The Eagles defense had a much better game against Washington on Monday night, but despite some of the bright spots, there were also some considerable errors — particularly with stopping Adrian Peterson. Jim Schwartz talked to reporters on Wednesday about his thoughts on defending the run and what they are prepared to face against Dallas on Sunday.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On the secondary
Schwartz wouldn’t comment about whether Avonte Maddox would come back as a safety or a cornerback if he were to be ready to return on Sunday. The DC said they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. (The guess here is he’ll be back at safety with Cre’Von LeBlanc playing the slot.)
He was asked about Rasul Douglas making a big play against Chris Thompson, and Schwartz said that was a critical play, and while he didn’t think Thompson would have taken it all the way, it definitely would have been a big chunk play. He said that Douglas was the last line of defense and was able to bring down a physical back.
Schwartz talked about how making those types of plays can gives players confidence and with more confidence they may play a little more free when they’re on the field, but that it was a good play by Douglas — and that he did his job — and it’s something he can build off.
On the linebackers
Schwartz didn’t really say much about being with Jordan Hicks, and that as with all their other positions, it’s about the next man up. He said that they wouldn’t put anyone on the field who they felt couldn’t do the job they were tasked with, and the same goes for Nate Gerry in that MIKE role.
He was then asked if he’d have to change anything schematically if they had two guys on the field playing with only one good hand each. Schwartz said not really, and went on to say that he wouldn’t classify any of the guys right now with just one hand — using Kamu Grugier-Hill playing with a cast in London and the game after as an example.
On defending Washington’s run game
As he’s answered often in the past, when asked about the team’s run defense on Monday, Schwartz said it looked like they were a 6-6 team, but when asked about the Washington game specifically, he said that aspect looked like a win.
He went on to say that their first goal every week is to win, but that on Monday they did know that with their No. 3 quarterback taking snaps that the run game would be an important part of Washington’s game plan.
Schwartz continued and admitted there were some good things, but also that they 90-yard run was not a good thing. He went on to say that when you give up a long run like that, it’s very rarely just one guy who made a mistake — unlike a long pass that you could maybe put on one guy’s error — and there were mistakes made at all three levels on that play.
The DC did say that he was proud of the guys for rallying together after they gave up that score, and they didn’t let one bad play become another, or let things get away from them.
Schwartz then told a story about Adrian Peterson pulling a similar move against his defense when he was in Detroit, but that he’s got a lot of respect for Peterson and Chris Thompson.
He also said that the Eagles defense get down on themselves on the sideline, and said it’s different if you can’t identify what the problem was, but with Monday night’s play it was easy to pinpoint. When there’s an easy fix to a problem, it helps to not take away their confidence.
On Ezekiel Elliott
Schwartz was asked what the difference between rushers like Saquan Barkley and Adrian Peterson are compared to Ezekiel Elliott (who they’ll face Sunday). The DC noted that they’re all great in their own right, but that Elliott is so strong that he’s hard to tackle one-on-one.
He went on to mention that Elliott has enough speed to get to the edge to get big plays, but that he’s so strong that Dallas doesn’t really have to be complicated in their run game. The Cowboys can just hand Elliott the ball and if there happens to be an extra guy, he typically just runs through them or makes them miss.
Schwartz noted that Elliott has also increased his role in Dallas’ passing game as well, and is a dangerous screen runner. He wrapped up by saying that it’s obvious Elliott is one of the best rushers in the league and if the Eagles want to get a win, they’ll have to focus on stopping him.
On the rest of Dallas’ offense
Schwartz pointed out that the Cowboys are not a one-trick pony and that quarterback Dak Prescott takes a pro-active stance when it comes to scrambling for first downs.
He also noted that adding Amari Cooper has added to the team’s passing game, and Dallas is one of those teams that you can’t put too much emphasis on any one player or it’ll leave another guy open.
“They’ve been playing at an efficient level.”
Later on, he was asked about the key to stopping Prescott, and he noted first of all that quarterbacks aren’t often on the run if they have players open down field. So, when you do have guys covered, you then have to be more prepared and ready at the other levels of the defense, which includes keeping an eye on the QB and having good distribution of the pass rush, and then be able to get guys on the ground.