McMullen: Eagles Draft Highlighted a Belief in Jim Schwartz
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles 2019 offensive draft tint was an acknowledgment of a number of things, namely recognizing that side of the football is what the modern NFL is all about, and the attempt to maximize the efficiency of the most important player with the franchise, quarterback Carson Wentz.
The third supposition comes from the other side of the ball when a deep and unwavering belief in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was unveiled. Schwartz got just one player in the process in Philadelphia native and Penn State product Shareef Miller.
"It definitely wasn't a concerted thought process," Eagles executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman said of the offensive-slanted class. "We went into this draft trying to stick to our board."
The board, however, didn't generate any help on the defensive line until the fourth round with Miller despite a plethora of options available.
"We did say and I regretted it right after saying it, about the historic defensive line class. Thankfully all of you have reminded me countless times over the weekend, you guys are so forgiving," Roseman joked. "... What it did for us is it pushed some guys down to us that maybe in a normal year on the offensive side of the ball, wouldn't be able to get to our pick."
It's not that Schwartz doesn't have talent and significant talent at all three levels in All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and the high-energy Brandon Graham up front, long-time Schwartz favorite Nigel Bradham as the three-down linebacker, and perhaps the most versatile defensive player in football on the back end with Malcolm Jenkins.
The Eagles also fortified that in free agency with Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry up front, L.J. Fort at LB and Andrew Sendejo at safety while also re-signing Ronald Darby at CB and Rodney McLeod at safety.
"This was a process that we felt like we did address the defense in free agency," Roseman insisted. "When we look at the safety position, we signed Sendejo in free agency and we brought Rodney back. At linebacker, we are excited about L.J. Fort and what he can add to our team. So we felt like -- and obviously, we talked about the defensive line -- we do feel like we've addressed that somewhat in free agency, probably more than [we addressed] the offensive side [in free agency]."
That said, while Doug Pederson is busy trying to get a second football added to the mix in order to get Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside into an equation which already includes Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard and Dallas Goedert and Wentz sleeps secure in the knowledge Andre Dillard is in tow as the heir apparent to the bodyguard Jason Peters, Schwartz is often given chewing gum and fishing line and told to get his unit up to speed.
"You know, do we talk about the offense a lot? We do," Roseman joked while looking in Pederson's direction. "But I think it's just that we stick to our board. At the end of the day, we didn't reach on any offensive players here. We do definitely want to support our quarterback and make sure that he's got the right line around him and the right skill position guys around him, but we also know the defense can help him."
Even Schwartz critics, who disdain his allergy to the blitz or his picket-fence defense on third- or fourth-and-long situations, contradict themselves when they treat players like Avonte Maddox, Cre'Von LeBlanc, Rasul Douglas or Kamu Grugier-Hill as givens.
LeBlanc might be the best example, a player who bounced to three teams in three years before showing up in November last season. Schwartz quickly schemed him up to the point that Leblanc could play inside and out on an improving Eagles defense down the stretch to the point he became a bit of ProFootballFocus.com star into the playoffs.
Similarly, Schwartz took an undersized rookie slot corner in Maddox and made his into a more-than-competent single-high safety after injuries decimated the back end for a time and turned some in the fan base into Douglas-truthers by allowing the lengthy West Virginia product to play zone and use his best trait, his ball skills.
Schwartz isn't exactly McGyver but the Eagles are sure confident that they can hand the veteran defensive chief role players in the back seven and come out with a defense that is good enough to win a championship with.
"I think it's fair to look at those two groups [LB and secondary] and say that [adding there is] probably something that we would have liked to have done," Roseman admitted. "... We need some of our young guys to take a step up at both those spots. They have been here. We are hopeful that that's the case, and again, talent-acquisition season has not ended. We have a long way to go before we play a game, and then we have a long way to go before the trade deadline. We're not going on vacation now; we're going to continue to try to do whatever we can to support Coach and his staff, and we take that part of it seriously."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen