Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters on Tuesday about some of the struggles the secondary had on Sunday against Dallas, including why Jalen Mills’ NFL future should probably be at safety.
Schwartz maintained his stance that this is a no-excuse league, so despite their injuries and a weird offseason for young players, they didn’t do a good job figuring out how to win.
“You just have to figure out a way to put it together and come out with wins, and like I said, we haven’t done a good enough job of that this year, and as a result, we lost an opportunity for the playoffs.”
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On focusing on Week 17
Yeah, I’ve always said that. I think it’s never happened, I think, other than like — has there been a time in the off-season? But again, I just — I’ve said that every year, whether we were going to the playoffs or — obviously not this year. I think part of professionalism is you keep your focus just on that game, and like I said, there’s too much at stake. It might not be at stake for us as a team with a playoff berth and things like that, but we’ve got a lot of individual things that players still can accomplish. We’ve got guys that are trying to earn their way in the league, and like I said before, we have a division opponent that’s going to come and try to celebrate on our field.
We’ve got to have a no-hat rule this week. We can’t let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc. There’s a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week.
On the secondary
Schwartz explained that against Dallas they originally had Darius Slay on Amari Cooper, which left Michael Jacquet with Michael Gallup most of the time, and Jacquet was having a tough day.
He then went to some zone, but the problem with that was the QB kept checking down to Ezekiel Elliott, who was then getting 10 yards each time. At halftime, they switched Slay to Gallup to help Jacquet, but he was still struggling, so even though they didn’t want to, they moved Jalen Mills to corner. Schwartz noted he didn’t want to move Mills because he was giving a lot of solidity in the middle of the field.
“I thought Mills did an outstanding job of putting the fire out. I thought him and Slay at that point really started play well on the outside part of the field. Now, we had our other issues, it put more pressure on the safeties. [Marcus] Epps got banged up a little bit early in the game. We started going some different combinations back there. Communication wasn’t the best, but we made a little run in the second half, mainly because of Slay and Mills.
Again, I think it’s such a compliment to Jalen that he’s been such an unselfish player. He’s been making progress at safety, and for his career it’s probably best that he just stays there, but when we said, ‘Hey, we have to move you to corner,’ he’s never even batted an eye. He’s gone out — he’s switched to the best receiver before, he’s gone out and they just start playing right and left, challenges guys, and we weren’t able to get back in the game, but that gave us a chance to get back in the game.
The DC was asked about Darius Slay’s contribution this season, and how he feels about the depth at safety compared to the lack of depth at corner. He mentioned that it’s not his place to comment on personnel decisions, but having Slay did force opposing QBs to change things up.
“But as far as Slay, it certainly didn’t show up in the stat sheet as far as like interceptions and things like that. But there were a lot of games that quarterbacks didn’t throw very much at him, including this last game. First play there’s help that should be coming his way on that first play, and it wasn’t there, and it made it look bad for him giving up a long completion, but after that, man, I have a hard time remembering another completion that he gave up after that in this game. He shadowed the best receivers. He’s made some guys disappear. He’s had a couple games that he wasn’t — he probably wasn’t at the top of his game, but I think that more falls to the NFL and the load that we put on him and knowing that you’re not going to pitch a shutout against great receivers every single week.”
He went on to point out that when they’ve been at their best, they’ve been a man team, but with injuries they’ve had to go away from that a little bit. He credited Slay’s presence for some of the success they had in man early in the season.
“It’s probably an incomplete when it comes to how it’s gone, but I do think that it’s — he’s done yeoman’s work when it comes to the things that we’ve asked him to do, and like I said, it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.”
- Schwartz was asked about the defense giving up over 500 total yards the past two weeks, and the DC said it was a result of big plays. But, he noted that they don’t concern themselves with yards given up, but rather focus on points and things that affect points — 3rd downs and red zone situations.
- The coordinator emphasized — as he has throughout the season — that they make a point not to chase turnovers, because that’s when you put yourself in a bad situation.
“A lot of them come when you’re protecting a lead and your D-line can just do nothing but rush the passer and your coverage can stay back and know that the quarterback can’t just afford to take check-downs, he’s going to have to force the ball into coverage. A lot of those do come from those kind of situations. We really haven’t had those kind of opportunities a bunch.
I think that turnovers are important to us, and I think that you can talk about things that you want the defense to do, keep points off the board and turn the ball over for your offense. It’s an important part of what we do. But again, no excuses. We haven’t done a good enough job there.”
- Schwartz was asked how much the missing pieces on the DL — Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett — affected the trouble they had in the secondary against Dallas. He admitted that they make a big difference, but he thought the guys who stepped into those roles did a good job of handling things.