Jim Schwartz says Craig James is among Eagles’ most improved players

Craig James
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 29: Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Craig James (39) prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 29, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Week one is here and the Eagles are ready for war. The 53-man roster is set and while there’s plenty of excitement surrounding a receiving corps bursting with speed, there seems to be a concern at corner once again with the only outside backup being Craig James.

The Eagles officially ended the Sidney Jones era during the roster cutdown period before sending Rasul Douglas down a similar path. Both moves were understandable, but it left just one backup as an outside cornerback. That man was Craig James, who actually received a new deal. But do Eagles fans really have anything to fear?

The story so far

The 5’10, 195 lbs corner first popped onto the scene in explosive fashion when he covered deep-threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the dying moments of the game against Green Bay. He was dropped into the game backed up at his own goal-line and with the game on the line. Aaron Rodgers wanted to pick on the rookie corner. ‘MVS’ ran a slant route to try and bully his way inside. James expected the ball and did just enough to force it into Nigel Bradham’s hands to seal the game.

James earned a starting nod against the Jets where he also held his own. He registered 3 tackles, but his main impact was felt on special teams. The former UDFA recorded 12 tackles on Dave Fipp’s unit (2nd on the team), playing in over 52% of snaps, 5th most on the team.

Craig James szn

Now, with a (kind of) full offseason under his belt, James looks ready to step up. Earning the praise of Jim Schwartz can only be seen as a positive. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator spoke glowingly of the second-year player’s progress.

“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.”

The Eagles are inundated with versatility at cornerback. In the event someone does go down (a recurring theme for the Eagles), there are a plethora of players who can play inside and out. We’ll touch more on that tomorrow. Despite there being a concern that James will likely be the first name called off the bench by fans, it’s not one echoed by the coaching staff.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire