Tulloch Interest Has Nothing to do with Hicks
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a no-nonsense guy and praise doesn't exactly come easily from the 22-yar veteran of the NFL wars.
Take his assessment of Jordan Hicks earlier this week when Schwartz was asked about how the second-year middle linebacker is doing in terms of aligning his defense.
"It's not that complicated. So I don't want to give him any gold stars for that," the DC said.
If you couple that faint praise with Philadelphia's reported interest in 31-year-old MIKE linebacker Stephen Tulloch, it doesn't necessarily take a conspiracy theorist to come to the conclusion that Schwartz is perhaps not quite as high on the 24-year-old taking over his defense as some others in Philadelphia might be.
And that's probably an incorrect assessment of what is going on with the Eagles right now, although it's fair to say things are brewing on the linebacker front, namely the fact that Nigel Bradham got some looks with the first-team defense in the nickel, tacking over the slot usually occupied by the talented but inconsistent Mychal Kendricks.
So, if Tulloch eventually does relocate to South Philadelphia and there is obviously smoke to the fire of Adam Schefter's report, although an NFL source tells 973espn.com it's not quite as far along as the ESPN insider's tweet intimated, it would be because Schwartz is concerned about the players surrounding Hicks.
"First, I got a lot of background with Steve. I was with Tennessee when we drafted him; [he] ended up being starting middle linebacker for us there. When I was head coach in Detroit, we brought him up there. I have a lot of respect for that guy and his production," Schwartz explained Sunday. "But last week, when you guys asked me similar questions, I said the same thing. [Eagles executive vice president of football operations] Howie [Roseman] and [Eagles vice president of player personnel] Joe [Douglas], those guys, all the scouts are always looking for ways to improve our team.
"So, whoever is out there that can improve our team, whether it's a guy like ‘Tully’ who is unsigned, or guys that are on other teams, that they’re looking at roster numbers; we're going to watch pre-season games and be looking at the waiver wire, who might be cap casualties. That's what the personnel department does. I trust those guys to explore every option that would help us."
Because reserve LBs need to be a core component on your special teams units, something Tulloch, who is coming off offseason ankle surgery, hasn’t had in his job description since his early days in Nashville, the plan would likely be Tulloch to start in the middle with Hicks shifting to the weak-side and Kendricks battling Bradham at the SAM position.
That scenario would also greatly improve the depth because the loser of the Kendricks/Bradham battle would head to the bench and headline a group that will likely include special-teams standout Najee Goode as well as rookie seventh-round pick Joe Walker, who Schwartz again praised when talking after practice on Sunday.
That's all speculation for now, however, and Hicks remains the quarterback of this defense for the time being.
"I know the defense," he said after the team's padded practice early Sunday morning. "I know where everybody is supposed to be and how it's supposed to be run. That's my role on this team."
It's his role for now but that could be changing soon.
What isn't morphing, however, is the fact that Hicks will have a significant role whether Tulloch is in town or not. And because of all the upheaval he experienced in college at the University of Texas and the coaching change here after his rookie season, Hicks already has plenty of experience learning new things.
"It gets easier," he said when asked about the constant change in schemes and roles. "Every defense you're in, you pick up little things and take things from certain camps and coaches and apply it."
SUNDAY NOVACARE NOTES:
-Safety Rodney McLeod was back at practice after missing two days to attend the funeral of his uncle. With Malcolm Jenkins still down with a hamstring injury, Jaylen Watkins got the first-team reps next to McLeod, replacing Ed Reynolds.
-Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (left knee), running back Wendell Smallwood (quad), corner JaCorey Shepherd (hamstring), receiver Hunter Sharp (hamstring), and defensive end Marcus Smith (concussion) also missed practice.
-Rookie cornerback Jalen Mills got some first-team reps on the left side opposite Nolan Carroll as the staff tried to give its top corner, Leodis McKelvin a little break with the workload.
-The kicking competition ramped up Sunday with Caleb Sturgis getting the first opportunity each time and again outkicking Cody Parkey. Sturgis was 9-for-10 on the day versus 8-of-10 for Parkey but Sturgis' kicks continued to look more impressive. Unofficially, Sturgis is 28-of-32 so far in camp while Parkey is 24-of-32.
-Ryan Mathews showed some impressive acceleration and burst today and is already back with the first-team at running back after missing 10 days with a sprained ankle.
-Not the best day for the quarterbacks in team work as both Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz struggled at times.
-On the Eagles' offensive install period today, they unveiled a double pass in which Chase Daniel hit Darren Sproles in the flat, who then lateraled back to Daniel before the QB went downfield to Brent Celek. It looked clunky and Sproles wasn't all that comfortable throwing the football.
-Mills intercepted Bradford in team drills, undercutting a backside post pattern.
-Cornerback Denzel Rice came off the slot to touch sack Wentz on one occasional as the rookie continues to hold onto the football too long at times.
-Former CFL cornerback Aaron Grymes really catches your eye because he competes. When the offense was working on red zone, combination routes the 5-foot-11 slot option gave the 6-foot-5 Zach Ertz all he could handle and then followed that up by blanketing rookie receiver Paul Turner. He also handled a stop-and-go by Chris Givens with ease.
-Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin gave corner Randall Evans quite the earful when the second-year player put himself in a position to intercept a Bradford pass to Chris Givens but didn't finish the play. "You've got hands like a sled," Undlin yelled.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen