Coaches don’t want to heap too much praise on their players for fear of getting them “drunk on your success,” to quote Jim Schwartz. So when the straight-shooting Eagles defensive coordinator was evaluating the play of linebacker Alex Singleton, he cautioned patience over prestige.
Yes, the former Canadian Football League standout has looked sharp but he’s got plenty to work on. Singleton filled up the stat sheet against Cleveland — 12 total tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, one fumble recovery (off Fletcher Cox’s strip-sack) — and played every single defensive snap (67), plus 90% of the special-teams snaps (26).
He seemed to be in the right spot all the time, always peeking around the corner to wrap up after a teammate’s missed tackle. Apparently, after watching the tape, there were some plays he left out on the field.
“He’s always been a good football player. He’s still learning,” Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m going to quote Bill Parcells, ‘Let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.’ And I say that with a lot of respect for Alex. He plays tough and really brings some things to our defense. But he’s not 100 percent clean in his game. He’d probably be the first person to tell you that and there’s still things that he’s developing through and he’s still working at.”
Don’t read too much into Schwartz withholding praise. He never likes to swell the heads of his players, besides Nate Gerry has long been one of his favorite guys and Singleton’s success is only going to increase the cries to keep Gerry on the bench when he returns from injury. Still, there is no doubt that Singleton has provided a noticeable spark to the Eagles’ linebackers unit.
“I think that he’s definitely earning his wings, so to speak, but he’s still a work in progress,” Schwartz said, “and he’s still a guy that needs to grind through and iron some things out. But I like where he’s trending, and I think it’s a nice plus for our defense right now.”
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Davion Taylor Sees Career-High Snaps
Speaking of linebackers, rookie Davion Taylor saw a career-high 18 defensive snaps in Week 11 and recorded three total tackles. The third-round pick out of Colorado was drafted as a developmental player, a raw linebacker who jumped up the Eagles’ board due to his blistering 40 time (4.49 seconds).
He saw the fourth-most linebacker snaps behind Singleton, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley versus Cleveland and held his own save for one big mistake in coverage.
“Just like anybody else, I mean, you guys know I don’t like to grade players,” Schwartz said of Taylor, “but suffice to say just like a lot of the defense had some good plays and had some bad plays, some things we need to work on and get a little bit better at.”
Schwartz explained he was forced to give Taylor extra snaps due to Cleveland’s big personnel groups, including 13 personnel (three tight ends, one receiver) and 22 personnel (two tight ends, two backs, one receiver). The Eagles either brought Taylor in as the extra linebacker or fellow rookie K’Von Wallace as the extra safety.
Joe Ostman Makes Interesting NFL Debut
Meanwhile, defensive end Joe Ostman made his NFL Debut last week and seemed to make some hard tackles down the field. However, Nick Chubb posterized Ostman on a vicious stiff-arm that brought back memories of Jim Brown.
Ostman helplessly hit the turf and the Browns running back galloped 54 yards to set up an eventual score. While the big, burly 259-pounder may have missed the initial tackle, he was the one who chased Chubb all the way down the field to save an initial touchdown.
“Joe is one of most relentless players I’ve ever been around,” Schwartz said. “The thing is for him, people generally only see it on the practice field. But everybody misses tackles. We actually missed four tackles on that play, but Joe had a missed tackle on the play and also had a tackle downfield and a tackle downfield for a defensive lineman is a huge, huge thing.”
It was Ostman’s lone tackle on the day, although he nearly caused a fumble. Schwartz credited his effort, along with defensive ends Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham for making some big plays down the field and playing with lots of energy on defense.
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