Now that we’ve finished our Eagles position review series, let’s turn our attention to Philadelphia’s coaching staff. Today we’ll be evaluating defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
REVIEW: Schwartz oversaw an Eagles defense that ranked 15th in defensive DVOA last year. In other words, he coached a league average unit.
And he did it despite dealing with a number of key injuries. The following players finished the 2018 season on injured reserve: starting safety Rodney McLeod, starting cornerback Jalen Mills, starting cornerback Ronald Darby, starting defensive end Derek Barnett, and backup defensive end Josh Sweat. That’s just the IR list; it doesn’t even account for starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan only being able to play 45 snaps, or starting linebacker Jordan Hicks missing four games, or starting nickel corner Sidney Jones missing seven games ... and so on.
I mean, the Eagles were down to playing “Josh Hawkins” at cornerback in their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. That’s a guy they only signed to their roster in December! And despite this, Schwartz’s unit still held the Saints to their worst offensive home performance (excluding a meaningless Week 17 game in the Superdome).
Some did not find Schwartz’s work with the Eagles’ defense to be acceptable. The Eagles DC drew criticism throughout the 2018 season for “not enough blitzing” and “too many third-and-long conversions,” among other gripes.
OUTLOOK: It’s not totally unfair to find fault with Schwartz; there are some valid gripes to be made. It was frustrating to watch games where the offense would finally string together a good drive only to see the defense collapse right after that. Philadelphia also only ranked tied for 21st in takeaways.
But based on his overall performance, there’s no way the Eagles should’ve fired him after the 2018 season. Schwartz’s defense has finished with the following DVOA rankings in his last six years as a defensive coordinator: 1st, 5th, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 15th. His third down defense has an average rank of 10th best during his Philly tenure. Third-and-long? That’s 15th best.
One area that Schwartz’s defenses have been especially strong is in the red zone. The Eagles had THE No. 1 red zone defense in 2018. Their average rank over the past three reasons is fifth best. It’s a true bend-but-don’t-break unit.
Again, Doug Pederson made the right call by bringing Schwartz back for the 2019 season. It wasn’t a tough decision.
Jim Schwartz: Stay or go?
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