The Philadelphia Eagles defense was mediocre against the Cowboys on Sunday, but with injuries absolutely demolishing players at all three levels, it could have been worse. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz talked to the media on Tuesday — despite Doug Pederson giving the players a day off — and spoke about his heartbreak for Rasul Douglas and how he evaluates Sidney Jones after an up and down career.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On number of defensive snaps
Schwartz was asked about how the number of snaps on defense against the Cowboys affected the players, but the DC noted they’ve had games on both sides of the spectrum in terms of defensive snaps, but regardless it’s their job to get a stop on every drive, so they can’t worry about number of snaps.
He did point out that for some guys, especially those filling in for injured players, but others as well are also lining up on special teams which does add some challenges, including some guys who are lining up for every single defensive and special teams snap. Schwartz quipped though, “that’s what we get paid for,” and it doesn’t matter if it’s 40 snaps or 100 snaps, that’s their job.
Later on, Schwartz was asked about Michael Bennett playing at such a high level, particularly at his age, and the DC noted that he’s another guy who has battled through some injuries and that the team is all-hands on deck. But, he did elaborate, and said that Bennett is very productive rushing the passer and he’s made some big plays for the season.
On Rasul Douglas and the final play Sunday
Schwartz admitted his heart breaks for Douglas after that last play in overtime against Dallas because he took points off the board earlier in the game and made some really good tackles and plays throughout the contest. The DC said that if Douglas made that final stop, he had the type of game that could go up for NFC Player of the Week.
But, he wasn’t able to make it.
Schwartz did go on to say that the past few weeks, Douglas has had some bounce-back games, pointing out that he’s been most happy with the way that Douglas has tackled — something he struggled with early in the season. The DC went on to say that Douglas is playing physical and a little bit of confidence, but it was unfortunate how Sunday’s game ended.
He elaborated that while you have to have a short memory as a corner, there weren’t any plays for Douglas to bounce back from after the game-winning score. But, the DC said he doesn’t really worry about Rasul’s confidence moving forward, and that putting those kinds of things behind him is something he’s good at.
Schwartz also said he’s been impressed with how Douglas has fought through various challenges this season and thinks he’ll continue on the right track.
On Sidney Jones and his hamstring
Schwartz was asked about Jones and him saying that he was battling a hamstring injury throughout the game, and how he as the DC makes the decision whether or not to utilize a player in an already thin position group.
He answered that Jones was having a good game tackling-wise early in the game, and a good pass breakup, but then his hamstring started acting up so he went to visit the trainers who worked on him and then thought he was ready to return in the second half.
When he returned, Schwartz pointed out that Jones made a couple more nice plays for them, but then it became obvious that he wasn’t running the way that he could. Schwartz did say though, that he didn’t think that was the issue during the touchdown, and that Jones was in position but the Cowboys just made a good play.
After that though, the DC noted it was clear that Jones needed to come out and couldn’t keep up the way he needed to. But, Schwartz did say that he’s another guy who just wants to do whatever he can to help his team, especially given their current roster situation, which includes battling through some injuries like that if they’re able.
Schwartz was then asked how he evaluates a player like that whose been so up and down during his career. The DC went on to explain that he looks at Jones like any other young player who has battled through injuries, although he does take the 2017 season off the table because they knew what they were getting into ahead of time.
“We bought that issue, so we certainly don’t hold that against him in any kind of way,” Schwartz noted.
He continued to talk about how the worst time to get injured is when players are new to a team, and especially with high draft picks, they’re looked at differently in terms of expectations. Schwartz said that Jones played really well in the nickel early in the season and that by this point he thought that Jones would be where he needed to be. But due to his injuries and the injuries of others that forced him to move around a bit, have kept that development stalled.
“We’ll be patient with it,” the defensive coordinator noted.
On Jalen Mills’ contributions
Schwartz lauded the cornerback’s leadership and commitment to the team and noted that even though he’s not going to be back this season, that he’s still finding ways to contribute — as evidenced by him talking to both offensive and defensive teammates on the sidelines and in-between plays.
On Rams prep
Schwartz talked about the Rams staying in 11-personnel most of the time — even in short yardage and goal line situations — and aren’t really a team that substitutes very often. And they also don’t have a lot of situational subs, which will make things a little more challenging for the Eagles defense. Schwartz said it’ll force them to be a little more “surgical” with their substitutions, particularly on third down.
The DC went on to talk about how what they do tempo-wise is just as important as the talent they have lining up for them, and that it’s important for the Eagles defense to communicate effectively and quickly in order to not get caught behind when they come out of the huddle.
Schwartz also explained how a lot of the Rams personnel is interchangeable, and that their tight ends can be used as receivers, and the wide receivers can line up to block. So even though they are in one personnel groups, it plays like four different groups because they are so interchangeable.
He talked a bit about how it’s more difficult to try and mask what they are doing defensively because of their tempo out of the huddle, and there just isn’t much time to disguise their call.
The coordinator was asked about what he took from the Lions and Bears defense against the Rams, and Schwartz noted that the two teams took different approaches — including those both being road games for the Rams compared to playing the Eagles at home on Sunday.
But aside from that, Schwartz said that it’s becoming clear how much good pressure can change things. He cited Khalil Mack for the Bears as being a wrecking crew against the Rams, but that the Eagles have guys who can do that too. Schwartz also noted that the Bears did a good job of limiting big plays from a team that has been pretty explosive in that area this season.
On the botched fumble recovery call
Schwartz had implied early in his press conference that every play, including the fumble recovery that wasn’t called for the Eagles, could be the play the tipped the scales to a win. Later he was asked to elaborate, and he noted that officiating is not for him to comment on.
He went on to explain that it wasn’t ruled a fumble on the field, so when it was reviewed, they had to establish that it was a fumble but they needed to see clear recovery. And while it was pretty obvious that the Eagles had the ball, you couldn’t see the clear recovery on the film.
Schwartz said that if they would have called it a fumble on the field, they would have probably gotten the ball at that point, but they didn’t and needed clear recovery to change things.