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Jim Schwartz explains Eagles’ defensive collapse against Panthers

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Plus, the defensive coordinator talks Doug Marrone and the type of head coach he is in Jacksonville.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was reluctant to point the finger at any one group or player following their fourth quarter collapse in Week 7, and rather said there were problems that needed addressed in all three phases of their game.

Those sentiments were echoed on Tuesday afternoon, when coordinators Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh spoke to the media about Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, and what his concerns were after seeing the performance.

Here’s what the defensive and offensive coordinators had to say:

Jim Schwartz

On the 4th quarter collapse

Schwartz said in each of the drives, there was one or two plays that they missed on. He noted that has been the case here and there throughout the season, and in years past, they’ve been able to make up for those and make a play later on, but that just hasn’t been happening for them this season.

He went on to say that, despite him not being a big stat guy, the team isn’t getting many takeaways. Schwartz was sure to note the difference in trying to force takeaways, which could be another problem if guys are trying too hard, and they start giving up plays when they push too much.

“There’s two things we can do as a defense: One is hold the score down, and number two is put our offense in position to score or score ourselves, and that was a common theme for us last year.”

Schwartz went on to say that there were a couple of times when the difference between a turnover was just a couple of inches, including the 4th and 10 play. He said this is a game of inches, and it doesn’t change the win or loss, but it’s notable that they’ve been close and they need to find a way to make those plays without pressing.

When asked about what changed in the fourth quarter, Schwartz noted this isn’t the first time it’s happened — even citing some matchups similar to this in 2017, like against the Giants — and that sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opponent, and there’s a bit of humility in doing that.

He went on to say that he has a lot of respect for what Cam Newton was able to do in that game, especially coming back from what started out as one of the worst games of his career.

Schwartz then said they didn’t make any notable changes in coverage heading into the fourth quarter against the Panthers, and that the biggest change was probably blitzing a lot more, more than the first three quarters combined. He noted they were just trying to make a stop at that point.

On preparing for Jacksonville

He was asked about what he learned about Doug Marrone when he was back in Buffalo, and he said that he has a lot of respect for the Jags head coach, and that he’s a football guy through and through. He talked a little about how Marrone was a Bill Parcells disciple and a tough-minded guy.

Schwartz went on to talk about how Marrone has an offensive background, and either last year or this year, when asked what he wanted his run-pass ratio to be, answered “100%”. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator quipped that’s about all you need to know about Marrone to know what kind of coach he is.

He went on to say that the tough football mentality is probably what got the team to the playoffs last season, and that’s ultimately what they want their team to be — but then noted a long list of injuries to critical players in keeping that from being their reality. But you get those guys back, and it changes things.

On personnel decisions

On signing Dexter McDougle, Schwartz noted that he was with the team last year and was the backup nickel. With Sidney Jones week-to-week they thought it was best to plug and play one guy in there versus moving a bunch of guys around.

He went on to say that McDougle did a good job in coverage — he would like to see his tackling cleaned up a little bit, but that’s the cost of business with a guy who hasn’t played in a month or so, and likened that to getting through the first preseason games.

Schwartz was sure to point out that he wasn’t singling McDougle out for his tackling either, but that he’d like to see the defense as a whole get better in that particular area — especially to stop some of the yards after catch.

The DC has also been asked throughout the season about the sustainability of Fletcher Cox’s workload and increased snap count. Schwartz was quick to be sure that everyone knew that Cox had worked really hard to put himself in a position to take on that extra responsibility.

He also noted that the DT position was a lot different last season too. Last year, they were running a four-guy rotation, and this year it’s Cox and two guys who have been on the practice squad at some point this season. Schwartz also said that there weren’t an incredible number of defensive snaps through the first three quarters on Sunday, either.

Schwartz was asked about the team’s decision not to play Rasul Douglas on Sunday, and the DC noted it was because he isn’t a safety. Douglas got snaps against the Giants because that was the team’s emergency situation, but that wasn’t the longterm plan, and it wasn’t ideal then either.

He also agreed that Rasul’s skill set lends to him being a successful outside corner. Schwartz noted that he can play in different areas, but if the outside corner position is probably the best place for him.

Schwartz also noted that they haven’t made any big moves throughout the roster because Sidney Jones is week-to-week. He admitted that he’d likely re-evaluate that if Jones was expected to miss the rest of the season, but for now, they aren’t making any sweeping moves to where guys are lining up.

Mike Groh

He was asked about whether they were looking to spread the ball around more, especially with over 50% of the targets going to Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz the past few weeks. Groh noted that they’d like to do a better job of getting the ball to other players, but Jeffery and Ertz have been productive, and have been able to get themselves open — plus, they’re two guys Carson Wentz trusts.

Groh was then asked if he’d like to get the running backs more involved in the passing game, to which he replied, yes. He said that he knows those guys can take short throws and make some big things happen from them. He says it’s a week-to-week thing.

On the lack of scoring and production in the redzone, Groh noted that it’s a lot of self-inflicted issues with penalties ruining what would otherwise be good drives. He pointed to the 1st and Goal becoming a 1st and 25, and getting into field goal range and then being pushed back, as examples of missed opportunities.

He was later asked whether he coaches Wentz to sometimes take what given on a read versus trying to force a play that’s not there, and of course Groh said he did. He also noted that Wentz is an aggressive minded quarterback, and while he might decide to let the system work and take what he can, that tendency to create something will always be there.

Groh was also asked about rotating weapons this weekend specifically, when trying to go up against the Jaguars talented secondary. He re-emphasized that they want to spread the ball around and they need to be able to do that against the Jacksonville defense — who has a reputation to have an excellent secondary, strong up front and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.

He went on to say they have good players in the huddle and just need to try and find the best matchups on Sunday.