Eagles’ defensive coordinator spoke to reporters for the first time since the Bengals tie on Sunday and talked about the improvement of the defensive front, the different parts to the secondary, and how they prepare for an injured San Francisco team.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the secondary
Schwartz didn’t want to talk much about how losing Avonte Maddox will specifically affect personnel on the back end. He noted that they value flexibility — like with Jalen Mills who has played CB and now safety for the defense — but they were going to keep things close to the vest in terms of what the group will look like against San Francisco.
As far as getting Marcus Epps and Cre’Von LeBlanc more snaps against Cincinnati, Schwartz explained that they wanted to devote more resources to controlling the run game by putting some bigger guys in certain packages. The decision was merely game plan oriented — not based on performance.
The DC talked a bit about Trevor Williams who is a guy that has NFL experience, so when it was his turn to fill a role, he was ready to and didn’t blink an eye. Schwartz joked that Williams probably thought to himself, “What took you guys so long?” He noted that Williams covered with confidence, and he wasn’t perfect and gave up a completion, but they tried to double play him and he didn’t bite.
Schwartz also explained that in overtime, they had 12 straight plays in man-to-man, and it wasn’t just Williams who was up for the challenge, but LeBlanc, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Darius Slay also stepped up when they were needed.
“I was proud of their execution, but I was even more proud with the attitude they went into that overtime with.”
On the defensive front
Schwartz was asked if Javon Hargrave was having trouble adjusting from a 2-gap scheme to the aggressive front in Philly — something they saw with Timmy Jernigan a few years ago. He admitted that last week wasn’t Hargrave’s best game, but that was also true of just about all the players and coaches, and that was his first time on the field in their defense.
The DC explained that Hargrave made a big jump from last week to this week, and was disruptive and gained ground on the quarterback.
“I think he’s going to fit really well for what we do.”
He also noted that they were playing some of their best football near the end of the 4th quarter and into overtime, and that was because they were able to mix up their packages and keep guys fresh — something that Hargrave contributed to.
Schwartz also talked a bit about the defense getting 8 sacks on rookie QB Joe Burrow, but none resulting in a turnover.
“If you’re hunting for turnovers, you’re going to put yourself in a bad position.”
He explained that their defensive philosophy is to make the plays that come to you, rather than make mistakes trying to force them. Schwartz said that if they keep being aggressive and doing what they did on Sunday, those turnovers will come — they always do.
The coordinator also tipped his hat to Burrow, who he said protected the ball really well.
“We hit him hard, and we hit him a lot, and he was very secure with the football.”
When asked about some of the long drives that they gave up to the Bengals, Schwartz said that they did a lot of good things, but there were 3 or 4 plays in which they had penalties or mistakes, and those were critical in keeping some of those drives alive.
“Last week we were just poor in just about every area, including defensive coordinating, but this week I think we can look to refine where we were and get those stops that we needed. We did a good job on 3rd down — probably, except for one play —, got drives stopped for the most part, limited big plays. There’s just that one play that can keep a drive alive.”
Schwartz wanted to point out that he was also happier with the defense’s response to adversity this week. It was something he talked about after the Rams loss, and them being able to take the field after a turnover or in a short field situation, and hold them to no points, or at least a field goal.
“I thought that was a really positive step for our guys also.”
On rookie LBs
Schwartz was asked how close Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley were to getting defensive snaps or being bigger contributors.
“There’s as close as anybody else. They’re as close as Trevor Williams was last week.”
He said that they have to get themselves ready to play even when they’re not getting practice reps. They’re working hard on the scout team and getting their technique refined, but he has confidence in both guys and he likes how they’re progressing.
On preparing for the 49ers
Schwartz said that they don’t really concern themselves much about the injured players on the opposing team. The biggest thing about preparing for San Francisco is that their scheme has a long track record — the played that scheme with the same head coach and offensive play caller in 2017, and when he was in ATL in 2016. So, it’s really just a matter of different players at those positions.