Q. What did you see from the last matchup between CB Darius Slay and their wide receiver? (Tim McManus)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I really didn’t spend a lot of time on that because Detroit plays a different scheme than we play, and we’re going to employ Slay a little bit different and stuff like that.
There is some carryover to our games last year and then also individual matchups, but we’re in a new year this year. We’re going to be ready for however they deploy their guys, and I’m excited about all our guys. I think we have some good matchups in this game.
Q. I guess we’ve touched on this earlier, but are there more unknowns to you than in other years going into Sunday as far as your younger players and the other new guys? (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think I’d even layer that a little bit more with uncertainty of having zero exposures to a new staff. You do have a track record of Coach Rivera [Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera] and Coach Turner [Washington Football Team offensive coordinator Scott Turner], Coach Matsko [Washington Football Team offensive line coach John Matsko] at Carolina.
But a little bit like I just said with Slay, what they did last year might not be exactly what they’re going to do this year. Usually you have some ideas based on last year and then you can confirm or disprove these things through the pre-season.
There is always a little bit of uncertainty in the opener because teams don’t show certain things in the pre-season. But just having zero pre-season games, it’s unusual and it harkens back to colleges when you’re playing an unfamiliar opponent in the opener. So I think there is that.
They have maybe a little bit of advantage on us because we have a four-year body of work. Even though I’m sure they expect us to do some different things, we expect them to do some different things.
But they have a little better body of work with us, with the continuity of our coaching staff and being able to watch scheme and things like that as opposed to us versus them.
So I think that’s one. And then you’re right, again, I think I mentioned it last time I was here of rookies all having little marks that they hit. Some of those are experiencing hard times and getting themselves out of it.
First time you do things, whether it’s first time in your NFL career or in life, you’re going to make some mistakes, and then you slowly vet it and get out of those kind of things. Their first exposure, their first action, is going to count. So there is a little bit of unexpected.
But, again, I’m excited about that. I think all those guys have shown that they belong in training camp, and I’m excited to see what they can do on Sunday.
Q. The loss of S Will Parks, how big of a loss is that? It seemed like you were planning on using him quite a bit. And where do you go from here? How different does the defense look and who takes that role? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I would rather not go into how we’re going to play our personnel just for the same reasons I just mentioned. There’s no sense giving Washington any idea who we’re going to plug into different roles, how we planned on using them, and things like that.
We just hold all that stuff until Sunday. It was disappointing to lose Will. He was a good addition for us in the off-season. He was a young veteran player. Played with a lot of physical toughness and also brought some spirit to us, so we’ll feel his loss.
But we have plenty of guys that can make up for whatever roles we had in mind.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the rookie they’re probably going to start at running back, Antonio Gibson. You don’t have any pre-season tape of this kid, so you got to go by his college tape when he was essentially a slot receiver. Your thoughts on him and the challenge that he and his receiving skills and speed present to your linebackers. (Paul Domowitch)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I wouldn’t necessarily think that he was just a slot receiver last year because he did get running back snaps. We did go back and watch the way he played last year at Memphis. He’s a little bit different than some of these other guys that have been that running back/wide receiver, because generally they might be a little bit on the lighter side and things like that.
This guy is 6 foot, 230 pound type guy with explosive straight line speed. We have to respect him whether he’s lined up at the running back position or lined up at a wide receiver position. And when he is in the open field, you know, we’re going to have to do a good job tackling and maybe even gang tackling, because we’re not talking about a 180-pound or 190-pound guy. We’re talking about a guy that’s probably around 230 pounds on Sunday and has the speed, if he can make you miss to go the distance, but also could use his power and try to run guys over.
So he’s a little bit different. But we would expect him to certainly have a big role, and we’re sort of just speculating on how they would use him. But we’ll figure it out on Sunday.
Q. I was going to ask you about the defensive end rotation, but I goes that’s… (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, probably not going to talk about that. I will say this, Les. In general, you guys know that rotation is very important to us from a year-long effort to keep guys fresh and an in-game effort to keep guys fresh. I haven’t thrown a baseball analogy out, but you know my baseball analogy there. It’s easier to come in and throw 100 miles an hour if you’re only pitching for an inning or two, and we expect that from our guys.
So that’s no secret and that hasn’t changed for us.
Q. Other thing I was going to ask is Washington Football Team QB Dwayne Haskins, he had a game against you guys late last season and he played pretty well. What kind of challenge does he present? How do you see him as a quarterback? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: He’s got some really good arm talent. Made some throws in that game. He fit some really tight windows. Maybe even I think the first completion in that game he threaded the needle on a completion against zone that really showed, number one his accuracy, number two his arm strength.
And maybe it was even a little more mobile than we expected coming into that game. Ran the option on us a couple times. Made a couple plays there and did have some scrambling.
He didn’t run a great 40 time, but we have learned to respect his athletic ability. We already knew to respect his arm. I think as we saw last year, he was improving as his — as he was getting more experience. Some of the mistakes he made in the games before he played us, he came and corrected some of those mistakes.
We gave him similar looks and he knew where to go with the ball. You expect that from young players, to improve. And a lot of times, particularly at the quarterback position, you’ll see players make a big jump from year one to year two.
Now, he didn’t of an off-season program, just like our guys didn’t have an off-season program, but we certainly expect him to improve over last year.
I think it was a good situation for us. Number one, we were able to get the win; number two, we sort of got punched in the nose a little bit and have a better understanding now the plays that he can make and the respect that we need to have for him.
Q. Wanted to talk to you about two of the younger defensive backs you kept, CB Craig James and S Marcus Epps at safety. What did you see? Obviously Rasul Douglas had played a lot of football for you. What you did see from Craig to be comfortable, and Marcus as a single-high safety as well? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think Craig was one of our most improved players. He went from being sort of a special teams only guy last year. He did have to start against the Jets, but he was more of a niche special teams for us this year, and came in from the first day of training camp and really looked like a different guy.
Cover skills were outstanding; knowledge of our scheme was outstanding; gave us some versatility. And he did all this with also — I don’t mean to speak for Fipp [special teams coordinator Dave Fipp], but I saw him as an improved special teams player. So we were really excited about Craig and what he can do. He’s tough. He’s fast. Now he has a little bit of experience in our scheme, and we are excited about what he can do.
I would probably put Epps in this same category. Came to us middle of the year last year. We plugged him in some of our dime packages, but we limited what he was asked to do in our defense. He played a lot in the post and the other guys, like [S] Rodney [McLeod] and Malcolm [Jenkins], sort of covered up.
But with the whole gaining some experience last year and just adding another year in the same system, from the very first day of training camp not only has he improved mentally – and he’s been always good that way – but just understanding and the little intricacies.
But he was improved physically, too. Was faster, more explosive. He did miss a little bit of time with some injury stuff in training camp. I saw those guys as really improved players for us, and I think both of those guys will play a big part in our effort this year.
Q. The CB Craig James question is a natural lead into what I was curious about. In letting go of Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, you’re a little thinner on the outside spots for reserves than in the past, and that’s a spot you’ve had to use quite a bit. How do you feel about the depth at that position and can the slot guys bounce outside if need be? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I’m not privy to all those decisions that go into our final 53 and things like that, but I can speak of how we’re prepared and just different things like that.
I would probably put [CB] Cre’Von LeBlanc in a similar category I talked about with Craig and Epps. We sort of always viewed Cre as just a nickel, even though against the Giants a couple years ago he had to go and play outside corner for almost a whole half and really did well for us.
But in his career, NFL career, he’s really been more of a nickel slot. We moved him around a lot and we like his versatility. We think he can handle a lot of different roles, and we’re comfortable with him outside.
We also used Robey [CB Nickell Robey-Coleman] outside a lot. Those guys are both a little bit different depending on the matchup we would have in a game if we got to having to use a fourth corner, we would be able to match it. Cre is a little bit bigger, stronger, and Robey has probably got a little bit more quickness, a little bit smaller. But it does give us the ability to be able to handle in-game injuries and thing like that.
Which as you mentioned, are things that are going to happen over the course of the year.
Q. I was just wondering, with your personnel background and overseeing the defense, when guys like Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas or Shareef Miller, who are high draft picks don’t work out, how much ownership do you take in that? How much do you think about that when those things don’t work out? (Mike Kaye)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, we’re certainly all in this together. No different than probably any other position, but I sort of view all those moves as the positive that the guys that replaced them that came out.
I talked about Craig. I think even you guys that saw a limited amount of our practices probably saw what we saw. Or a guy like [DE Casey] Toohill that just performed every day and got better every single day and got better every single day.
I thought Shareef was a much improved player. But when it comes down to it, you only have so many spots on your 53. I view a lot of those roster decisions, again, not all I’m privy to, but I view those as more example of guys that performed really well that we were excited about that earned their way onto 53, rather than being disappointed in someone or moving on from someone.
I’m really excited about the guys we have, and I think, like I said, there is really — like those guys didn’t make the team by default. They forced those hard decisions on us because of their play in training camp.
Q. You’ve always spoken very highly of DE Derek Barnett, and yet in his first three seasons the production hasn’t been there. I know numbers aren’t everything, and injuries have been an issue. But why do you believe in him and what do you expect out of him in year 4? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We have a lot of years of seeing the plays that he can make. Injuries have set him back at times. I think back to that Miami game that we played. Unfortunately, we lost, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play better. Hurt his ankle in that game and ended up having to miss a couple games after that. He went in and was out of the game for a while. Got that thing taped up. They probably used about four or five rolls of tape to tape that thing up. Came out on one leg and was still playing really good.
I’m still very bullish on Derek. I think he’s going to play a big part in what we do. He’s tough. He can rush the passer. He plays with great effort. Not the biggest guy but he’s strong at the point of attack, and run game. I think he fits our system.
He has had some unfortunate things with injuries, but he’ll put those behind him.
Q. Do you anticipate that teams with either new coaches or quarterbacks are going to simplify their playbooks early in the season, and how do you prepare for that? Do you have to change anything, if at all, or just go off what you know them to do? (Rob Maaddi)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We just have to prepare ourselves the best we can. We have to know ourselves well. We have to know our schemes and adjustments and things like that. I don’t think any offense is simplifying right now. There is so much complexity to the offensive game in the NFL right now with all the different kind of motions and different ways they’re using personnel as hybrid players.
I don’t think anybody is backing off of that when it comes to early in the season stuff. I think it’s up to us to be us, as good as we can be, as opposed to just going too much, particularly early in the season, off what we think might happen.
Q. You mentioned Casey Toohill a little bit earlier. Eagles executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman mentioned him as a guy that had an uphill battle to a roster spot during camp. What did see out of him and what does he do well and what can he bring to the 53 right away? (Daniel Gallen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: From the time he got here he just — he did nothing but improve. He did nothing but do things exactly the way he was coached to do them. You saw that in the productivity that he had.
Like I said, he looked different at the end than he did at the beginning. I really liked that. I really respected it. He very rarely made a mistake, and if he did make a mistake, he was quick to correct it. He played with a lot of energy and brings some size and speed to that position, some length and some speed.
Really earned his way onto our team this year.
Q. Given that you haven’t had actual games, what is a realistic learning curve expectation for S Jalen Mills at the new position? (Bo Wulf)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We’re not going to grade on the curve for this game. It’s going to go down as a win or a loss. That’s the only thing that we really concern ourselves with. There is nobody being graded on the curve because they’re new to a position. It’s a little bit like some of the rookies we talked about. Yeah, you don’t have a lot to go on, but when they go out and play, they’re going to have to perform, because we got to win the game.
Jalen is a little bit different because he’s been here for four years. He’s been exposed to a lot of things that we do. We know him personally, what he brings. He’s played a different position, but I think he’s in a completely different position when it comes to the rookies.
Jalen has proved a playmaker in the secondary for us, and we are excited about what he can bring, particularly to the coverage aspect of what we can do. It gives us a lot of flexibility, and I think he fits what we do really well.
I think the biggest thing is his knowledge of what we do. He’s always been a hard working and detailed guy, but he’s — it’s different than a guy like Rodney [McLeod] who has been four years playing that position.
But he’s really impressed us with not just learning the position but learning all the ins and outs. I think we will have less start-up cost when it comes to a guy like Jalen than other guys who it’s their first rodeo.