The Eagles’ defense struggled against the Cowboys and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon about some of the issues. He also talked about personnel changes and the tackling issues they had on Sunday.
Schwartz said that they just have to find the formula that works for this group of players and this situation, just like they did last year when they were 4-6. He said the sense of urgency is always there with a 16 game season, but it feels like it did last year when they turned things around. He also noted that it’s not just one thing that needs changed, but more of a philosophical shift and a group of guys who come together.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On Sidney Jones and the CBs
Doug Pederson addressed Jones not playing, despite being healthy, on Monday and emphasized that was just the game plan. Schwartz echoed that sentiment, saying he was in a backup role for the nickel. So, while Craig James saw some snaps when Jalen Mills came off the field, Schwartz noted James was backing up the outside, and Jones was backing up the inside — it so happened that the outside spot needed filled.
The DC didn’t want to pigeon-hole himself with regards to the depth chart, and said that with Orlando Scandrick no longer with the team, that role could be filled by Sidney Jones — that’s where he played last year — but that also Malcolm Jenkins could fill that spot, and they’re still looking to get Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc back, too.
Later on, Schwartz was asked about Jalen Mills and his performance in his first game back.
“It was a tough duty. Now, Jalen has worked extremely hard to workout on the side, but he’s been working with trainers. He hasn’t been able to work with his teammates. He hasn’t been able to stand out there and walk-thru. He’s been great in our meetings, he’s been great in paying attention to all our stuff, but there’s a big difference.”
The DC said that even though Mills was able to return to the practice field last week, there’s still going to be some inconsistencies as he gets back into a rhythm and that’s what you saw against Dallas.
He did want to point out though that Mills’ competitiveness showed, though, particularly on his interception with 10 minutes left to play. Schwartz said that was one of the best interceptions he’s seen during his time in Philly, and it gave the team an opportunity to get back into the game — even if it didn’t work out that way.
Schwartz applauded his never say die attitude and said it was good to have Mills’ energy back on the field and on the sideline.
“He gave up some plays, but all corners do.”
On the addition of 2 DTs
The Eagles picked up two defensive tackles on Monday, Anthony Rush from the Raiders practice squad and Albert Huggins from the Texans practice squad. Schwartz was asked how quickly they’ll be able to play, and the DC did not mince words.
“It’s gonna have to be quick.”
With the two new additions, the Eagles have three healthy defensive tackles, two of whom have never played in the NFL before. Schwartz said it’s part of the challenge that comes up every week, and they had similar situations last season, as well. They were able to find a formula that worked for them and make a run, and they have to do that again.
On the linebackers vs. Dallas
With Nigel Bradham out with injury and Zach Brown no longer with the team, Schwartz was asked about the performance of Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill on Sunday.
“You know me, we’re bottom line, not good enough to win. And that’s not just the linebackers, it’s not just the defensive tackles or the corner or the nickel position. It’s us as a defensive unit, that’s us as a team.
But that’s part of what the NFL is, is having injuries, replacing guys. I mean, that’s part of the challenge that we love as coaches, and that’s part of the opportunity for players. We just weren’t good enough and we gotta be better.”
On the tackling this week
Schwartz was quick to point out that the tackling was poor on Sunday against the Cowboys. He said that was due to the combination of a couple things, including Dallas having some good, elusive running backs and strong (particularly Ezekiel Elliott). Not all of the missed tackles were due to bad angles, but he did see some bad open-field angles. He said they also have to do a better job of doing team defense.
The DC said that some of the games where they have looked their best, they’ve missed probably just as many tackles, but the next guy on the field makes the play. He doesn’t want to blame lineup changes or injuries, that’s all part of the game, but playing good team defense often translates to tackling well.
On skill sets for blitzing
“There’s a couple different parts of that. I think that there’s different kinds of blitzes. There’s run blitzes, which are generally power blitzes, and you need thick guys that can go blow up run gaps and get penetration and things like that. And then you have 3rd down blitzes, which are a lot more “make you miss” blitzes. Guys sort of head faking a guy, and trying to make a guy miss. And just, honestly, we’re probably more built right now for the “make you miss” blitzes as opposed to the sort of power, run blitzes.”
On Josh Allen and the Bills
Schwartz said that Buffalo has kind of flown under the radar as a team that can utilize their quarterback like a Cam Newton or Lamar Jackson. They have a lot of quarterback designed runs and RPOs, and they have a more varied run game than most of the teams they’ve faced. Plus, Allen is able to extend plays, so the Eagles’ defense needs to not only be able to cover, but to pass rush well enough to keep him contained.