The Eagles defense had some missed opportunities last week against Washington, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz pointed out that has been an issue all season. The DC also spoke about Fletcher Cox and his number of snaps, and what changes they’re making from the last time they faced the Cowboys.
He also echoed earlier sentiments by head coach Doug Pederson about Kamu Grugier-Hill, that the linebacker didn’t play very much based on what Washington’s offense was showing them. That took some of his snaps away, and then on third down they were in a lot of dime personnel. Schwartz then verified it was not a disciplinary thing.
Here’s what else the defensive coordinator had to say:
On the struggles against Washington
Schwartz noted that penalties keeping drives alive has been a common theme in some of their games, and they’ve had the most success when they’ve played a clean game. But, against Washington, the DC noted that there were some 3rd-and-short, and run game success — saying, when it’s 3rd-and-5 in the redzone, they have to hold them to a field goal.
“When we’re at our best, we’re stopping the run, playing clean football, and we’re playing good in the red zone, we’re winning on third downs. I think you can probably point to each of those as contributing to some of the plays we gave up in that game.”
The DC also said that this last game was not their best tackling game, and they’ll have to get that fixed quickly.
“We had Adrian Peterson jammed up on the frontside. Really did a good job on the front side of that. We folded too quick on the backside and, all of a sudden, he was bouncing out the backdoor. That’s really not bad tackling, that’s poor pursuit.”
On missed opportunities
Throughout the season the defense hasn’t capitalized on opportunities for takeaways, and that continued against Washington.
“I think you have to make the plays that come to you. We had our hands on the ball, I talked about the third-down stop in the red zone, but we had two hands on the ball a couple plays before that. We can get off the field with zero points right there. We didn’t make that play. We had another one that went down the middle of the field, and we sort of tipped it and we had a good chance to intercept that one. We didn’t make that one. Even the first play of the game, he threw it quick, threw it into a really tight window, and we’re going to have to make our share of those and get those.”
On Fletcher Cox
Schwartz was asked how the defensive tackle was playing this year. As he always does, the DC quipped “7-7”, but then acknowledged they can all do a little bit better.
“I think it’s not just about one individual person, it’s about the team. Everybody makes it about stats and everything else. We’re trying to do whatever we can to come out with a win, and whether you make the play or your teammate makes the play, the play gets made.
I would say this about Fletch, there have been a lot of plays that his teammates have made as a result of him either getting extra attention or being disruptive and someone else has made the play. But when it’s all said and done, really doesn’t matter who is making the play. It’s a matter of getting stops and keeping points down and getting wins.”
Schwartz also said that they have gone with 3 DTs and are seeing how that affects the reps — with Cox playing 95% of snaps the past two games. They always want to have some kind of rotation to keep guys to keep guys fresh, but like against the Giants, they didn’t need rest in the second half with so many 3-and-outs.
On Cowboys prep
The DC was asked how they have to prepare for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“He’s a good, strong running back. They have a good offensive line, they have good blocking tight ends, they got a quarterback that’s mobile that will run the ball also — they run some option type stuff. So, you know, it’s not just him, but there’s a lot of other stuff.
They’ve got some big play receivers, but he’s a strong-contact runner, and we’re gonna have to put a lot of hats on him. It’s not gonna be 1-on-1 tackles, it’s gonna have to be gang tackling team defense in order to limit his yards, and limit his effectiveness.”
The DC was asked what stood out from their first game against Dallas this season. He noted the turnovers that resulted in 2 quick touchdowns, and having to hold them to no more than field goals in those situations.
“When you face an offense that’s like the Cowboys, you’re going to have to play good, clean football. You can’t give them anything for free. They’re going to make enough on their own without giving them a defensive holding or defensive pass interference, or anything else that you can imagine that moves the sticks.”
He was also asked about Cowboys’ WR Amari Cooper, and what makes him difficult to defend and how they are going to change the way they cover him this time.
“First you have to tackle well, and we didn’t do that. We gave up the 75-yarder in the last game. Had as much to do with tackling as anything else. We were a little bit loose on the coverage, but that’s a play that we shouldn’t give up, a 75-yard touchdown.
The other one is you have to make plays on the ball when it goes up in the air. Good vision on the ball, and good high point when you have guys like Cooper that they’ll just throw it up to, you have to be able to come down with that. I think there’s a pass-rush element to it, too. Take the quarterback’s timing away from him a little bit. And I think there’s some scheme to it also and there’s different ways you can roll coverage. Sometimes you’re ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ when you do that, but sometimes it can have an effect.”
Schwartz also talked about WR Michael Gallup and how he’s developed and how that affects this matchup.
“He’s a good player. He’s a vertical player, can make plays down the field. They got good players at different positions. It’s not just [Jason] Witten at tight end, but [Blake] Jarwin is doing a really good job. [Randall] Cobb and [Tavon] Austin both get some slot reps and those guys have made big plays for them. Obviously their running back has made a lot of big plays for them.”
But, he mentioned that it’s not just about Cooper, and last week they rushed for over 250 yards, so it’s not always about the passing game.
“It’s that time of year. This is a game for the division and they’re going to line up with their players, we’re going to line up with ours and we got to fight to come out with a win.”