On the off chance that Kyle Shanahan was hiding behind a black square on an Eagles' videoconference, Jim Schwartz wasn’t going to reveal his hand.
When asked who would take over as the Eagles' starting outside cornerback against Shanahan’s 49ers on Sunday in the absence of Avonte Maddox, the defensive coordinator engaged in gamesmanship. Maddox’s injury further weakens one of the thinnest position groups on the Eagles roster, but the team has enough options to keep the San Francisco coach in suspense.
“We’re going to keep our cards a little close to our vest of how we’re going to cover up some of our packages and how we’re going to play personnel,” Schwartz said. “No sense tipping our hand right now. But we’ll have a good plan come Sunday.”
Schwartz’s caginess is aided by the versatility of the team’s revamped secondary. Safety Jalen Mills could return to the outside corner spot he occupied his first four years. Mills re-signed in the offseason with a move to safety in mind after the Birds released Malcolm Jenkins.
“Obviously, Jalen’s played that position before,” Schwartz said. “We value flexible guys in the back end, guys that can play multiple positions.”
When Maddox left Sunday’s tie with the Cincinnati Bengals with an ankle injury, cornerback Trevor Williams came in for the rest of the game. Williams was targeted four times in his 33 snaps and gave up two catches. The Penn State product appeared in two games last season with the Arizona Cardinals after spending his first three seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers. The Eagles signed him at the end of last season to a reserve/future contract and added him to the practice squad after training camp, before promoting him last weekend.
One of his allowed catches was a Tee Higgins touchdown, although it appeared Williams was expecting linebacker help on a crossing route. The 27-year-old responded with a nice pass breakup in the end zone later that quarter, deflecting a pass intended for Auden Tate.
Schwartz said Williams impressed him with his ability to step up in Maddox’s absence.
“He didn’t bat an eye,” Schwartz said. “He was ready. Probably said to himself, ‘Yeah, what took you guys so long?’ I mean, that’s what you get with those guys. And he covered with confidence. He wasn’t perfect, gave up a completion, but they also tried to double-move him on one play. He played it like a veteran player, didn’t bite the cheese on a play, and went out and battled.”
Schwartz, who is favoring man-coverage looks now that the Eagles have Darius Slay in the fold, said he was especially happy with how Williams held up when the team went exclusively to man during the final stretch of Sunday’s game.
“In overtime, we played 12 straight snaps of man-to-man,” Schwartz said. “It was four-man pass rush, and man-to-man every single snap. And not only was Trev up for that challenge but all the other guys, too. ... Those guys really took it upon themselves. ... They wanted that pressure on themselves to go get those guys covered. And I was also proud of their execution, but I was really more proud of the attitude that they went into that overtime with.”