The Eagles’ defense left much to be desired against the Cowboys in Week 10, and despite a few much-needed three-and-outs, there were some glaring issues. Sure, the cornerback position was thin to begin with, but once Ronald Darby went out with a torn ACL in the third quarter, things went from bad to bleak.
Eagles fans have lined up with their tar and feathers, and are making a beeline for the team’s defensive coordinator.
Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon, and here’s what the DC had to say:
On CB depth and future plans
Schwartz opened by addressing the state of the cornerback position, and he noted not to get cliche, but “it is what it is”. He went on to say that they’ve got some guys who are hurt, some guys who are working hard to get back, and some young guys who need to fill in and make their way in the league. The DC also noted that they have guys who aren’t able to come back this season, like Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod.
He went on to say that their job as coaches is to put together the best plan for the group of guys that they do have and finding ways to be successful, noting that things might look different than they did when they were at 100% strength.
Later on he was asked about Rasul Douglas and what the team needs from him in order to take on a bigger role in the defense and how he performed against the Cowboys. Schwartz said that Douglas played like a 27-20 loss on Sunday — he elaborated that that’s how the team played, how the defense played, and how Douglas as an individual played. He also said that would be the analysis for any of the guys who took snaps on defense on Sunday.
“We all need to play better. We all need to play the pass better. We all need to tackle better.”
Schwartz did however say that Douglas has a lot of pride and a lot of confidence, and he’ll bounce back.
He also said there wasn’t too much to the rotation at safety between Tre Sullivan and Corey Graham. Schwartz explained that with Graham coming back from a hamstring injury, they didn’t want to overload him with too many snaps right in a row.
Schwartz was later asked if they get Sidney Jones back this week, if they’d line him up in the nickel or on the outside, and the DC noted that they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. They’ll have to see where he is in practice this week, but he does have experience in both.
On failures against Dallas
He was asked about the fourth-quarter scoring the past few weeks, and how they can prevent that late-game push. Schwartz pointed to so many of those being the results of a single play in a drive, and that they are typically things that they can stop but aren’t making the plays.
Schwartz went on to say that some of these trends are just happen-stance — citing trends of giving up points in the first half during 2016, and being better at home vs. away — but that the overall trend of giving up points in the fourth quarter is that they need to find a way to finish.
He also said they need to make the plays when they count, something they haven’t done this season, and that’s why they are 4-5. He continued that whether it’s against Carolina or last week against Dallas, the players need to make plays and finish strong.
Schwartz also admitted that the Eagles defense wasn’t lined up and ready to go during Dallas’ QB sneak on Sunday. He went on to say that they didn’t have proper coverage of the A and B gaps and there was some misalignment as well that gave them an easy score. That particular play was hard to swallow for the DC because it wasn’t due to being overpowered, but rather them just not being set — and it wasn’t a timing thing, he said they had plenty of time to make the call, but they weren’t able to get it all set.
Later on, he said that he thought they had rushed really well on Sunday. Schwartz went on to say that there were a lot of blitzes in their gameplan that he later on ended up scratching because they didn’t make sense, and they needed more help in coverage.
The defensive coordinator said he wasn’t as disappointed in the pass rush throughout the game as he was in the run defense. He elaborated that his issues weren’t just with the defensive line, but also with the linebackers and defensive backs, and the defensive coordinator and position coaches. If anything, the run defense was the most disappointing and the area where it probably most-looked like they were getting run over.
A reporter then noted that “from my vantage point” the tackling hasn’t been as good this season, and Schwartz quipped, “you’ve got a pretty good vantage point”. And before the reporter could even get out the question about whether Schwartz agreed, the DC said “yes”.
Schwartz went on to say that tackling is made up of a few different things, like playing fast and playing with confidence, so when they aren’t doing those things the tackling suffers.
He went on to say that last year they probably missed the same number of tackles, but the difference is that they were flying around so fast and guys were covering each other up, that you were getting different results. He pointed out that he doesn’t just look at one-on-one matchups when evaluating tackles, but also assesses who is around to help in those situations as well.
On (lack of) turnovers
He was asked what he attributes to the lack of forced turnovers this season, but Schwartz noted that while reporters were focused on turnovers, he was focused on stopping the run.
Later on he emphasized that turnovers were one of his two most important stats, and did talk about Kamu’s change to have a pick-6 early in the game — despite him playing with a half cast. Schwartz pointed to that as an opportunity to really get the momentum on their side, and they weren’t able to make it happen.
He went on to clarify that they can’t go hunting for those plays — when you do, you start looking bad in coverage and opening up gaps —, but that they need to make them when they present themselves.
On Saints prep
He was asked how they plan to stop Drew Brees who has an incredibly low incompletion and sack rate this season. Schwartz noted that Brees is playing at an elite level right now, but that it’s also indicative of the way the NFL is trending.
The DC went on to explain that when he was a kid, quarterbacks who made 50% of their passes and had an even touchdown to interception ratio were considered good. But he noted that Brees is part of the reason that the trend now considers a 70% completion rate successful.
Schwartz went on to list all the attributes that make Brees an elite quarterback, and mentioned that he’s smart and still has decent mobility. He also pointed to the talent that he has around him, and noted that lost in the shuffle is that they are a great run offense too — and lauded the Saints offensive line and both of their rushers.
He went on to say that it’s no wonder they are the No. 1 scoring offense in the league right now.
On his play-calling evaluations
One thing of note, Schwartz mentioned that he always watches the film back three times. The first time he evaluates the scheme, the second time he pays attention to individual players and how they play within the scheme, and then the third time he looks at each call and whether it was effective and whether there was a better option.