There’s a lot of work needed on both sides of the ball following the Eagles’ second loss of the season. Week 4’s loss to the Titans was good in that it identified plenty of areas for growth and improvement, and both coordinators Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh spoke to the media on Tuesday to discuss some of those adjustments.
Here’s what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh had to say:
On the secondary play and personnel
Schwartz opened that they are happy with Jalen Mills at corner, and while Rodney McLeod will be missed throughout his injury, they compartmentalized his replacement into two parts: Corey Graham and Avonte Maddox.
They reviewed their roster and thought Maddox would fill that role best, especially with his experience in the nickel. He said that even though some things are new, there is a lot of similarities to the safety position, so everything they liked about him at nickel, they like him at safety.
Schwartz was asked if that means Mills is firmly the outside starting corner for the team, and the defensive coordinator did not mince words; he is firmly in the corner of Jalen Mills and noted that he was a big reason the team had a Super Bowl parade this spring.
He continued to say that Mills looks like a 2-2 corner, and the defense and team look like a 2-2 team. There’s been a lot of inconsistencies all around, but that it’s the job of the team’s coaches to help Mills through that and it’s Mills job to get out of that, but Schwartz has the utmost confidence in the corner and appreciates “a lot of good football” from him over the years.
The defensive coordinator wouldn’t talk about any possible personnel changes — nothing new from Schwartz who typically defers to head coach Doug Pederson for those things. Minutes later he would go on to quote Malcolm Jenkins, “We all we got, we all we need”.
Later on in the press conference, Schwartz was asked about some of the deep passes from Sunday and whether any of them were allowed based on safeties not being in the correct spot. Schwartz noted he didn’t want to get into each and every specific situation or scheme, but some were not played correctly.
He said after looking back at the tape, he felt like the team’s defense played a really good first half, but then in the second half they weren’t consistent at all.
Of each and every player that Schwartz was asked about, he towed the company line that they each have been playing like a 2-2 team. They each had good moments and bad in the first quarter of the season and until that changes, he isn’t really favoring any one over another and any of the positions.
He did say that Sidney Jones has improved a lot, but again is one of those players whose had some errors, contributing to the team’s 50-50 record.
On situational concerns
Schwartz admitted that the fourth down conversions were incredibly disappointing against the Titans.
He acknowledged that 4th and 1s, 4th and inches are tough situations to defend, having to cover seemingly ever piece of grass on the field, and that you can’t expect to win those battles every single time.
“But damned if we shouldn’t expect to win every 4th and 15, and that was probably the biggest disappointment.”
Schwartz pointed out that if that play doesn’t happen, the Eagles probably win the game. And he further noted that there were about six or so plays that if they would have executed properly, would have cemented a win for the team.
“And, obviously we didn’t make the plays to win the game.”
Asked to elaborate on what specifically went wrong on the 4th and 15, Schwartz was succinct in his reply, “our coverage broke down”.
On the loss to the Titans
Schwartz talked about how it was very disappointing loss, especially considering they had a 14 point lead mid-way through the third quarter. He admitted with that type of lead, it’s up to the defense to get the win and they didn’t do enough to stay competitive.
He even pointed to the lead the team had in overtime, and noted that it’s the defenses responsibility to win that game.
Never one to share what he says in private conversations, he did admit that he told the players that they are just one play away from being 3-1, but they are also just two plays away from being 0-4, and they can’t lose sight of that.
On Vikings prep
The final question of Schwartz’s time with reporters was about what he saw from Minnesota this season as they prepare for the rematch in Week 5. He noted that they have a new— albeit still familiar — quarterback, but a lot of the same skill guys.
Minnesota hasn’t developed a robust run game yet this season, but that’s mostly because they’ve either been playing from behind or playing in shoot-outs. They put a bunch of points on the board at least twice this season, and just had one awful game against the Bills — but he admits that was more circumstantial with Buffalo fired up after going 0-2 and losing a player during halftime.
Schwartz said they’ll have to keep the points down in order to win.
On the offensive gameplan against Tennessee
He admitted — as everyone already knows — that the Eagles offense is always looking to play aggressively, and they want to be sound in what they do, but sometimes opponents get the jump on them and force pressure and sacks.
The offensive coordinator was happy to have Alshon Jeffery back, and noted that he obviously provides a matchup advantage for the team, and that he’s a guy that Carson Wentz can always look to and feel comfortable with.
Groh continued that Jeffery is obviously a big part in the plan moving forward, and he did a great job in his first game back.
As a staff they try not to make a gameplan based on personnel but rather based on the scheme they’ll face at the end of the week, but they can run outside zone like they did against the Titans with any of their personnel groups.
He was later asked about Jordan Matthews lining up on the outside and Nelson Agholor staying on the inside, but Groh said they have a lot of confidence in Agholor and he’s been really productive — this year and last — on the inside.
On the run game specifically
Groh said the team is still committed to the run game, but that they got behind schedule and due to other circumstances and some three and outs, were forced to change up their game plan.
Questions were peppered into the rest of his time with the media about whether he has authority to offer suggestions about the number of run plays to Doug Pederson and whether he tried to do so. Groh understood the line of questioning but said a run call is never far from Pederson’s gameplan and it was evidenced late in Sunday’s game when they were still putting the ball on the ground.
He also lauded the head coach for being flexible and patient in regards to calling run plays, and is sure to converse with the staff before and during the game to make sure everyone is on the same page.
On the offensive line
The offensive coordinator wouldn’t agree with some people’s concern about lineman picking up blitzes and blitz recognition. Groh defended his o-line saying they were among the best in the league and he wouldn’t trade any of those guys.
He pointed to opponents doing their homework and preparing for the Eagles and what they bring offensively. Specifically, the Titans had a good pressure scheme and work hard, and were able to get through the line and to Carson Wentz.
Groh didn’t think the offense was tipping anything heading into some of those pressure plays and sacks, but that it was just luck of the draw.
On red zone inefficiency
He was asked about the team being in a position to win, both in the fourth quarter and again in over time, but ultimately being stifled in the red zone. Groh pointed out that they did take the lead in the fourth quarter but ultimately they aren’t getting the kind of production and efficiency that they want.
Obviously, they want to score more touchdowns, and to finish off drives in the endzone. He said they will get back at it again this week and try and put a good game plan together, but they’ll need to execute and make plays.