For the first time since the end of the 2016 season, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz addressed the media on Tuesday. He discussed the additions at cornerback as well as the how the team will look to improve the pass rush in 2017.
State Of The Cornerback Position
Schwartz knows that that the Eagles "need to be better at our corner position for sure" in 2017. The Eagles signed veteran Patrick Robinson in free agency, and used their two second-day draft picks on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. Jalen Mills also returns after a strong rookie campaign. On paper, Schwartz expects the Eagles to improve, but isn't taking "anything for granted."
"I think all of those things can point in the right direction, but none of that means anything. This game isn't played on paper. It's played between the lines. Our job is to be ready for when those games count," Schwartz said.
On drafting Sidney Jones even after the Achilles injury: "You always have to hedge short term and long term in this business. That's a difficult balance, not only for coaches but for the organization.
"He's a really good player. The opportunity to get a really good player is really important to us. I'm happy to have him. Whenever he gets back, we'll be happy to get him back on the field."
On Jalen Mills: "The thing I like about Jalen is he's very competitive. Even though he's young, he's a good pro and he does make improvements. If he can continue in that regard, I'll sum his rookie season up, it was a rookie season. There were some things that he did well and he flashed. And there were times he didn't play as well as we needed him to. His challenge is creating that consistency. It's hard to be consistent when you're brand new at something.
"I like where he's going, but he's never lacked for competitiveness. He's never lacked for work ethic. Those are things that he comes every day with."
On Patrick Robinson: "Last year was a bit of a lost season for him with injuries. He looks like he's back healthy now. He's really quick. He's really fast. He's been around the NFL. Those are all good attributes to have.
"The biggest challenge for those guys (new veterans) a lot of times is just trying to switch things to their terminology."
Plenty Of Competition Along Defensive Line
The Eagles signed defensive end Chris Long in free agency, acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in a trade from the Ravens, and selected defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round of the draft. Schwartz said that the defensive line is "the engine that runs our defense." The key, Schwartz acknowledged, is how to get the pass rush to be consistent week in and week out.
On Fletcher Cox's status: "I'm going to stay away from the attendance questions," Schwartz said. "It takes away from the voluntary nature of it. Our job is to coach the guys that are here."
It should be noted that Cox is on the field for the second week of Organized Team Activities.
On Derek Barnett: "Any time, turn around and look at that No. 92 (Reggie White) back there, any time anyone can break any record that guy has, that's going to get your attention pretty quick. Was productive game in and game out. He's really tough. He's got a great center of balance. He's not on the ground very much. He's got some things to work on like any rookie, but he was an effective player against all competition. He was consistent from game to game. He's tough as can be. He's good against the run and good against the pass.
"We've pointed out his effort a couple of times in practice."
On Tim Jernigan: "He's playing a different scheme now. It's a lot less reading and a lot more attacking. I think it fits him. He can individual pass rushes. He's a tough matchup for a guard. He's very strong and he's very active. It's been a great addition for us.
"He's got a football player's temperament."
On Vinny Curry: He didn't do as good a job finishing the rush as he did starting the rush. A lot of times he would create pressure, somebody else would come in, and they would get the sack or the quarterback would throw it away. He was on the ground a little too much around the quarterback.
"He was very disruptive last year and he did some good things, but it didn't show."
On Brandon Graham: "I was really impressed with the season Brandon had. That's not going to create a whole lot of headlines. He was a better pass rusher than 5.5 sacks."