Q. We’ve seen DT Javon Hargrave continue to improve with each passing week, this last game was probably his best as a pass rusher. What specifically has he done over these last several weeks to really kind of get used to playing in your scheme? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Just I think what you see is just steady progress from him. You can’t always judge a guy, and we’ve said this a long time, you can’t always judge a guy just on sack numbers. There’s a lot of other things that go into it, freeing up other people, sometimes you have a great rush, and somebody else will make a sack and sometimes you make a great rush and the ball comes out so fast that you really can’t affect it but you have to keep making steady progress.
And I think Javon has done a good job of making steady progress. He’s getting more and more comfortable in the scheme. We knew it was going to be a little bit of an adjustment period. It took a minute or so for him to get with all the intricacies and techniques that we play. But he does make an impact on the game and I think we’re seeing the reason we liked him so much and the reason we added him to our team.
Q. You’ve had so many instances over the years where you’re playing defensive backs who just got here, maybe just up from the practice squad and just signed. What’s your process? CB Kevon Seymour is the latest guy, but you have had these guys throughout your time here. What’s your process as far as getting those guys ready and how has that evolved over the years and just kind of the whole process of getting a guy from getting here and then two weeks later being in a game? (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: [Jokingly] Yeah, thanks for reminding me about that. [Laughter] It’s certainly not an ideal situation. But injuries happen in the NFL. Particularly at defensive back. Not only are there muscle pulls but they are generally smaller guys that take a lot of contact and things like that. So we’ve seen that firsthand.
I think the biggest thing is you have to balance your game plan versus the skill-set of the guys that you have. Every player has strengths. Every player has weaknesses. Whether you’re up from the practice squad or you’re a six-time Pro Bowl player, every player has strengths and weaknesses, and you have to balance what you need to do in the game plan versus what your match-ups are and what the skill set of the players are.
I think just in the previous game, the game plan was to play a lot of zone, trying to keep as much vision on the quarterback as we could, so that translated pretty well to when we had to replace both corners and both safeties and the only guy that was really playing in the same position most of the second half was Robey [CB Nickell Robey-Coleman], who was playing the nickel, who I thought really played a good game for us.
I think that every week is a little bit different depending on what the game plan is and as you adjust in the game, but I think you need to balance both of them. I think those guys really did a good job of stepping in and helping us win that game. It wasn’t always easy for them. Gave up a couple plays, but when it was all said and done, they made enough plays to win the game.
Q. Just about Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, he’s very dynamic with both the legs and he’s over 700 yards rushing and over 3,000 yards passing. How dangerous is he, and do you see any similarities between him and QB Jalen Hurts? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I don’t like to compare one player to another that way. I’d say that guys like Kyler Murray, guys like [Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson, [Seahawks QB] Russell Wilson, we’ve faced a lot of guys that had similar skill sets, but all of them were unique. All of them had a different way that they ran the ball. All of them had a different skill set passing. Whether they were throwing quick passes, whether they were scrambling to buy time to make big plays down the field. Every player stands on his own in the NFL and what we’re going to try to do against Kyler Murray will be specific for his skill set and their offense. It won’t be based on what we did against Russell Wilson or you name it, Lamar Jackson or any of the other guys that we’ve faced that are dual-threat quarterbacks.
I think it’s easy to put all those guys in one box, but everyone is very particular not just the way they have run it, but the way they use their legs to open the passing game. So yeah, our decisions on this week will be independent of anything we’ve seen from anybody else.
Q. S Rodney McLeod, obviously a difficult injury, what has he meant to your defense this season, a little bit of a ramped up role as far as communication, and also, what is it like in game when you lose 75 percent of the secondary? Do you have these contingencies already pre planned or is that just something you kind of have a feel for in-game? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, you’re always trying to cover up injuries. I sort of do a thing the night before the game where I’ll quiz the coaches, ‘All right, we lose this guy, who is the next guy in the game? All right we lost that guy, how are we going to work around these issues?’ I don’t think you ever plan for 75 percent guys going down. You just have to do the best you can. We were scrambling. After the missed field goal, being up two scores, we were trying to put our last play sort of Hail Mary type defense in and we didn’t even have enough guys to do it. We were going to have to go get one of the offensive players to go play a backline guy.
So that stuff that happens all the time. You can’t really prepare for all those situations. You just have to put the fires out as they come and figure out some way that you can piece it together to be successful.
I would say this about Rodney, No. 1, he’s proved that he can comeback from an injury like this. And it’s such a gut punch when a respected player like Rodney, and who is a very productive leader for us, has had a really outstanding year; when you lose him for the game, but you also find out that you lose him for the season, everybody feels that. Increases the urgency for the guys that have to replace him. They have to step up to be able to fill those gaps, not just on a one-game basis but for a rest-of-the-week basis.
If I know Rodney, and he’s done this before when he was injured, he stays really involved with the team. He keeps his leadership up. He did that last time. He was always active on the sidelines. He was active during practice. He was active during meetings. He found a way to contribute, even though it wasn’t going to be physically on the field. That’s the kind of guy he is. That’s the kind of leader he is. That’s why he’s been such an important part of our defense over the last five years here.
Q. I know you have enough on your plate with your own defense, but given that head coach Doug Pederson and the offense are going to start a quarterback with one game of film, do they ever come to you and try to figure out how defenses will approach and attack that player? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I’ll keep those conversations private. I don’t think we need to talk about inner office conversations and strategies and things like that. There’s a lot of communication between our staff, offense, defense and special teams, because they all affect each other. What the special teams does affects the defense and what the offense does affects the defense and what the defense does affects the offense. Complementary football is a very intricate thing. You saw it, we were holding on to a three-point lead. [DE] Josh Sweat who had an outstanding game again, was able to get that fumble and our offense was able to cash that in and all of the sudden make it a two-score game with whatever it was, six minutes to play.
All those things sort of complement each other, whatever, you go for it on fourth down, that affects the defense. You try a field goal, that affects the defense. Defense gets a takeaway or a defense gives up a touchdown, that affects the offense. It’s all part and parcel of the same thing, trying to play winning football. So, I’ll just leave it at that.
Q. Who the heck is CB Kevon Seymour, and it seems like you always end up in this position at some point late in the season, playing guys who just joined the practice squad a week or two weeks earlier. How do you get people like that ready to play? Do you have to change what you do at all? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, yeah, like I said before, everybody has a unique skill set. You have to balance what their skill set is with what the game plan is, and they are not independent of each other. But Key [CB Kevon Seymour] is not a rookie. Key played a lot of football for Buffalo and has some experience. Hasn’t played much in the last couple years, but he is a, I guess you would say, a young veteran that did have some experience. I think 2016 played a lot of football for Buffalo.
A lot of those guys, you’re getting them up to speed on terminology, getting them back in there, you can plug those guys in. Sometimes rookies with no playing experience are a little bit different. But Key came in, and we were actually like putting some stuff in on the sideline because it was by game situation. It was like, all right, we’re going to need to do this, and he was sort of processing it in his own way on the sideline. I thought that Marquand [defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel] did a really good job of communicating with him during the game, communicating back to me what we were comfortable with in the game plan, what he was comfortable with. But it wasn’t just him. You know, [S] K’Von Wallace stepped in. [S] Marcus Epps stepped in. [S] Jalen Mills had to move to corner. There were a lot of moving parts in those things and like I said, we were playing a lot of zone. Generally, zone defenses take a lot of adjustments and calls and things like that and for the most part I thought those guys did a pretty good job.
Our worst execution of a defensive call was [DE] Josh Sweat’s forced fumble. They came out, we had miscommunication there. But [LB] Shaun Bradley, who was out there pretty much for his first extended playing time, did a good job getting a receiver covered down the middle even though we didn’t have the overlap that we needed, we were able to buy a little bit of time for Josh to come back.
So all those young guys, we’re going to need all of those guys to come back and play significant snaps for us. Communication is very important, and Key probably had a little bit of a step up from those guys because he did have some experience, but he’s got good size and like any corner — he gave up a touchdown pass, he didn’t let that affect him at all. Came back and continued to battle and played physical football. I was proud of him for that. It was a great step for his career. He’d sort of been sidetracked a little bit but to get back on the field and play winning football, that’s a real tip of the cap to him, staying ready, keeping his faith through some tough times, and he was rewarded for that and we were rewarded for that.
Q. Jalen Mills will stay at corner this week? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We’ll just see where everybody else shakes out. We’ve got a lot of moving parts in the secondary right now, but I would say this: Jalen is a totally, totally unselfish player. Doesn’t bat an eye. I mean, not only did he move into corner; he went right after number 13 [Saints WR Michael Thomas] and traveled with him across the field. He wasn’t looking for a place to disappear and just disappear into the scheme. He took it on himself and that’s the kind of guy that Jalen is. He’s really starting to come into his own as a safety. He’s played some of his best games over these last few weeks and just the fact that he would be willing to go in and play corner for us and finish a game like that and take the load on himself, just says so much about his team-first attitude and his unselfishness or selflessness, I don’t know, you English majors can figure that one out for me.
But we’ll see where it gets to. We have some injury situations in the back end that we’re going to have to figure out and we might not even know for sure until Saturday night before the game. But we’ll have a good plan and we’ll get the guys out there.
Q. When someone like Josh Sweat is producing in a relatively limited role, I guess do you view the production as calling for more playing time or is the production because of the way you’re using him? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That’s a little bit of chicken or egg. I think that like I’ve said before, our defensive line, it’s more about the production of the group. Josh making that sack probably had a lot to do with Shaun Bradley and his role in that coverage, just bought time, the quarterback was looking for him, didn’t expect Shaun to be on him. He was trying to sort it out, trying to find somebody and Josh was able to make that play, a little bit like I talked with Javon before, it’s not always them making the play themselves. Josh, obviously in this game, with a couple big sacks and the forced fumble that pretty much was the game-winning play in the game.
We’ve always had confidence in him. He’s played a lot of football for us and we’ll continue to rotate those guys up front and try to keep those guys as fresh as we can and keep them fast and making plays. It’s going to be tough duty this week with a mobile quarterback because it uses up a lot of gasoline for those defensive linemen. It’s not just ten yards running. Some of those plays are going to have to run 25, 30 yards on a play. So our ability to stay fresh and keep guys energized and fast coming off the bench is going to be important in this game, also.
Q. I know it’s kind of been alluded to earlier, but you kind of went through this situation two years ago with so many defensive backs being out, I think former Eagles S and current Saints S Malcolm Jenkins was the only one among the starters who were left. Is there anything you can kind of take from that season like how you were able to adjust to that going forward in the situation you’re in now? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I don’t know. I think that every year is different, every player is different. The dynamics of your team are different. You have a different offense. You have different players in the back and you have different guys up front. So it’s all just about trying to figure out, No. 1, what’s the best use of your own personnel and how that applies to the opponent. And also, how that fits in with your total team dynamic. All those things go into consideration. The bottom line is, we have a standard and we might do it a different way. Might not be as much man or maybe more blitz or less blitz or more zone or less zone or whatever it is, but when it’s all said and done, our job is to keep points off the scoreboard, try to create some turnovers, try to win third down in red zone, be a team that prevents big plays.
If we can do those things, regardless of how we do it, whether we do it the same way we did it a couple years ago or we do it a different way. The bottom line is to try to do enough to get a win.