Doug Pederson is very honest. The Eagles head coach is not afraid to admit mistakes and he speaks very openly during his press conferences. Pederson's style is a stark contrast with how former coach Chip Kelly would bend the truth and sometimes even flat out lie to the press. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz might closest resemble a mix of the two. Like Pederson, he'll give you the impression he's being honest. Brutally so, even. Like Kelly, however, Schwartz doesn't want to reveal his secrets. Check out a few of his answers during a pre-practice press conference on Sunday evening.
Q. DT Aziz Shittu said that defensive tackles have the liberty to call stunts on their own. Was that something that you had to build the confidence within them to do, or is that something you’ve allowed them to do?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, he shouldn't be talking about stuff like that. I'd rather not comment on scheme stuff and stuff like that. There are a lot of different things they are asked to do within schemes, and I think I'll just leave it at that. He's a rookie. [He] probably doesn't understand those guidelines. There are a lot of opponents that are reading you guys.
Q. Early in your career, you talked about how you studied fumbles and how they correlate to wins. I was wondering if you’ve done any studies on football trends like that more recently.
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I mean, we try to stay … And the thing that's interesting here is I used to be a one-man shop when it came to stuff like that. We have a whole department that researches things like that. I don't think it does anybody any good to advertise some things maybe other teams aren't aware of [or] some new trends and things like that. I hate to be boring, but I think I'll just take that approach.
Q. How do you think Rowe and CB Jalen Mills did on Thursday night?
JIM SCHWARTZ: I don't know; I don't like putting my grades out. So I'll just say, as a defense, we held them to nine points and that's the bottom line with anything. I think one thing that I was very encouraged by, particularly for a first preseason game, is we only had two defensive penalties [...]
No one can blame Schwartz for wanting to be protective of his methods. He understandably doesn't want to give opponents an edge.
Schwartz isn't a total closed book. Sometimes he gives real blunt answers before later expanding on his thoughts.
Q. When do you want to know who your ones are?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Sometime before the opener. Sorry. (laughter) No, I think when you put hard deadlines on that … I mean, I'd like to see good players on the field. And, you know, there are a lot of different things that go into that. I mean, hey, maybe there's a guy that's injured or maybe there's a young guy that just needs more reps and he might be one of those guys. I think you've just got to let it play, and whatever way it comes out, comes out. I think if you predetermine that, I think you can set sort of an artificial deadline, and we don't want to do that. We want to give everybody an opportunity to earn their stripes, so to speak.
Q. What is LB Mychal Kendricks missing from not being out on the field right now?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Practice time [joking]. News flash [laughter]. Just like any other player. I mean, Mychal is a very, very conscientious player and he works very hard off the field. So he's getting all the mental reps and he's staying up and he's asking a lot of questions. He's staying up on those things. There's no substitute for doing it on the field, but it makes no sense to go out there if you can't physically do it. He's working extremely hard to get back as quick as he can, and when he is, then we'll get him back out there.
Of course, what matters most to the Eagles about Schwartz is not his personality but rather how his defense performs. The two aren't necessarily related, though. Some players have gravitated towards the fiery defensive coordinator's behavior. Having players who buy in to his coaching certainly is a factor in Schwartz's success. And he feels staying secretive is what's best as well.
Watch Schwartz's Sunday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. Transcript below.
Q. Looking at S Jaylen Watkins, what are some of the positives you’ve seen from him, his versatility, as far as playing nickel, outside as well as safety?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, you know, I think that helps any player. He's got corner in his past – be able to play both safety spots, be able to play corner, possibly nickel. I'd say not very much nickel in camp this year, but [he] obviously has that athletic ability. I think the biggest thing for him is going to be tackling from the safety position. That's going to be his biggest challenge just because he's played mostly corner and it's a different angle and things like that. That's pretty much what he's been working on. But, what you have seen is his ability to make a play on the ball, and he needs to continue to do that also.
Q. What did you learn about your linebacker depth on Thursday?
JIM SCHWARTZ: I don't know, not a lot.
Q. How do you feel like the depth is at that position?
JIM SCHWARTZ: It's still early in the preseason. It's really too hard to tell. It was difficult the way the game went just because we scored twice real quick on short fields. And we had a couple special teams plays – two kickoffs right in a row – and then we had a bunch of punts right in a row. So, that was difficult on a lot of those backup guys that ended up playing once they got to the second quarter. A situation they are probably not in in a real game because if they are covering kicks, they are probably not playing as much defense. So, what they had to do was they had to cover a bunch of kicks and play a lot of defense. So, it really wasn't a realistic, a true game situation right there. So, it's hard to read too much into it. But it taxed those guys a lot. It was tough on them.
Q. What were your impressions of DE Steven Means from Thursday?
JIM SCHWARTZ: About the same as it's been. He's been doing a good job in training camp. He's been doing a good job setting edges in the running game and he's affected the passer. He did both of those things Thursday night.
Q. Was the game on Thursday tough like that on a guy like S Jalen Mills?
JIM SCHWARTZ: No, not really. I think I put him in the same category as a lot of those linebackers. He was out there covering just about all those kicks. It's tough, you're running 60 yards down the field, and then all of a sudden you're out there playing defense again. We were putting him in some tough situations. We were calling a little bit to try to evaluate some guys. We weren't protecting guys. [We are] not disappointed in him at all. It was a tough situation. It was what it was.
Q. The rotation that you used at defensive end, was that kind of what you want to see in the season? Have you thought about what their rotation is going to be like?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, we're keeping an open mind. We're going to have some sort of rotation, just to try to keep guys fresh. We're pretty well documented saying that. I think you're at your best when you can keep guys fresh and they can be giving maximum effort when they are out there. You just can't play wide open for however many plays you're going to be out there if you're out there every snap. It will be merit-based. If we have four ends that merit play time, we'll rotate four guys. If we have four tackles that merit play time, we'll rotate four tackles. If we don't, then we'll change those numbers. We haven't really made those decisions yet.
Q. Looking at some of the younger defensive tackles you have, what are some other things you've seen from Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu?
JIM SCHWARTZ: They got good penetration in the game. I think when you're a defensive tackle in this game, that's one of the things you're judged on is your ability to disrupt the run game. Some schemes ask guys to occupy space and hold off blockers and things like that. In this game, they are asking you to get penetration and be disruptive. At times, both of those guys did that. Just like a lot of young players, they have inconsistencies and things they are working on. But both of them showed that they have the ability to be disruptors.
Q. What dictated how the long the ones stayed in Thursday’s game?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, we knew we wanted to give them a little bit of time, but it depended … They were sort of in sort of a middle spot. [We] probably would have liked to have gotten them a couple more reps, but the risk you run there is if you get them out and it's a long drive, trying to replace guys within a drive – we didn't want to go through that. Some of the D-Linemen continued to play because they were in rotation and their pitch count was low. So, each position was a little bit different. We just sort of played it by ear. For the record, we really don't have a first group. We're still working to find out who our first group is, and I don't like to tag anybody after the first preseason game, or even before the first preseason game, as being a first group. I mean, that's going to be earned over the course of all the training camp practices and all the preseason games. I mean, we've got to line up somehow and that's what we're doing right now, but none of that is set in cement.
Q. Given CB Eric Rowe's physical skill set, has there been any thought to moving him from corner to safety?
JIM SCHWARTZ: He’s a guy that could do that. He did in college a little bit. He played both of both positions. Sort of like we talked about with [S] Jalen [Mills], that's one of the things that's helped him is being able to drop down and cover. In this league now, so many tight ends are skilled; so many times you have personnel matchups. If the team lines up in three wide receivers and you're in base defense, one of your safeties has got to go cover a wide receiver. That is something he could potentially do. We like his skill set at corner. He's tall; he's hard to throw over; he's tough at the line of scrimmage. There are some other things he's working, and he just needs to improve those other things. Again, we're still talking about a very young player there.
Q. What about forcing turnovers? Do you put a particular emphasis on that?
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, you can emphasize it all you want. You can do drills all you want, but you've got to have players. Standing up and giving a speech or putting a PowerPoint up or making an emphasis on a drill, doesn't get it done on the field. I think a lot of it comes from rushing the passer. You saw two of them came from knocking the ball away from the quarterback. Quarterbacks are very vulnerable to fumbles in the pocket. If you can hit those guys in the pocket, you can get some balls out; they throw it too quick, you see some coverage overlap.
We had a bunch of turnovers, which again, we are trying to win the game. And those should help. We should have had more. We dropped a bunch of interceptions. I'm not giving pats on the back for what we did. We proabably should have done even more and maybe not even make it close at the end of the game if we do a little bit more defensively.
Q. You’ve had a chance in training camp to go against the three-tight end sets that are used by Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Offensively for the Eagles, it was very effective on the touchdown run on Thursday, but from a defensive perspective, what do you see from the offense when they are able to run the ball with those three tight ends blocking? Is it going to give teams problems this year?
JIM SCHWARTZ: You know, tight ends are tough matchups, particularly guys that are multi-dimensional. I think we've probably beaten that horse a little bit dead right now, but it's true. If you have three guys that are just stone-cold blockers and they can't run a route, it's pretty easy to defend. If you have three guys that are pass receivers and they can't block a soul, it’s pretty easy to defend. But if you have guys that can do both and they can give you a lot of different looks and they can be in three tight ends, it might be a short-yardage-looking offense and it might be a three-wide-receiver-looking offense. All of those guys have the capability of doing it. It just forces you to be able to match up. Your corners have to be able to tackle. Your safeties have to be able to cover. I think we've seen that in the NFL from other teams, but we're fortunate to have a group of guys that can all do a couple different things.
Q. You said earlier in camp that you want this defense to be more than the sum of its parts. Are you making progress on that and do you think it’ll be there by opening day?
JIM SCHWARTZ: I don't know if you get any points for progress. That's our mission, I guess you'd say; It's not a goal and it's not an objective. It's a mission. We have to accomplish it. I think you saw it at times. Like I said, one player complements another. [DT] Bennie Logan has a good rush, Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] is able to come in, knock the ball out, pick it up and puts our offense in position where we're able to score. We get a good pass rush and we get an interception on a pretty easy overthrow. I think when you're doing things like that, I think maybe the sum has shown that it can be greater than our individual parts. We still got a long way to go.