The Eagles’ defense was a lot more productive on Sunday against the Bills, with veterans Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox really rising to the occasion. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday about the team’s pass rush, the addition of Genard Avery, and areas they still need to improve.
Schwartz talked a bit about how this was the first game we saw the offense and defense work together. When the defense turned it over, the offense turned it into points. When there was the turnover during the punt return, the defense was able to get a quick stop.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On trade for Genard Avery
“Mainly, the exposure I had was last year. As a rookie he did some productive things. He gave them [Cleveland Browns] some speed off the edge, was a productive sacker.”
Schwartz noted that he wasn’t playing very much this year, but often times when there’s a new head coach, there’s a change in scheme and some players fit better than others. He said that they were excited to have Avery, and he had some success as a pass rusher, so they’ll work to get him up to speed.
Avery has some experience as a linebacker as well, but Schwartz confirmed he’ll be more of a defensive end for the Eagles. The DC was asked if Avery will be used in more of a sub-package role, and Schwartz said they’re not sure yet.
“We’ll see where it goes, but he is strong — he’s not the tallest guy in the world, but he is sort of thick and strong. Brandon Graham is sort of the same way, so he’s not quite as heavy as Brandon, but the way we play those edges, I think he can be successful in our run defense as well as pass.”
On the pass rush
Schwartz has said in past weeks that you can judge the success of the defense based on the number of sacks, and he wasn’t willing to give the defense too much credit for getting to the quarterback more often last Sunday. The DC noted that they missed on quite a few against the Bills, so it’s hard to call it productive.
He said they were productive in terms of getting the quarterback off on his timing, and the pass rush saved a few plays that were developing from becoming big gains. Schwartz said there’s a lot of ways to have a successful pass rush that isn’t recorded in sacks, and that they’re still a work in progress in that area.
The DC noted that they are improving though, and you’re seeing Fletcher Cox be more impactful. Schwartz said that it very well could have been a 3.5 sack game for Cox based on his performance. So, it was a productive week on that end, but there’s “still meat on that bone”.
He later clarified that Brandon Graham’s big play wasn’t a strip sack, because it was a designed run — which Schwartz noted the Bills had a lot of, and trying to take down Josh Allen was like taking down a rusher.
On 3rd and long
Schwartz said that on two of the 3rd and long situations on Sunday — there were 11 men on the field — that the coverage got a little too impatient. The Bills’ QB, Josh Allen, started scrambling and they pushed forward, rather than staying disciplined in coverage.
On the other instance, he liked seeing Vinny Curry make an adjustment to a scheme they hadn’t seen before to get the stop on 3rd and 10.
On the secondary
Schwartz said that having Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills back gave them some flexibility on Sunday against Buffalo. He said the only help for the corners in that game was from Mother Nature — and that they instead gave help to the inside of the field and getting to the quarterback.
“But, they both battled, and not only enabled us to play the rest of that scheme, but I thought they did a good job tackling and limiting some plays after that. And, we were able to pick up some stops along the way and keep the score down.”
On the linebackers
Schwartz said they called some 4-linebacker looks to match the Bills personnel — lots of two tight ends, two backs packages. But, he noted that they saw a lot of good things from Duke Riley and TJ Edwards on Sunday, which was encouraging.
On comments about Malcolm Jenkins
“We got a lot of confidence in Malcolm. Malcolm’s played a lot of games for us. Criticism comes with this job, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a coach, personnel, everybody. Criticism is part of the thing. Bottom line is going out and getting wins. You get wins, and everything’s great, and you lose and everybody’s gonna look at the different reasons why you’re losing.
We have confidence in all the guys in our locker room. I’ve said it a million times, if you’re on our 53 we have confidence in you, if you’re on our 46 we have confidence in you. We try and act accordingly.”