The Eagles defense notched 10 sacks and two scores on Sunday against the Jets, and really seemed to find their rhythm (and swagger). Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to the media on Tuesday about the blitzes and sacks, and what they are expecting from the Vikings this weekend.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On blitzes and sacks against the Jets
It was pointed out that the Eagles defense blitzed 16 times last Sunday, but Schwartz said that he doesn’t count them. That’s just how the game worked out, and every game is a little different.
“I thought the guys did a good job of executing the call that was made.”
Schwartz was also asked about the decision to rush Brandon Graham more on the inside, and the DC noted that the matchup had a lot to do with it and also pointed out that Graham was mostly used in that way on third down. They liked some of his leverage matchups, and things like that.
He went on to talk about how one of the things he was most impressed with from Sunday’s game was the first defensive drive and how strong it was. Schwartz mentioned that they haven’t gotten off to fast starts much this season, but they expected Jets’ RB Le’Veon Bell to carry a load and they were able to limit his effectiveness on the first two runs and then follow that up with a sack. He said that Brandon Graham did a great job setting the tone on that.
On the topic of blitzes, Schwartz also mentioned that Orlando Scandrick is a savvy guy, a smart football player, and someone who has been around. It wasn’t so much that they utilized him because of his experience, but something scheme-wise that he’s good at. Schwartz pointed out that Scandrick did a good job in coverage that game as well, and also tackled well.
Regarding the play in which Scandrick had the strip sack, recovery, and touchdown, Schwartz wanted to point out that the coverage “did an outstanding job” in keeping everyone covered, leaving the Jets’ QB nowhere to go with the ball. That gave the Eagles defense more time to get to him, because, the DC noted, they picked up the blitz but the guys did a good job of staying at it.
Schwartz was asked about Josh Sweat and his contributions with Graham on the inside:
“I thought Josh did a great job in this game too. His reps haven’t been extensive, but when he’s been in there, he’s been pressuring the quarterback at a pretty good percentage. I thought his best play in the game wasn’t a sack, I thought his best play was chasing the run down from the backside. Really did a nice job of that.”
While Fletcher Cox didn’t record a sack in Sunday’s game, he was a big contributor. Schwartz noted that he’s not a huge stat guy, because it’s about stopping drives and winning games. But, the DC did point out that Rodney McLeod’s interception was all because of Cox — and Schwartz would much rather have the interception there than a sack.
“I said before, being around the quarterback causes a high percentage of takeaways, and you saw that.”
Schwartz also referred to Josh Sweat’s sack, and credited Cox for that play, too. The quarterback had to step up, Sweat was able to get off his block and make the play.
On Craig James’ first start
Cornerback Craig James was promoted from the practice squad ahead of Week 4 and got his first career snaps (2) at the end of the matchup. James ended up starting on Sunday against the Jets — his first start in the NFL.
“He was called upon. Had a tough start, missed a tackle against Le’Veon Bell — which, I don’t know, Le’Veon Bell’s a tough matchup out there. But missed a tackle, got a pass interference, and you could tell they were going to try and test him as much as they could. But, he settled down after that.
We’ve talked in here a lot about that with corners, you’re always on display. You can’t let a couple bad plays affect you, well, he lived that on Sunday. He didn’t let a couple plays, it didn’t shake his confidence, he was there the rest of the time.
I think he had a really nice coverage on [Jamison Crowder]. And limiting Crowder’s touches in this game was big for us. I mean, that guy had 17 targets in the opener, or something ridiculous like that, and I think he had two catches in this game.
He got us to a big third down on a second-down play when he was one-on-one, made a good strong tackle. Tackled well in the run game, all things you want to see from a young player. I thought that was a big step from him, and I especially liked that it started off with a couple of bad plays and he was able to bounce back from that.”
On Derek Barnett
Schwartz said that both of his daughters wear Derek Barnett jerseys to the game, if that says anything about how he feels about the defender.
The DC noted that Barnett plays with a chip on his shoulder and that’s part of what makes him successful, but he does have to be careful crossing the line. Particularly on interception returns, it has to be about the team, and not personal.
On preparing for the Vikings
Schwartz was asked what he’s seen from Minnesota’s run game:
“Well, first thing, it looks like they’ve clicked the speed of the film up a little bit. Man, they’re making big plays everywhere, it’s not just Dalvin Cook. That rookie [Alexander Mattison] is a good running back, [Ameer Abdullah], they’ve got 4 running backs that are averaging 5.7, 5.8, 5.9 and then 9.3 a carry.
So, that’ll get your attention real quick. We’re a pretty strong run defense, they’re a pretty strong run offense, that’s gonna be a great match on Sunday.”
Later on, the DC was asked about the Vikings’ young offensive line. Schwartz mentioned that they play well as a unit and do a lot of zone blocking, chop blocking and you can see Gary Kubiak’s influence in their run game. He went on to talk about how a zone run game isn’t a one-on-one blocking endeavor, it’s many guys working together and bringing the running back into that.