Jim Schwartz, Cory Undlin scramble as the Eagles’ corner store runs low
The group facing the Jets might be Rasul Douglas, Craig James and Orlando Scandrick.
Right now, TBD is starting at cornerback for the Eagles this week against the visiting Jets, Jim Schwartz said Monday.
“TBD. I mean, that's where we are,” said Schwartz, the team’s defensive coordinator. “It is to be determined. We're still only a few days after the [Green Bay] game … we have a long time until Sunday. We'll figure it out over the course of this week, and get the guys out there that are healthy enough to play, and expect them to play well.”
TBD, or “T” as his friends call him, was unavailable for comment, but fans are hoping he fares better than his teammate LOL, who gave up 422 Aaron Rodgers passing yards in last Thursday’s 34-27 victory at Green Bay.
The Eagles have five injured corners, including Cre’Von LeBlanc, who’s on injured reserve, and Jalen Mills, who’s on the physically unable to perform list, both with foot injuries. Neither LeBlanc nor Mills is eligible to play against the Jets. Avonte Maddox suffered a neck injury and a concussion against the Packers and presumably won’t play this week. We don’t know about hamstring victims Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones, but there hasn’t been any particularly encouraging buzz.
The healthy corners right now are Rasul Douglas, Craig James, and Orlando Scandrick. Douglas, a 2017 third-round pick, is the only member of the trio who has ever started in or played substantial minutes in the Eagles’ defense.
James has been up and down from the Eagles’ practice squad after being cut by the Vikings at the end of the preseason. He entered the Packers game after Maddox went down, and on his second defensive snap, he tipped a Rodgers pass to Nigel Bradham for the game-clinching interception.
The Eagles list James as having played one defensive snap in the Atlanta game, but that wasn’t how Schwartz recalled it, when asked what he thought of James.
“Those are the first two defensive snaps he’s ever played in the NFL,” Schwartz said. “He’s played some special-teams snaps before, but those are the first two [defensive] snaps.”
Scandrick, 32, an Eagles cut at the end of the preseason, was brought back Friday. He practiced Monday, and afterward said he’d been in touch with the team during his monthlong hiatus back home in Los Angeles. Scandrick hinted that he might have been cut because as a vested vet, his entire year’s salary would have been guaranteed had he been on the roster for Week 1.
“He knows our system,” Schwartz said. “That’s one of the reasons we brought him back. … So we would expect him to be up to speed if he’s called upon. There’s not going to be any start-up time for him.”
Scandrick said he enjoyed spending September with his family for the first time since he entered the NFL as a fifth-round Dallas draft pick in 2008, but “it was hard, sitting on the couch and watching guys play a game that I know I’m still capable of playing. … I’m just excited to get another opportunity to prove I’m not finished.”
James came back up from the practice squad just before the Green Bay game, didn’t practice in the defense. After being tossed into the fray with 1 minute and 6 seconds remaining and making his game-winning play, he told of having stood next to secondary coach Cory Undlin the whole evening, picking up what he could.
Undlin said Monday that’s how he does it with the reserves; they stay close to him in games.
“They know to stand right by us. They ask for the call on every single play, so they know what’s going on, on the field,” he said.
“He handled himself well. … Obviously proud of him. We have the discussion in our meeting room all the time. He sits in there with everybody. … It’s ‘Hey, man, even though you’re not out there and I’m not saying your name, you are out there, and I am saying your name. I’m talking to you. You’ve got to make sure you’re on your stuff,’ and he was.”
The discussion on the Lambeau Field sideline as Maddox left the game on a stretcher was whether James would go in, or safety Malcolm Jenkins would move outside.
From Jenkins’ comments Monday, it would seem he did not push for the latter option.
“Purposely?” Jenkins said, when asked his last snap as an outside corner. “Every now and then I get lined up with a matchup out there, but to actually play corner? It’s been a while.”
Jenkins spoke with James, warning him that Rodgers would go at him right away. Monday, someone asked Jenkins if he could tell that James was ready.
“If he wasn’t ready, it didn’t matter. He was still going out there,” Jenkins said.
What sort of player does James seem to be? He played three Vikings games last season, his snaps coming on special teams.
“We’ll see,” Jenkins said. “He’s definitely somebody that’s been paying attention in meetings.”
Undlin was asked how he thinks his group is doing. The Eagles ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, 1,295, coming out of Sunday’s games. Jones, a 2017 second-round pick who was supposed to be a difference-maker, has not been that, and has been sidelined repeatedly the last two seasons with hamstring issues, after sitting out his rookie year with an Achilles tear. Darby, coming off an ACL tear, wasn’t himself before getting hurt again against Detroit. Maddox hadn’t practiced as an outside corner in quite a while before having to replace Jones in Green Bay, and it showed. Douglas has been outstanding in the red zone, but other times, his lack of long speed has been apparent.
“Consistency,” Undlin said, when asked what he feels the group most needs. “We’ve had some flashes of playing good defense. We’ve had some flashes of playing good in the back end. And then we’ve had some flashes [of] not. If we could go forward and pick one thing, we all would want more consistency.”