Excuse Jim Schwartz for being a little guarded these days when heaping praise on players he admires. The Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator doesn’t want to get in trouble for complimenting someone too much. Especially not a former team captain who held the defense together like super glue.
Malcolm Jenkins will be returning to Philly for the first time since exiting in free agency for the New Orleans Saints. While the city’s COVID-19 fan ban won’t allow proper kudos from the hometown crowd, the Pro Bowl safety will get a respectful stare from the Eagles sideline. Schwartz called Jenkins the “smartest player” he’s ever coached while gushing about how much he meant to the coach on a personal level.
“I can’t have any more praise. I get in trouble for praising players,” Schwartz said of Jenkins. “I mean, that guy certainly meant a lot to me personally, to our defense, and our team. He doesn’t play for us anymore. I root like crazy for him 15 games a year, but not going to be rooting for him on Sunday. We’ll try our best to go after him and he’ll try his best to go after us, and that’s the way the NFL is.”
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Jenkins Guaranteed Sack, ‘Smartest Player’
The best form of respect a defensive coordinator can give a player is to let him change the play-call. It doesn’t happen often during the heat of NFL battle, but Jenkins did it in Philly.
Schwartz recalled last year’s game against the Seattle Seahawks when Jenkins approached him about switching up the call on third down. He had overheard the offensive line say something about the look the Eagles’ defense was in. Jenkins immediately knew they could get to Russell Wilson by changing the play. He just needed Schwartz to buy-in.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been around a smarter player,” Schwartz said. “He heard the offensive line say something about a look that we had, and it’s the only time I remember him doing this in four years. He came to the sideline and said, ‘Schwartz, next third-down call this. I guarantee we’re going to get a sack.’ I had so much trust in him that next third down I called it, and it happened exactly the way that he said, and we got the sack.”
The other thing Jenkins never did was make a mistake, according to Schwartz. He credited the 12-year veteran for playing seven different positions on defense and knowing all 11.
“I mean, he was so efficient at doing his job, if he made a mistake it was like once a year,” Schwartz said. “I mean, other players will make a couple mistakes a game. Very, very rarely — like if he did it was like a news flash that he had a missed assignment or wasn’t in the right spot. He was just that player that always did the right thing.”
Injury Updates at Linebacker Spot
Back to the current state of the Eagles’ defense for a minute. The linebackers group has taken a hit in recent days as T.J. Edwards deals with a bum hamstring and Davion Taylor picked up a serious knee injury.
Starting middle linebacker Nate Gerry was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 30 and underwent surgery this week on a torn Achilles. That should open up plenty more snaps for Alex Singleton and Duke Riley down the stretch, possibly even an increased role for rookie Shaun Bradley on defense. He saw three defensive snaps last week while being relegated to special teams most of the year.
“That’s life in the big city. That’s what happens,” Schwartz said. “Puts a little bit more on the guys that are healthy that can get out there.”