Are the Eagles going to have to go right past Plan B to Plan C, at the cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay?
Avonte Maddox, Plan A, sustained an ankle injury in last Sunday’s tie with the Bengals and won’t play this week at San Francisco. Plan B would seem to be Trevor Williams, the former Chargers and Penn State corner who came in when Maddox went down. But Williams hasn’t practiced this week because of a rib injury. Can he play against the 49ers, or will defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz have to get creative, maybe move Jalen Mills back to corner, or play either Cre’Von LeBlanc or Nickell Robey-Coleman outside this week?
We don’t know. We do know that Mills did not indicate a change when he spoke with reporters Thursday, and that on Tuesday, when Schwartz spoke, he definitely was looking at Williams as at least part of the situation.
“I think it’s an important point,” Schwartz said, when asked about Williams' experience, which includes 27 starts for the Chargers from 2016-18. "He’s played. It wasn’t his first time when he had to go in and play the game. He didn’t bat an eye. 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. In overtime we played 12 straight snaps of man-to-man. 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.”
Mills moved to strong safety this year after four years at corner. He is just settling into the position, and moving him might impede that process. Then there is the fact that if Schwartz really wanted Mills starting at corner this season, he wouldn’t have moved him to safety.
“They really feel good about me in the position I’m in right now,” Mills said Thursday.
On the injury watch, nine Eagles didn’t practice Thursday, including four wide receivers. Those were JJ Arcega-Whiteside (calf), DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Alshon Jeffery (foot), and John Hightower (illness). Offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jamon Brown were missing because of illness, which apparently is not COVID-19. Williams, Maddox and safety Rudy Ford (groin) sat out. Tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (oblique) and running back Miles Sanders (glute) were limited.
The Eagles' defense hasn’t forced a turnover through three games. The special teams forced and recovered a fumble in the loss to the Rams, and that’s all the team has to show for 190 minutes of football.
Schwartz said this week that thinking about that lack and gambling to try to force the issue is a bad idea.
“I think what he was trying to get to is, don’t chase plays,” linebacker Nate Gerry said Thursday. “I think there’s a couple times out there, myself included, where people are chasing things. That’s one thing that in the second game was kind of our kryptonite, and I felt like we did better against Cincinnati, where we just all made the plays that came to us. We all just stick to our responsibilities and read our keys, we just make the plays that are gonna come to you, and then good things will happen after that. But anytime you’re chasing, looking for things, obviously you let people run free, or you’re out of your gap and whatnot, so don’t chase.”