Sure, Jim Schwartz's stock is through the roof right now — but just wait until the regular season.
The Eagles' defense recorded a 17-0 shutout over the Steelers on Thursday and has surrendered nine points total, which happens to be the same number of turnovers it's recorded. Schwartz pretty much has been the toast of the town since he was named defensive coordinator. Two weeks into his tenure, somebody is probably ready to commission a statue.
In all seriousness, some level of turnaround under Schwartz this season is to be expected, so this is not to suggest everything we've seen so far is an illusion. At the same time, this is only the preseason. Opposing offenses aren't game-planning at all. The Steelers' starters didn't even play.
Are we really going to fall into this trap again?
Schwartz definitely has the Eagles' defense on the right track, but let's focus on what we can actually measure. Certain individuals raised their profile with strong performances this week, while others left us wanting more. These are the performances that mattered.
Even if you weren't watching yourself, this probably doesn't come as news. Carroll had the play of a game, jumping a curl route intended for wideout Sammie Coates and returning the interception 38 yards for a touchdown. He also had perfect coverage on two deep attempts, breaking up one pass and drawing an offensive pass interference penalty on the other, in addition to making two tackles.
Carroll is clearly the best cornerback on the Eagles' roster, which shouldn't come as any surprise either. The seventh-year veteran was enjoying a strong season in 2015 prior to breaking his ankle, and probably the only reason he wasn't immediately installed as a starter under the new regime was because he couldn't practice fully until training camp. Carroll took over for Ron Brooks on the first-team defense weeks ago, and this showing combined with his campaign a year ago should all but close the book on any supposed competition that was taking place.
Isaac Seumalo, Stefan Wisniewski
Last week, Seumalo and Wisniewski appeared in our "Stock Down" section. Credit where credit is due, both showed improvement this week.
This time, Seumalo played left guard with the first-team offense, and outside of a holding penalty, there wasn't much to report — precisely what you want in an offensive lineman. At least this week, he was facing the correct direction at all times. Wisniewski remained the second-string guard, and likewise, there were no major complaints, not even drawing the ire of the officials once.
Of course, there might be an explanation of sorts here. Both had more talented players alongside them in Week 2. In Seumalo's case, the third-round rookie had Jason Peters to his left, and that guy could probably make me look passable for a down or two. And Wisniewski benefited immensely from playing alongside Lane Johnson, who absolutely overmatched the Steelers' backups. Nor did Wisniewski have to block Bucs All-Pro Gerald McCoy this time around, which helped. All of it just goes to show how influential situation and supporting cast can be in these preseason situations.
Rueben Randle and Chris Givens might want to watch out. Last week, the presence of these nondescript veterans on the 53-man roster seemed like a foregone conclusion. The trade for Dorial Green-Beckham undoubtedly booted one from the mix, while the continued development of Turner may very well take care of the other.
Turner provided the best performance by an Eagles wide receiver during this preseason yet, catching three passes for 44 yards. Words won't even do justice to the undrafted rookie's one-handed, over-the-shoulder 23-yard grab during the offense's lone touchdown drive in the third quarter. If this were all we had heard from the Louisiana Tech product this summer, he probably wouldn't make this space. Yet Turner has been praised by coaches all camp, with the 5-foot-10, 190-pound wideout working his way into some first-team snaps on Thursday. It will not be an upset at all if he makes the team.
Aaron Grymes, Eric Rowe
First, props to lesser-known Aaron Grymes out of the Canadian Football League, who had a strong camp and has performed in both preseason games. On Thursday he finished with four tackles, a pass breakup and an interception — a pretty diving pick on a Steelers overthrow in the back of the end zone. As we'll delve into a bit later, the Eagles' top five corners appear to be set, although Grymes' physicality and ability in coverage are certainly giving the coaches something to think about.
Rowe's spot on the 53-man roster should be set, but in case there was any doubt, his performance here further solidified it. Granted, he was going against backups, but the 2015 second-round pick was targeted multiple times and did not allow anything even resembling reception. He broke up one pass and also recorded a special-teams tackle. Rowe had some shaky moments in the opener, but wasn't terrible. People are really concerned with his standing on the depth chart, but it might be a tad overblown, especially considering the struggles of the veterans ahead of him.
For the second week in a row, Means is trending up. This time, the journeyman defensive end was credited with just one hurry, although his hit on the quarterback forced a Jaylen Watkins interception. Means ' pressure resulted in at least one more ill-advised pass, plus he also got in on two tackles. He's not quite a lock to make the team, but does seem to show up in some way every day.
Allen Barbre, Brandon Brooks
In the interest of fairness, it's not easy to rebuild one entire side of an offensive line in an Eagles offseason. Obviously that wasn't supposed to be the case, but Lane Johnson's looming suspension changed things. Now Barbre is changing positions while Brooks is changing teams, making for a predictably ugly tackle-guard pairing on the right that was responsible for killing multiple drives.
The Eagles tried running behind their rebuilt right side on the first two plays of the opening series, but there was no room for Ryan Mathews, who gained just two yards on the touches and put the offense in a third-and-long. Two series later, either Brooks or Barbre didn't appear to know who to block on a play-action bootleg, giving outside linebacker Arthur Moats an unimpeded path to quarterback Sam Bradford for a 12-yard sack on first down. It's the unit's first game together, so probably not the end of the world, but it wasn't much of a confidence builder either.
Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks
According to the stat sheet, McKelvin broke up one pass, and as far as highlight shows are concerned, the ensuing deflection went for a Malcolm Jenkins interception. Of course, if it's Ben Roethlisberger targeting Antonio Brown rather than Landry Jones throwing one up for Cobi Hamilton in the end zone, McKelvin probably gets flagged for pass interference. He never turned around to look for the ball, and made contact with the receiver before it got there. Textbook PI.
McKelvin and Brooks also combined to make seven tackles, which typically isn't a good charting stat for cornerbacks either. It usually means passes were completed and receivers were being brought down after the fact, which in this case also happens to be what happened. These weren't necessarily big plays downfield, but most went for first downs. All told, not a stellar outing for the Eagles' No. 1 and nickel cornerbacks against Pittsburgh's second-team offense.
Once again, the numbers might be deceiving. Officially, Smith racked up three tackles and even had a sack. Of course, that sack came at the expense of a third- or fourth-string talent who wasn't even sure which position along the offensive line he was supposed to be playing.
The rest of the time, Smith didn't account for much pressure on Steelers quarterbacks, or even much push for that matter. It wasn't for lack of effort, and because he always stuck with the play, the Eagles' 2014 first-round pick was able to clean up a few rushing attempts. Overall, it was not an especially eye-opening performance, his first at defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Considering how much Means has been able to accomplish in camp and during the preseason — even seventh-round rookie Alex McAllister flashed on Thursday — Smith has a lot of ground to make up to crack the rotation, much less make the roster.
Not a good week for Huff, if for no other reason than the Eagles felt the need to go out and trade for DGB. That's not a direct indictment of the third-year wideout, but dropping yet another perfect pass on one of his two targets was not a way to tell the coaching staff or front office their message was received. Even Nelson Agholor made a tough catch.
At this point, Huff probably is what he is, and harping over his inevitable miscues are a waste of time. It's just disappointing, because he manages to create separation, and when the ball is in his hands, he can make things happen. The problem is Huff rarely executes, and while he caught a nothing five-yard pass short of the sticks on a third-and-long, he failed to haul in what would've been about a 15-yard gain down the sideline during a two-minute drill, a play that could've sparked a touchdown drive rather than the field goal it produced. Typical.
Wendell Smallwood, JaCorey Shepherd
Cliché as it might be, you can't make the club from the tub. Smallwood and Shepherd both returned to practice this week, but their absence on Thursday speaks volumes about their potential roles with the Eagles in 2016.
Smallwood's roster spot is likely safe, but it's difficult to envision the rookie running back taking on a sizable workload in Week 1. That's partly because Kenjon Barner has been so effective, carrying six times for 41 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. It's also due to the simple fact that Smallwood has missed so much time this summer, and expecting him to know the offense and be prepared to pick up blitzes when the fifth-round draft pick will have barely played in an NFL game is a bit of a reach.
Shepherd's path to the 53-man roster is far less clear. Barring a surprise, the Eagles' top five cornerbacks seem set between Carroll, McKelvin, Brooks, Rowe and Jalen Mills. Even if the club were to carry six, which would be somewhat unexpected, guys like Grymes and C.J. Smith have actually been able to suit up and showcase their abilities in games. A sixth-round pick in 2015 who's coming off of a torn ACL, Shepherd has talent, but the best case scenario here might be if he clears waivers and can be retained on injured reserve or the practice sqaud.