Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters on Tuesday for the first time since some head-scratching play calls against the Steelers on Sunday. Schwartz explained Chase Claypool’s fourth touchdown, the Eagles’ linebacker position, and a look at stopping Baltimore’s rush attack.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the Gerry vs. Claypool 3rd down
Schwartz was asked about the mismatch that Ben Roethlisberger was able to notice and exploit with Nate Gerry and Chase Claypool. The DC noted that backing up isn’t in their lexicon of options in that situation, hence why Gerry didn’t do it.
“We’re trying to hold them out of field goal range. It’s a two point game, we had just missed that field goal and we got the chance to get the ball at midfield and get them stopped — maybe force them to do a long field goal of their own. We’re trying to stop the first down there. And, we had injury at corner, trying to protect the corners a little bit more at that point, and we put the stress on the inside players. Which was different than what we had been doing in that situation.
What we had called was good against what they had called, but Ben recognized it. It’s probably inside the 15 seconds for being able to change the call. I think that it just turns into, every defense has a strength, and they also have spots that aren’t as strong — Ben went to the spot right there, made the play.
But, as far as being aggressive, we’re trying to stop the first down right there, and that’s what Nate’s trying to do. So, he sits down on that route because that’s where his sticks are, and he goes over the top.”
Schwartz went on to explain it was similar to a corner biting on a double move, and they could have done something different, but then it puts strain on other parts of the defense. Bottom line, he noted, was that they were being aggressive and trying to keep them out of field goal range, and that, “They made us pay for that aggressiveness.”
He was later asked about whether he had considered calling a timeout on the play, but he said that it’s always been the head coach’s responsibility to call that in Philly.
On Steelers’ 3rd down success
Schwartz was asked about the Steelers converting so many third downs, and he pointed to a great game by Ben Roethlisberger and his momentum.
“He was on fire.”
He went on to explain that when you have a quarterback who is on a roll like Roethlisberger was, you have to take advantage of the times you have, and they didn’t — they missed a tackle on 3rd and 5, they jumped offsides on a 3rd and 9. Roethlisberger was just going to all the right spots.
The DC said it puts more emphasis on them playing mistake-free football, but the penalties, missed tackles, DPI, all give a hot QB a second opportunity.
On the linebacker position
Schwartz was asked about the team putting the least amount of resources into the linebacker position than any other NFL team. He mentioned that every position is a priority for them because every position is important on the field. The DC also disagreed that they didn’t put resources into the position, citing their history with free agent signings and using two draft picks on LBs this year.
But, it was pointed out that the last contract extension at linebacker was Nigel Bradham two years ago, and this year’s two draft picks haven’t really been contributing on defense, yet. Schwartz deferred questions about player acquisition and roster managements to Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman.
The DC later said that this year’s draft picks, Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor, are making progress and are physically talented. They’ll work them into games as it makes sense for the defense — they put players on the field who they feel puts them in the best position to win, so those guys will play when they are seen as the best option to win.
Schwartz was also asked who has stepped up as the vocal leader among the linebackers without Nigel Bradham. He pointed out that Bradham had to step in when Jordan Hicks was injured, and they have a lot of vocal leaders throughout the defense. He didn’t name any names, but said, “I think we’re getting good leadership out of that position.”
On Baltimore offense
“Lamar Jackson is probably the most dangerous player in the league because there are times you can do everything right on defense and cant catch him, or he can throw a ball side arm underneath of a free rusher and complete a pass.
I think you have to have a resilient attitude when you play him, and you know a playmaker like him is going to make some plays, you just have to limit his big plays, and you have to stay resilient, you can’t — you sort of can’t hang your hat if he ends up making a play.”
They’re a strong running team, not just with Lamar Jackson, but with Mark Ingram and the good, powerful running backs on their roster. They’re a power running team and have a strong offensive line — and it’s not just the tight ends, they have wide receivers who make big plays for them.
Schwartz explained that it’s another team that if you devote too many resources to stopping one part of their offense, will leave another option open. He didn’t want to get into specific game planning in terms of spying on Jackson or how they might try to contain the run game.