Q. Last time we spoke, you talked about your linebacker group as a whole. I wanted to ask you specifically about the three rookies you have in that group and how they are progressing, particularly LB Davion Taylor? It’s early, I realize that, but do you see him being able to make enough progress to contribute more maybe than just on special teams for you this year? (Paul Domowitch)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That is yet to be seen. I will say this, linebacker and safety are two of the most difficult positions for guys to get up to speed with. That is including having a full offseason program for rookies, OTAs, minicamp and a full preseason schedule and preseason games, so their learning has to be accelerated. All three of those guys are smart guys and have adapted well. Now it is just a matter of accumulating as many reps as we can get, and when we do have those heavy contact practices, those are going to be really important in our evaluations.
There is no grading on the curve for this. It can’t be, well it’s Week 7, a guy has to play, or it’s Week 2, a guy has to play, or Week 16, and a guy has to play and sorry he didn’t have any training camp, so we can’t expect much of him. Our job is to get those guys ready and we have confidence in those guys. Those guys are working hard, and they are really good athletes and we feel good about their prospects.
Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on CB Darius Slay? QB Carson Wentz was talking about him yesterday and he mentioned he was different. When you look at an opposing quarterback who is looking at a corner and saying he is different and I realize he is there, what are some of the traits that make him that way? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I’d say first is experience, this is not his first rodeo. He’s been a proven player in this league. Has a long track record. Has a lot of experience matching different kinds of receivers. He’s played against a whole range of different guys. I think that’s probably the first thing when you’re a quarterback and you go out to practice and there’s a guy you’ve seen on film for four years and seen him on opponent film and seen him defend different wide receivers, I think that respect goes a long way. So, there is some familiarity there.
Just a guy that knows his job technique-wise, that has a nose for the football. Those are things that a quarterback is going to be concerned about when it comes to throwing to a particular receiver.
Q. Before, you said the cornerback spot opposite of Darius Slay is an open competition. With the limited time, is there enough time for that open competition? Will you mix in different players? We saw CB Avonte Maddox yesterday. (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: You’re going to see a lot of different players. Obviously when you look at a guy like Slay or [S] Rodney McLeod or [DT] Fletcher Cox or [DE] Brandon Graham, you’re going to have a good idea that they are going to be out there in Week 1, but we are going to match a lot of different combinations. And there’s going to be some days just because of our accelerated camp, there’s going to be some guys that have days off, so you’ll see some guys in there. We have seen the last few years how important it is to plug players in and still have a level of success. So, we have always tried to do that during training camp, anyway, just sort of throw different groups out there and mix-and-match guys, No. 1, to be able to see players against different competition so you’re not sort of working against the same guys all training camp, but No. 2, just to have a comfort level with the other guys that are out there. So we’ll do that for a lot of different reasons not just competition. But we’ll have plenty of time for competition and [Head] Coach [Doug] Pederson is giving us some good opportunities to get some, if not quite game situations, but as close as we can simulate and we’ll have a good chance to get everybody an opportunity and be able to make decisions in a few weeks.
Q. Last time you spoke, you weren’t asked about DE Derek Barnett, but we spoke to a few players and coaches about him and they were saying how he seemed coming in healthy for the first time seemed to be good for him clearly but here we are in the first week of camp, or at least padded practices and he’s back on the DL with a week-to-week injury. Is there some correlation between his size, I guess you would day he is on the smaller side for that position, and the injuries that he has gotten over the last several years? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: No, I think the injuries he’s had are not related to that. I have had a lot of really big guys that have had injuries there too. It’s a physical game. It’s a physical position. Defensive tackle and defensive end, I think are the only positions that make contact with somebody on every single play. I mean, you can be an offensive guard and it’s pass protection and there’s nobody over you and you can just sit there and you might not have contact with somebody. But defensive tackles and defensive ends take a load every play, whether you’re 350 pounds or 250 pounds, there’s a toll that comes and Derek plays so hard and plays so wide open, he doesn’t take any plays off.
I still am very pleased with where Derek is, and I think he’s going to have an outstanding year this year.
Q. Obviously with no preseason games, you touched on it, but it’s different to evaluate where the rookies are right now. Can you take us through what it’s like having to split those reps in your approach, because you also need the veterans to be ready in week one while also trying to evaluate the younger guys that you have? (Kristen Rodgers)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That’s a really good point, because we do have sort of two concurrent agendas in training camp and we are sort of almost in a game-prep type week trying to get guys ready for Washington. Then also, we are trying to develop players and we are trying to also evaluate players
So one hand, we are really driving toward — we are only a few weeks away from going and playing a game for real and then on the other end, we have guys that are basically brand new that we need to find out as much as we can. I think Coach Pederson has done a good job of mixing different periods in practice that way. We have some periods that are very specific toward trying to get a group that’s already experienced ready to play and then we have enough other periods where we can see guys and evaluate and develop. I think it’s going to be an ongoing thing this year. The abbreviated training camp is not going to be the end of our developmental program. You’ll see some stuff early in the season where we get some younger guys a lot more work than maybe in previous years. It reminds me a lot of 2011, the lockout year. We started a little bit late. Now we had all those preseason games, but we were on a little bit of an abbreviated schedule and we were able to get everything in.
Q. Last year in an early press conference during training camp you brought up how DT Hassan Ridgeway was a new guy that got in the system and impressed you right away. Who is the new guy this year that has acclimated pretty quickly and impressed you? (Mike Kaye)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Too early to say. Yesterday was the first day with pads and it really wasn’t a competitive period, in Coach Pederson’s terms, it was a 10-10-10. Even though it looked very competitive, it really wasn’t a true evaluation kind of thing. It was always just one of those first day of pads, Coach has always taken that approach of not throwing red meat out there for those guys the very first day.
Let’s just reserve judgment on guys that require pads to truly evaluate them. Let’s give them this first week, and then maybe I’ll be able to better answer that question, maybe this time next week.
Q. We’ve been talking for a while now about this defensive tackle rotation theoretically and last year DT Malik Jackson went down first game, and now you’re preparing for the season without DT Javon Hargrave. Are you ever going to get what you’re looking for here? And with Javon, does he play a position where maybe it’s easier for him to get ready for the season without reps in terms of scheme and so forth, the complexity of what he does, than, say, if he were a safety or linebacker? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: First, Javon is an experienced player and generally when those guys come in, they are not learning how to play football. They are learning the way you play and it’s more terminology and things like that. So young vets tend to get up to speed really quickly when it comes to that kind of stuff. But I think there are some positions that just by the nature of their position, it’s a little bit easier to plug, particularly young players in, defensive line, outside corner. I already mentioned safeties and linebackers and particularly where offenses go, with the complexity of offense with all these jet sweeps and distractions and zone reads and RPOs and all that stuff that builds into it, things change really fast. It used to change because a guy would sort of try to cross half speed in motion and you had to go from one thing to another. Now that same guy is going in motion and it looks like the start of the 100-meter dash in the Olympics and you have to go super, super fast. So D-Line doesn’t necessarily have those kind of complexities. It’s more of a physical game for those guys up there. We are not super complicated when it comes to those guys, so I think it will be an easier transition for a guy like Jay [Javon].
We’ll see where we get with those guys. Injuries of a part of the game. We’ve seen it. We’ve had to deal with it. You can have plan, but Mike Tyson was famous for his saying about plans. So you better have a Plan B and you’d better be ready for how it goes because it’s just a matter of time before things don’t go to plan over the course of the year.
Teams that can balance those things and find a way to still be competitive and still have success, those are teams that are going to be rewarded at the end of the year.
Q. Since we spoke to you last, you signed DE Vinny Curry. Does Vinny take on the same role he had last year and if so, how does that affect the development and potential playing time of these young edge rushers like DE Josh Sweat, DE Genard Avery and DE Shareef Miller that you’ve spent time developing? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think Vinny had an outstanding year for us last year, one of his best, so it was good to get him back. He’s a veteran player. We talked about some of these young guys needing all these reps. Vinny is a guy that needs to get ready and doesn’t need quite as many reps, so I don’t think it will hurt the development of the younger guys. You’re not going to find a coach that says more good players is a bad situation.
So we added a good player, a trusted player in our scheme, a guy that’s had success in our scheme and a guy that means a lot to our locker room and to our spirit. So we added a guy like that, I see that as a bonus. It not going to take away from the development of those younger guys.