Michael Jacquet’s unwillingness to quit drew praise from his defensive coordinator before the Eagles-Cowboys game, and it seemed like Dallas was eager to test it.
A few days after defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz commended the undrafted rookie, he threw in the white flag on his behalf three quarters into the Eagles’ 37-17 loss at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, but the damage was already done.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jacquet was targeted nine times and allowed seven catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The former Louisiana-Lafayette receiver-turned-cornerback allowed the second-highest yardage total by a defensive back all season.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said the coaching staff tried to slow things down for Jacquet, but eventually, the team benched him, moving Jalen Mills from safety to corner.
“You just try to coach the player, try to get him to calm down and try to figure out what he’s seeing and try to get him to relax,” Pederson said. “You know, don’t let the game be quite so fast. It just happens with young players, the game is so fast and being able to slow it down and talk him through some things, we try to coach him up and get him prepared. If that doesn’t work, you try to make some changes with personnel.”
The Eagles were reluctant to move Mills from safety to corner because his experience at safety was supposed to help the injury-ravaged secondary have some semblance of continuity. Avonte Maddox, Rodney McLeod, and Cre’Von LeBlanc have all suffered significant injuries to leave the secondary thin.
Mills’ switch was too little too late, as the Cowboys started leaning on the running game to protect their lead shortly after Jacquet was benched.
“We made the adjustment, I end up going to corner, and they started feeding Zeke,” Mills said. “Guys were hitting him, but he was just making some really, really good runs.”
On an afternoon when both Washington and New York lost, giving the Eagles a pathway to control their own destiny, the Birds were eliminated from the playoffs because of the implosion. Cowboys’ backup quarterback Andy Dalton put up his best numbers of the season, completing 22 of 30 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Jacquet has been the team’s starting outside cornerback for the last two games because of Maddox’s season-ending knee injury. Schwartz appreciated his confidence even when giving up big plays, but that confidence didn’t save him against Dallas.
He was primarily matched up against Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup for most of the second half with Darius Slay shadowing Amari Cooper. Gallup finished with six catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Mills said the coronavirus-altered offseason has put Jacquet, who played receiver in his first two years at Louisiana-Lafayette, in a difficult spot.
“Not trying to use as an excuse or anything like that, but he didn’t have any OTAs,” Mills said. “Camp was what it was, he wasn’t a guy who was projected to be a starter. He got thrown in the fire and had some good plays here, had a couple bad plays, but at the end of the day, he just [has to] come to work each and every day and just get better. He’s going to be a really, really good player in the future, I promise.”