Despite struggles to stay healthy and TACKLE this season, Jim Schwartz’s Eagles defense was absolutely flying around the field on Sunday against the Rams, and the defensive coordinator seemed to have Sean McVay’s number all night long.
Schwartz spoke to reporters on Tuesday and talked a bit about the rookie phenom Avonte Maddox and what his versatility means to a super-banged up group of guys, and also how the defensive line — and Fletcher Cox — continues to be dominant.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On the win
Schwartz was asked what he liked best from Sunday’s game, and he noted it was the win. But when pressed a little further, he noted that they tackled better, but he thinks that had to do with the team defense more than it did actual tackling. He went on to further point out that there were some missed tackles in that game, but there were other guys around to cover in those situations.
The DC also noted that in previous games this season, they didn’t seem to make plays with the game on the line, but against the Rams they did.
Later on, Schwartz was asked about the ski masks, and the DC talked about how aside from the offensive line, having that unspoken communication and rapport is probably most important for the secondary. He said anything the can do to build camaraderie means a lot.
On Avonte Maddox
Schwartz was asked about the decision to start Maddox on the outside, and the DC explained that Avonte is a multi-dimensional player, noting that he’s started for the Eagles at safety and at nickel this season too.
He did talk about Cre’Von LeBlanc and how he’s still fairly new to the team and he’s been forced to do some work on the outside, but it wasn’t ideal. Schwartz explained that was part of the reason they went with Maddox there, and that he’s got a little more experience.
“I don’t know if we win that game without Avonte though,” Schwartz said.
The DC continued to say that it wasn’t just the interception, but his pass defense and particularly the big tackle within their two-minute drive near the end of the game. He said that was a big time play, and while the highlight reels might show the interception, it was that tackle that really stood out to Schwartz.
He went on to say that it’s all very encouraging to see and that they’ve talked a lot about Avonte, but he played a major part in getting that win.
Schwartz was then asked what position is the best fit for Maddox and — after joking that he can play them all, even linebacker or d-lineman — said that they’ll use him wherever he’s needed at the moment and every week’s been different.
The DC couldn’t begin to list all the different secondary lineups they’ve had this year, but he did say that they missed Maddox when he was out a few weeks back. Schwartz pointed to missing his speed and energy, and said that as long as he’s one of the 11 on the field, they’ll find a spot for him.
Later on, Schwartz talked about Maddox taking snaps on the outside during training camp and the preseason, so it wasn’t like the rookie was thrown to the wolves. If anything, the DC said Maddox made a bigger adjustment against the Titans when he was lining up at safety, so playing corner wasn’t much of a concern and he was up for the challenge.
On Rasul Douglas’ tackling
Schwartz admitted that Rasul struggled with tackling early on in the season, but it’s something he’s really worked on and improved at, and he’s not only made some good tackles lately but he’s also had some really big hits.
He went on to say that they’ve seen what happens when the corners aren’t tackling well and it can make a lot of people look bad, but that Douglas and Maddox made some big contributions in those areas against the Rams.
On the defensive line
When asked what he saw from Fletcher Cox in Sunday’s game, Schwartz noted it’s what they see from him every week.
Schwartz then pointed out a play Cox made in the screen game that was another big time play for the team, and continued to laud his effort in the run game and that he affects protections. The DC also noted that some of the quarterback pressures they had, particularly when Nigel Bradham had a clear lane to Jared Goff, was all because of Cox.
Schwartz also noted that the Rams didn’t like a particular matchup from Cox, so he noted that they were “cheating” and sliding protection over to him and it opened up opportunity for guys like Bradham and Malcolm Jenkins.
He said those kind of plays might not record as a sack or quarterback pressure, but it does get them a third down stop and those are the important things. Schwartz talked about how the things his players do that don’t show up on the stat sheet are some of the things he looks for most.
Later, he talked about Cox being carted off the field, and said that initially when he came back they were only going to use him on third downs. But when he did get back, he didn’t need to be held off the field, so he was back to full-go.
Schwartz talked about guys playing through injuries, but he noted that it’s just that time of year. But, he did note that these guys have a great sense of team. He also talked about how there’s a big different between wanting to play through something and being able to do your job, and not everyone can get back on the field.
On the Texans offense
Schwartz was asked what stands out about Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins, and the DC noted that the top thing would be how good he is at making contested catches. He went on to say that Hopkins must have incredibly strong hands and a knack for getting the ball — some rebounder-type skills.
He also went on to talk about the catch Hopkins made to take the lead near the end of the game, and how the defender couldn’t really cover much better than he did, but Hopkins was able to high-point the ball and was strong enough to squeeze it and come down with it.
Schwartz called Hopkins one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and said that they’ll have to try and find a way to keep them from throwing to him, and when they do throw to him, they’ll have to make a tackle or try and break it up.
Later, he was asked how they prepare for Deshaun Watson, and Schwartz noted just like they do for other mobile quarterback. He mentioned running scramble drills and sometimes using skill players during practice. He joked, that no offense to Nate Sudfeld or those guys, but it doesn’t really look the same when they do it.
Schwartz also said that Watson was really good at extending plays and that will put more pressure on the coverage.