Cornerbacks, cornerbacks, cornerbacks.
Following Wednesday's practice, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was hit with a litany of questions about the team's depth at the corner position.
The Eagles' secondary shook off a rough outing Tuesday during the team's first live practice. Cornerback Patrick Robinson stated following the practice that he felt the defense was 25 percent where they wanted to be. Schwartz shared his own feelings before highlighting the substantial improvement the group made Wednesday morning.
"I mean the way our defense was (Tuesday) that might have been a high number. If you asked me where they were yesterday it probably would have been a lower percentage than that. We didn't have a good practice yesterday, but I like the way the guys came out today and competed," Schwartz said. "It was a lot of red zone work which shrinks the field a little bit, but it's also tough to defend. I thought the guys bounced back from yesterday, Patrick included."
Here's what else Schwartz briefed the media on.
On what he was looking for and saw in Tuesday's live-hitting practice: "I was hoping that we had 90 guys walk off the field. I mean, you want to see contact, you want to see physical play and all those things, and you're also like every time (Darren) Sproles gets the ball, 'Oh, please don't hit him too hard.' You know you see guys go down, it's a balancing act. And I think the players have done a good job of trying to work hard at being physical and things like that, but also sort of not playing outside the bounds of it and getting some injuries here or there that can be prevented."
On the state of the cornerback position: "I'd love to have some continuity there, but also we have to play and we have to be able to see who can survive the slings and arrows of Training Camp. There's going to be some situations that are bad. The one thing that you guys always understand is that there's periods in practice where you're sort of handcuffing guys; the offense knows what the call is. The period is nothing but one coverage and where it might not look like the guys are particularly doing well.
"Just say this, it's hard to judge how it goes in there when the quarterback throws the ball on time when he doesn't, in 7-on-7 when he pumps and then goes. There's a lot of other things that go into it other than that, but we're sort of the same way as you guys. We're very interested in the cornerback competition. It's a daily thing for those guys we not only need playmakers but we also need consistency."
On cornerback C.J. Smith III getting reps with the first-team defense: "Just consistency. He's still a young player. He has made some plays so far and we need corners that can make plays, but I think all the guys have made plays. It's just they need to be consistent and when you play corner, you make one mistake it can be a touchdown or it can be a ball over your head and you can spoil three plays in a row, so from that whole group, C.J. included, we need consistency. Very encouraged by him. He's doing a good job."
On cornerback Ron Brooks: "I think that you know, obviously, he's coming off a major injury, has come back, hasn't missed any days. A lot of times when guys have injuries, whether it's an ACL or like him a ruptured (quad) or whatever it is. They look good one day and then they swell up and they need a day off or something like that, and I've been very encouraged by the fact that he's been out here every single day and he's knocking some rust off just like Joe Walker is knocking some rust off. It's good work for him and the hard work that both of those guys are showing in the offseason is paying off for them because they haven't missed anything here."
On what's next for Fletcher Cox's development: "I don't know, he's a pretty developed player. We've also added some good pieces around him not just in tackle positions, but the end positions. There's some ways you can take out a defensive lineman when it comes to pass rush and we've worked hard to try to be able to handle that. Let me put it this way, when offensive lines game plan against us, and I don't want to speak for them, but I'm sure they start with number 91. It's like how do we keep this guy from wrecking the game. Well, the next step to being a great player – and Fletch is – the next step is to meet that and still get a hit when they're pitching around you."
On whether he thinks the players understand him more in Year 2: "I don't know, you'll have to ask them that. I think they understand how we plan, how we operate, the way we handle little things like meetings or accountability and then also, probably more so for the linebackers and the safeties, but there is some D-line nature to it also just sort of anticipating calls and things like that like Jordan Hicks hasn't been out here other than 7-on-7s pretty much, but it's been really good. He stands and he's asking why did you make that call. It's something in the middle of the field he doesn't necessarily do, but just trying to understand the why behind things rather than just the how behind things.
"But I don't know. Training Camp is about a lot of things. I think one of our greater challenges is that our whole needs to be greater than the sum of our parts, and that means a defensive lineman making a corner better. They can help our corners. We talked about the corners a long time. They can make our corners better by good rushes, but if players can sort of anticipate my calls and understand things I think that certainly helps."
On defensive tackle Tim Jernigan: "He's a tough guy. There's nobody out here that's not a hard worker. I think the thing that shows through with Tim is that he's mentally tough as well as physically tough. And you know when you rush the passer, and it's late in practice, or it's late in a game, and it's 90 degrees and humid, it's got to come from somewhere else other than effort. It's got to come from mental toughness and he had that."
On whether he thinks it will be a real anomaly to have three linebackers: "I mean, I think offensive coaches want playmakers on the field, and there are good wide receivers. It gives the quarterback options to be able to go to. I mean, you can spread the field. You don't have to just win one matchup, you've got to win three matchups when it comes to wide receivers. Plus all these tight ends now have all played wide receiver. You have to be able to handle them.
"It has changed the game a little bit. I don't know where it will go. Things tend to go in cycles. On defense, we have to play what they put out there. So, you know, if they put three wide receivers and a receiving tight end out there, we're going to have to cover them all. If they put three tight ends and a fullback out there, we have to defend those guys, too. Go back (to what I said) before, multidimensional players on defense are very important because we don't control substitutions and we don't control what the play call is."
The Eagles have been beating the heat this week at Training Camp. Check out these photos from their mid-week practice...