at the outside corner and you need to be able to play man, and zone, and blitz from that same look.

That second part is a really good point from the defensive coordinator and it’s one of the reasons the Eagles have kept their corners lining up at the same positions the last four years. The Eagles under Schwartz have kept their left corner on the left side, their right on the right and their nickel in the slot. It simplified things and also helped them mask coverage. 

But the other — and more obvious — reason they haven’t used a cornerback to travel is because they didn’t have a cornerback worthy of that responsibility. They do now after trading for Slay this offseason. 

“He has done a lot of that in the past, and that won't be anything new for him, and I'm really excited to have him,” Schwartz said. “I think it's going to add a different dimension to our secondary."

And the idea of keeping Slay on Amari Cooper or DeAndre Hopkins for an entire game is worth the extra stress it might put on a defense, forcing other guys to play out of position or working harder to disguise coverages. 

Take a look at where Slay lined up the last three seasons with the Lions, his three Pro Bowl years: 

Left cornerback: 1,346 (51.5%) 
Right cornerback: 980 (37.5%) 
Nickel cornerback: 287 (11%) 

And now take a look at his success against the top receivers in the league in 2019, per ProFootballFocus: 

Larry Fitzgerald: 1 target, 0 catches 
Keenan Allen: 11 targets, 6 catches, 81 yards, 1 INT, 1 PBU
Stefon Diggs (2 games): 8 target, 6 catch, 114 yards, 1 PBU
Adam Thielen: 2 targets, 1 catch, 25 yards, 1 TD
Allen Robinson (2 games): 9 targets, 5 catch, 74 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 
Amari Cooper: 6 targets, 3 catches, 38 yards, 2 PBU 
Terry McLaurin: 10 targets, 3 catches, 42 yards, 1 PBU 
Chris Godwin: 2 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards
Davante Adams: 5 targets, 4 catches, 63 yards

“Oh, I love the challenge,” Slay said on a conference call earlier this offseason. “I kind of ask for it a lot because of the fact that I want the game on me and I want to help win the game. If the best route to go about it is me traveling with a guy, then I’ll do it.”

The Eagles will prepare for Slay to travel during their upcoming training camp practices. Schwartz said they’ll probably just let him pick a receiver from the offensive huddle and follow him around the field for that series. With how Doug Pederson uses his receivers all over the field that will also allow Slay to move and for the corresponding moves from the other corners too. 

Eventually, when the season starts, it’ll be a week-by-week decision whether or not Slay matches up against the opponent’s top receiver. 

Something tells me Schwartz won’t be as open to talking about it then. 

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What's the plan if the Eagles start losing coaches?

What's the plan if the Eagles start losing coaches?

NFL teams have always had depth charts for their players.

This may be the first time in history that NFL teams will need a depth chart for their coaches as well. 

As Eagles training camp gets underway Tuesday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that he has to prepare for the possibility of not only losing players to the virus but also losing coaches. 

“I’ve thought about that quite a bit,” Pederson said. “We have to have a plan for everything.”

What we’ve seen with the Marlins over the past couple days gives us an idea of the kind of thing NFL teams have to prepare for.

What if a few assistant coaches test positive the day before a game? They won’t be allowed in the stadium on game day. They won’t be able to coach.

That's where the backup coaches come into play. They'll have to be ready.

Pederson said he believes the resilience the Eagles have shown dealing with an extreme number of injuries over the past three years will serve the team well if it loses players or coaches.

"One of the things that we've been faced with — and I think we've done a really good job here —  is we've overcome some of the injuries we've had the last couple of seasons,” he said. “We've coached that next guy or that next player has been able to go in and perform at a high level. But now I think that has to carry over to the coaching staff.
“I think there has to be a plan in place for any coach or any staff member that may miss a couple days or a couple weeks because of the virus.”

The Eagles do have assistant position coaches for most positions, but the problem is those assistants would generally be in close proximity to the primary position coaches throughout the day at practice and in meetings. So if your tight ends coach comes down with the virus, it wouldn’t be surprising if your assistant tight ends coach did as well.

Pederson could try to take measures to keep those coaches separate, but that seems almost impossible.

What if Pederson himself was unavailable? Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would likely be the interim head coach, although Marty Mornhinweg —  like Schwartz — is a former Lions head coach.

For the record, here is what the Eagles’ assistant coach depth chart might look like:

First Team: Doug Pederson [HC]
Second Team: Jim Schwartz [DC]

First Team: Duce Staley [assistant HC/ RB]
Second Team: T.J. Paganetti [assistant run game coordinator / assistant RB]

First Team: Aaron Moorehead [WR]
Second Team: Matthew Harper [assistant WR]

First Team: Justin Peelle [TE]
Second Team: Mike Bartrum [assistant TE]

First Team: Jeff Stoutland [OL]
Second Team: Roy Istvan [assistant OL]

First Team: Press Taylor [passing game coordinator / QBs]
Second Team: Marty Mornhinweg [senior offensive consultant, former Eagles OC]

First Team: Rich Scangarello [senior offensive assistant]
Second Team: Andrew Breiner [pass game analyst]

First Team: Jim Schwartz [defensive coordinator]
Second Team: Matt Burke [run defense game coordinator / defensive line]

First Team: Matt Burke [run defense game coordinator / DL]
Second Team: Nathan Ollie [assistant DL]

First Team: Ken Flajole [LBs]
Second Team: Ryan Paganetti [assistant LBs / game management]

First Team: Marquand Manuel [DBs]
Second Team: Dino Vasso [assistant coordinator defense, former assistant DBs]

First Team: Tim Hauck [S]
Second Team: Dino Vasso [assistant coordinator defense, former assistant DBs]

First Team: Dave Fipp [ST]
Second Team: Luke Thompson [assistant ST]

Additionally, Joe Annunzio, who holds the title of director of team development, has coached tight ends, running backs and special teams on the NCAA Division 1 level, and coaching assistant Nick Williams coached wide receivers and running backs in Division 2.

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Eagles lose defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to Detroit Lions

Eagles lose defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to Detroit Lions

Matt Patricia has hired Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin as the Lions’ new defensive coordinator, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

Patricia and Undlin were entry-level assistant coaches on Bill Belichick’s staff in 2004 and have remained close.

Undlin replaces Paul Pasqualoni, who informed the Lions earlier this month that he was leaving coaching. Pasqualoni was head coach when Donovan McNabb was at Syracuse. McNabb, of course, quarterbacked the Eagles when they faced Undlin, Patricia and the 2004 Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Chip Kelly hired Undlin as the Eagles’ defensive backs coach after the 2014 season to replace John Lovett, who had been with the team for two years, and Doug Pederson kept him in the same role when he replaced Kelly after the 2015 season.

The Eagles have allowed the 10th-most passing yards in the NFL during Undlin’s four years under Jim Schwartz, but opponents have thrown the third-most passes. Opposing quarterbacks had an 87.4 passer rating against the Eagles during that span, 12th-lowest in the league, and completed 62.1 percent of their passes, 8th-worst in the league.

During that four-year period, the Eagles allowed 44 pass plays of 40 yards or more, 5th-most in the league, and 18 TD passes of 40 yards or more, 4th-most in the league.

But the collection of cornerbacks Undlin has had to work with hasn’t exactly been inspiring, and he deserves a ton of credit for holding things together over the last three years with a constantly rotating and changing lineup.

Some 15 different cornerbacks started at least one game for the Eagles over the last four years, and 19 played meaningful snaps in the regular season.

In 2017, the Eagles won the Super Bowl with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby starting at cornerback and Patrick Robinson in the slot. 

What is Undlin’s role in the slow or non-existent development of 2nd-round draft pick Sidney Jones and 3rd-round pick Rasul Douglas? It’s impossible to say now, but generally speaking, it appears Undlin has gotten the most out of a collection of late-round picks, street free agents, undrafted players and other teams’ castoffs at cornerback.

Malcolm Jenkins, who hadn’t made a Pro Bowl in his first six seasons in the NFL, made three in five years playing under Undlin.

Dino Vasso is currently the Eagles’ assistant secondary coach and could be a candidate for the opening.

Vasso, who began his coaching career as an intern at Temple in 2011, spent three years as an entry-level assistant under Andy Reid with the Chiefs and followed Pederson to the Eagles after the 2015 season.

Also on Pederson's staff is former Eagle Tim Hauck, who has been safeties coach since 2016. Hauck played 13 seasons in the NFL and was with the Eagles from 1999 through 2001 before finishing his career with the 49ers in 2002.

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