PHILADELPHIA - To no one's surprise, Jim Schwartz kept his plans close to the vest when it comes to replacing Avonte Maddox at outside cornerback at San Francisco.
The third-year player injured his ankle against Cincinnati when tackling former college teammate Tyler Boyd. The short-term replacement was Trevor Williams, who immediately gave up a touchdown to Tee Higgins but settled down from there.
With a week to prepare Schwartz could simply default to Williams again, move someone like Cre'Von LeBlanc outside, or even consider moving Jalen Mills back to CB from safety, especially if Will Parks is ready to return from injured reserve.
“We’re going to keep our cards a little close to our vest of how we’re going to cover up some of our packages and how we’re going to play personnel,” Schwartz explained on Tuesday. “No sense tipping our hand right now. But we’ll have a good plan come Sunday.”
Schwartz has often stressed versatility in the secondary on his defense and has other options at safety past Parks, a veteran and North Philly native who signed as a free agent from Denver in the offseason.
In the early going, the DC has used Marcus Epps extensively in big nickel and dime packages while the shrinkwrap could come off rookie K'Von Wallace as well.
Mills's ability to play different spots is the key to all of that.
“Obviously, Jalen’s played that [CB] position before,” Schwartz said. “We value flexible guys in the back end, guys that can play multiple positions.”
Williams, meanwhile, was targeted four times in 33 defensive snaps and allowed two receptions, including the TD to Higgins. It seemed as if Williams was expecting some help, however, on what was a crossing route and the communication aspect is where Schwartz is most concerned when it comes to Maddox being out of the lineup.
"The communication between the secondary is one of the things that's most important," Schwartz explained. "And we have taken our lumps a couple times with that, just having quick miscommunication in the red zone can cost you a touchdown. I think the biggest thing is it just sort of derails that progress a little bit. The settling in.
"... So I think that we'll miss him as a player on the field, but also it's just going to put more on our guys to keep that communication up and keep making progress on that, even though we're adding different guys to the equation back there."
As for Williams himself, Schwartz was impressed.
“He didn’t bat an eye,” Schwartz said of the Penn State product who has starting experience with the Chargers. “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.”
The early success of Williams emboldened Schwartz to use man coverage almost exclusively down the stretch of the 23-23 tie against the Bengals with significant success.
“In overtime, we played 12 straight snaps of man-to-man,” Schwartz said. “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."
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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