Keep It Simple Stupid. We all know the phrase. It’s what the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles had to do against a New York Giants’ offense that was shredding them. Perhaps Jim Schwartz knew it already, but getting some advice from veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins definitely helped.
With a banged up secondary largely fielding players from off the street and the practice squad, the Eagles’ struggles on Sunday exploded into two chunk plays that nearly put them out of the game.
This is the play that made Malcolm Jenkins go to Jim Schwartz and tell him to simplify things.. watch Chandon Sullivan pic.twitter.com/PrbhbUKRCn— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 26, 2018
The play above is reportedly what motivated Jenkins to ask Schwartz to simplify the defense. As you can surely see, Chandon Sullivan gets lost in the sauce. Maybe he thinks he’s got “crack-replace” duties; I’m not totally sure. Regardless of the reason, the pitch-and-catch from Eli Manning to Rhett Ellison resulted in a 20-yard gain and the writing was on the wall. Adjustments absolutely needed to be made, and fast.
Unfortunately Jenkins couldn’t get to Schwartz sooner because two plays later rookie running back Saquon Barkley took a 51-yard run the house. The play featured another breakdown as two players occupied the same gap.
That touchdown, featuring Brandon Graham and Cre’von LeBlanc occupying the same gap, would put the Eagles down 19-3.
“We were kinda on our heels the whole first half and it just got to the point where we said ‘look, we know we got guys in the back-end that are scrambling a little bit. The Giants are going hurry-up offense and putting us in a bind to communicate. It’s loud. So just give us something simple and we’ll put the pressure on our [defensive line] to take over.’” - Malcolm Jenkins
To his credit, Schwartz took the advice to simplify the play-calls and the fortunes of the defense turned around.
Jenkins would snag an interception before the half and the Giants would only gain 56 yards and score 3 points after that. The offense gained it’s sea legs late in the 1st half and continued rolling, completing a comeback that resulted in a 25-22 win.
Simplifying the scheme wasn’t the only adjustment Schwartz made. His highly criticized “Picket Fence” defense got a modification as well, one that would result in two stops well short of the sticks.
Jim Schwartz w/a slight adjustment to his "Picket Fence".— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 26, 2018
Normally rushes 4.. here there's 3 DL which adds an extra defender to the strength of the formation. Allows Kamu to come downhill immediately - pic.twitter.com/keMNdbgdhK
We’ll see how the rest of the season plays out for Schwartz. If he can continue this positive trend by allowing his players to think less and focus on making the play in front of them, the Eagles may have a shot at the NFC East. Playing simple, base defense and forcing Washington Redskins’ quarterback Colt McCoy to beat them seems like the safe bet. Not to look past the Redskins, but the real tests on the schedule come after that.