The Eagles are moving on from their Week 3 win over the Colts and are now setting their sites on the Titans. Coordinators Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh spoke to the media on Tuesday about everything from the roughing the passer penalties to how they are preparing for the Titans.
Here’s what the defensive and offensive coordinators had to say:
On the roughing the passer penalties
One of the big storylines the past few weeks have been the new rules about hitting the quarterback, resulting in significantly more — and questionable — roughing the passer penalties. Schwartz was asked how he coaches his players to avoid those flags, and the DC admitted it’s challenging.
He talked about the small target area that defenders have to work with for a legal hit, and how it’s difficult for these big guys to avoid a call for landing on a guy with their body weight. Schwartz pointed out that it becomes even more complicated with the influx of scrambling quarterbacks, with defenders trying to make the tackle but then to also be careful not to let their weight fall on the QB during the hit.
Schwartz said it’s not their job to make the rules, but it’s on them to figure out a way around them. He said there are ways to work around it, and his players can try and spin out of the tackle, but ultimately you’re still going to have those called sometimes because it’s not always possible to avoid landing with their full weight.
He did point out that as the NFL tries to make things safer for the quarterback, the result is seeing more mobile quarterbacks, which in turn makes it more difficult because they you’re trying to tackle them like running backs. Schwartz noted that when a quarterback is in the pocket, it’s a little easier for the defender to try and control the action, but on the run it’s more challenging.
When asked if he thought the rule should be changed, Schwartz quipped, “Well yeah, I’d like to revamp a lot of rules.”
And after listing several standard calls he wished would be different, he acknowledged it’s not on the coaches to make the rules or to write the rule book, but it is their job to do their best to follow the rules as they are laid out.
He admitted it’s a tough job to be officiating these rules too, and it’s difficult for them to keep up with Olympic speed running down the field. Schwartz said the whole game of football is built on things that are difficult and that’s just how it is.
On defensive scheme
Schwartz was asked about the defense regularly being more dominant in the second half, but the defensive coordinator was quick to shoot down any thoughts about making halftime adjustments. He pointed out that they adjust after every series, and being better in the second half probably has more to do with having smart players who rarely make the same mistake twice.
He was also asked about the team’s red zone efficiency and it being emphasized in practice. Schwartz noted that there isn’t anything special they do to prepare, but that they include different looks during practice.
“Game plan isn’t in the off-season. That’s during the season. There haven’t been any restraints on the hours we can work now. I think a lot of it just goes into our players put a lot of time into preparation. We’re pretty consistent in our scheme. They know exactly what to do.”
He specifically pointed out being impressed with the team’s temperament when the ball gets close to the endzone — the players don’t panic, and get the job done.
Schwartz was also asked about Jalen Mills and the pass interference calls against him on Sunday, but the DC noted that there is some things they can coach up. Ultimately though, Mills’ had a great game — particularly in the red zone — and had much better technique than he had against the Bucs in Week 2.
He also went into detail about the development of Derek Barnett:
“He’s been a consistent player for us. He hasn’t been a one-dimensional guy. He’s been good against the run and good against the pass. He made a great play on the jet sweep in this last game. It’s a tough play for a defensive end to make, but he slowed the guy down enough we were able to get a tackle for minus one or for zero. That was a big play for him. So it’s not just pass rush that he’s judged on.”
A lot has been made this week about the number of snaps Fletcher Cox was lining up for, but Schwartz shot that down as anything other than circumstance. He pointed to seeing fewer snaps overall on defense through the first three games, and that it could be an issue in the long term but for now, it’s not something he or the coaches are concerned with.
On Titans prep
Schwartz talked about how prepping for a mobile quarterback like Marcus Mariota was more challenging, and how those are the types of guys you have to play like running backs. He talked about how it forces the defense to play clean, and to really be disciplined in the pass rush because you can’t just concentrate on one thing.
“It’s not just zone read and sort of designed runs. He’s a really efficient, bootleg quarterback. Get him on the move, and he can really stretch your defense with his speed. He’s not easing into his boots, he’s running. Looks like a 40-yard dash he’s running so fast.”
He was asked about facing the run-heavy offense by the Titans, but Schwartz quipped that a run-heavy offense used to be 45 rushes a game, and now you’re talking 25-30. He said it’s no different in how they’d prepare for any other offense, and that it’s their job to stop whatever scheme the Titans are throwing at them.
He said he’s leave the injury updates to Doug Pederson, particularly in reference to Rodney McLeod, but that they have a Plan B for every player in case they are aren’t able to play.
On Carson Wentz’s performance
Groh finally had his QB1 back last Sunday, and the OC said he looked like the same old Carson. He pointed out that they expected a lot from him in his first game back, but they had seen him in practice and weren’t concerned with him being full-go.
He didn’t think the two turnovers in the red zone were caused by any kind of rust for the quarterback. Groh noted that Wentz was locked in to Zach Ertz on the first pick, and that the Colts’ linebacker just got the read on him. The second was another where Wentz saw a lane to Ertz that ended up being deflected. Obviously not ideal, but something Groh said they can clean up.
Groh doesn’t anticipate ramping up the number of quarterback rushes or the workload that Wentz will take on in the coming weeks, and that he isn’t limited and they didn’t play call like he was against the Colts.
He was asked if the five sacks were a result of Wentz holding on to the ball too long — something mentioned as a factor by Pederson on Monday — but Groh didn’t pinpoint the quarterback specifically.
“There are lots of different reasons why those things happen. Obviously five [sacks] is five more than we would like, but they’re part of the game and we’ve got to be able to overcome them, too.”
He also noted that the team does have a target completion rate for their quarterbacks — about 70% — but that it’s difficult to stick to a certain number when there are situational factors that might mean more.
On the tight ends and receivers
Groh lauded rookie Dallas Goedert’s blocking in last Sunday’s game, noting that he was a big factor in some of the running success they had, including some combination blocks with tackles.
“As we continue to move through the season and progress, and Dallas [TE Dallas Goedert] continues to get more experience, we think he’s going to be a very good on-the-line tight end. Obviously he’s a big target down the field. He’s easy to find and he can elevate and make plays above the rim, too. He’s got really strong hands. He’s just three games in [to his NFL career], so we’ll continue to put more and more on his plate, but he’s done a nice job with what we have asked him to do.”
He also talked about Josh Perkins, and while he’s fought through some injuries that made it tough for the team to evaluate his performance pre-season, they had evaluated him enough in Atlanta to know that they could utilize him right away. Not only on offense as a big bodied receiver, but also on special teams.
The OC talked about Jordan Matthews and lauded him for being able to come in and in only three days get out onto the field and be productive. He pointed out that the familiarity definitely helps and they are excited to have him. The coaches will continue to incorporate him into their game planning.
On Titans prep
Groh was asked about Tennessee’s defense stifling the Jaguars in Week 3 to just six points, and how they plan to counter their attack. He pointed out that it’s challenging when going up against a veteran-filled group and they’ve got multiple fronts and multiple coverages that they use.
“They play well as a unit. They are playing really good team defense, rallying to the football, keeping everything in front, and making [offenses] go the long, hard way.”
He also talked about Titans CB Malcolm Butler, and how he’s the type of defender that’s going to get right up on your nose and be very physical at the line of scrimmage. Groh also talked about Butler being a little more motivated in this outing having missed the teams last meetup.