When asked about Tim Jernigan on Monday, Eagles defensive coordinator began talking about the defensive tackle position as a whole and couldn't help himself.
He tossed in a Spinal Tap reference.
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"A lot has been made of our linebacker situation or our corner situation," Jim Schwartz said, "but defensive tackle … there's some drummers from Spinal Tap that would rather be a drummer for Spinal Tap than - you guys got that one?"
If you don't understand that reference about the fictional band, it's OK. Schwartz said his players don't understand his references like that either.
Just know that Spinal Tap went through a lot of drummers, who all met their untimely demises. Likewise, the Eagles have gone through plenty of defensive tackles this season - and it wasn't supposed to be like that.
Finally, in the Bears game before the bye week, Tim Jernigan returned after missing six straight games with a foot injury. He played just 16 snaps, but it was a start and a small step back to some level of normalcy at the position next to Fletcher Cox.
"He didn't play a ton, and it was probably unrealistic to think he was going to play more than that," Schwartz said, "but it was a good start for him and we'll just see where that goes week-to-week.
"I think that it will be nice to have him out there for significant reps over the course of the year, but we just have to take it as it goes."
Getting Jernigan back could be huge down the stretch, but it's hard to image the Eagles can really rely on his ability to stay healthy; he's struggled with that. Still, getting a healthy Jernigan back for the final seven-game playoff push could go a long way to help salvage some of the depth they were originally supposed to have.
To steal a phrase from Schwartz, the Eagles have been "star-crossed" at the defensive tackle position this year.
They came into the 2019 season with Cox, Jernigan, Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway. Sure, the Eagles lost some depth from 2018 at defensive end, but this depth was supposed to make up for that.
Then Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 1.
Then Jernigan hurt his foot in Week 2.
Then Ridgeway went on IR with an ankle injury suffered in Week 7.
"Going into the season, really felt good about Malik and Timmy and Ridge and all of a sudden we're looking at none of those three," Schwartz said. "Took a little while to get some new guys in there and solidify things. A little bit like some of those other guys, getting those guys back on the field, there's nothing like having those contributors back on the field."
While they waited for Jernigan to get healthy, the Eagles had Akeem Spence for six games before cutting him. They played Bruce Hector, Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins - all undrafted players in their first or second seasons. It's been a rotating cast of mediocre players next to Cox, who has come on strong recently, but faces double teams at an alarming rate.
At the very least, Jernigan can beat an occasional 1-on-1 and is stout against the run on first and second downs. A healthy Jernigan next to a finally healthy and resurgent Cox sounds pretty good.
"I think that it will be nice to have [Jernigan] out there for significant reps over the course of the year," Schwartz said, "but we just have to take it as it goes."
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