The Eagles defense wasn’t the main story-line coming out of Week 1, but it sure was in Week 2 against the Rams. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters on Tuesday morning about the failures in his game plan on Sunday, how he tried to adjust — albeit too late —, and about finding this defense’s identity.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the defense’s game plan
Schwartz pointed the finger directly at himself when asked about Rodney McLeod’s comments Sunday post-game that the Rams didn’t do anything that surprised the Eagles defense.
“Well, what happened on the field was I had a poor game plan.
We had a very simple game plan. You guys know that the Rams use a lot of tempos out of their huddle, and a lot of different motions, and things like that, and, the whole sort of theme was to make it as simple as we could — we’ve had success with that in the past. But, in an effort to do that, I also created a lot of conflict with what the guys were doing, and it gave them a lot of stuff to look at. And what I though would make it easier, didn’t make it easier, it made it harder.”
The DC mentioned that immediately after the game he went and watched the film, and realized that he really should have had a more complex game plan.
“A more complex game plan would have narrowed the focus of each individual player. It would have made it more difficult to execute, but it would have narrowed the focus, and I think we could’ve done that.”
He later said that not having a more complex game plan was, “probably my Number 1 failure in this game.”
Schwartz said that they made that change after about three series, but admitted that he was about a series too late changing the game plan. It’s his job to put players in good positions, and particularly in those first three series, Schwartz admitted he didn’t do that.
He explained that it looked like there were some miscommunications and things like that, but that wasn’t the case, it was rather the scope for some was too big and their attention was divided on particular plays.
“In this game, we didn’t get beat by tempo and communication, it was execution and it was very difficult to execute with those things.”
When they made the change to the game plan, it allowed the guys to focus on one particular area, but it made it more physically difficult to execute because of all the traffic, and the picks.
Schwartz didn’t pin the lack of execution on having so many new and young faces on the team this season, but rather that he just divided their attention too much, quipping, “Chase 2 rabbits, catch none.”
The DC went on to point out a lot of veteran and very experienced players were making uncharacteristic mistakes, and when too many of those happen, he doesn’t blame the player, he blames himself. He doesn’t usually call out guys in the media, but some players had already admitted their mistakes, like Rodney McLeod and Brandon Graham.
“When you get experienced players that start making those kind of mistakes, then you’re like, okay, we’re on the wrong track here.”
On this defense’s identity
“Over the last 4 years, we’re the Number 1 run defense in the NFL. We’re not playing like that right now. We’re the, I think we’re the Number 2 red zone defense in the NFL over the last 4 years. Not right now. We’re like the Number 3 third down defense in the NFL over those years. Not right now. We’re Top 10 in takeaways. Not right now. Top 10 in points allowed. We’re bleeding points.
And, my message to the guys was — even more than those areas, we got to get back to being us, because we have a track record of being good over time in those areas.
But, the area I’m on more high alert for, is our response to adversity. Typically, in the past, we’ve been a team that can weather through a lot of different things. We can set our jaws and make a play — a turnover happens, we get out and get a stop. We can change the momentum of the game with a takeaway or a sack, or something like that.
I think that even though we’re struggling in a lot of those other areas, the area I’d really like to see the most improvement, is that ability to set our jaws and go out there, regardless of the situation, regardless of anything — go out there and get those things stopped, because we’re failing in that regard right now.”
Schwartz was asked if he’s got the personnel to make the improvements outlined, and he said that he’s very confident in the players. He explained that looking at a lot of the issues from Sunday, he didn’t put his players in the best position to succeed. The DC pointed out that some of the plays where it looked like they were outmatched physically, was more just guys in poor position.
It’s easy to point to a player’s mistakes, but it goes deeper into the coaching and the staff calling or doing things to better adapt to the player’s strengths and weaknesses.
The DC went on to talk about the hallmark of coaching for him is the ability to understand the players and what they do well, adjusting to the ebbs and flows of the season. He noted that they aren’t a team that often gives up over 30 points in a game — he considers giving up to 30 points as something that can happen in the NFL, but if you’re giving up more than 30, there isn’t much they can point to that they did right.
Schwartz said he needs to figure out their personality as a defense and what things they’ll have success with this season.
On their red zone defense
Traditionally the teams that are best on defense are teams that can stop the run — two areas that have been correlated for the Eagles defense the past couple seasons. The biggest thing for them is leaking too much in the run game, especially across the goal line.
“We definitely have to get back on track with our red zone defense.”
He’s not thinking about different personnel at this point, but rather better coaching the players out there.