Schwartz feeling heat over D’s performance
Schwartz feeling heat over defense’s performance
This just in: Doug Pederson leaves the defensive scheme and play-calling totally up to Eagles oordinator Jim Schwartz.
That less than breaking news was uncovered Thursday by the supposedly tough Philly press corps. You knew that, of course. Pederson mentioned it enough times in passing that only a critic with an agenda to assign blame would roll it out there at a news conference and link it to accountability to explain the shellacking the Eagles have taken the last two weeks in losses to Seattle and Green Bay.
Suddenly an Eagles team that cannot put points on the board is in a death spiral because Schwartz was given free will to coach the defense and, get this, doesn’t address the media immediately after the game. That’s the reason the Eagles, now 5-6, have lost six of their last eight games?
As for the accountability issue, Schwartz was made to answer for why he didn’t answer on game days.
“I mean, we could move it up earlier in the week,” he said of his weekly press briefing, “but I’m going to do what’s required. I don’t want to take away from Coach Pederson on game day. I’ve been a
a head coach before and I understand the way that goes. There needs to be one voice. I think that’s important. I’m certainly not, I mean, you don’t know me well enough to think that I’m not getting away from accountability.
“There is absolutely no question about that. We are all accountable. I take incredible pride in what we do defensively and I take ultimate responsibility for what we do on defense. I’m the defensive coordinator.”
For the most part, in the search to uncover the real reason the Eagles keep making the same mistakes and getting the same results, some inquiring minds have missed the obvious.
The Eagles won four of their first six games with their offense controlling the football, getting leads and not turning the ball over. That enabled the defense to rush the passer and create turnovers. Those phases helped the special teams provide stellar field position.
The Eagles haven’t done any of that consistently in their subsequent 1-4 slide. Schwartz took a little shot at the media and, in turn, the underperforming offense and special teams, with a reminder Thursday.
“We talked a long time earlier this season about long drives and how our offense was controlling the ball and our defense was getting off the field,” Schwartz said. “And it was a great formula.”
The Eagles are a work in progress, particularly the secondary. It doesn’t matter how skilled the front seven is or how much money Fletcher Cox makes. If you can’t cover receivers, you’re not going to beat Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, who have stamped the Eagles with a twogame losing streak.
When you play elite mobile quarterbacks, you can’t blame the defensive issues all on the lack of pass rush, because if you can’t cover, you can’t give your pass rush time to get to the passer.
“The last couple weeks we faced offenses that had quick throws in their offense but also had quarterbacks that could extend plays,” Schwartz said. “And you know, even if you won in pass rush, winning in pass rush didn’t mean you were going to sack the quarterback. Because not only would you have to defeat a blocker but you had to be able to get the quarterback on the ground and sometimes these quarterbacks were going straight backwards, buying time.”
Take the Monday night loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Eagles played tight man-to-man coverage on the receivers, taking them on at the line for much of the first series.
That didn’t help the pass rush, because the coverage people, their backs turned, opened up rushing lanes for Rodgers, who scrambled for 16 and nine yards on the 10play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
In essence, Rodgers took the Eagles out of press for a chunk of the game with those runs. With the Birds backing off, he started making his patented throws and doing his thing, including the hard count, preventing the Eagles from getting fresh bodies on the field.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins insisted it made no sense to continue the press coverage because the defensive backs, not Rodgers, would have been more fatigued and worn down as the night went on.
All of that said, the Eagles were within 17-13 entering the fourth quarter. The defense was winded trying to keep the Packers from hitting the big play. The Packers converted 10 of 14 third downs (71.4 percent).
“They’re a good team,” Jenkins said. “They lost four straight but in those four their offense was still playing really good and their defense just happened to be giving up a lot of points. Their defense showed up. Their offense showed up like they normally do. It’s a good Packer team.”
Schwartz indicated the defensive solutions were bigger than the kneejerk response of starting rookie Jalen Mills, who had a rough game, over veteran Leodis McKelvin, who had a bad game.
Then there’s Cox, who extended the decisive scoring with a roughing the passer penalty when it appeared the Eagles would get off the field on third down. And Brandon Graham’s neutral zone infraction extended a field goal drive.
While the Packers got some bounces, Jordy Nelson batting a ball to himself, for example, the Eagles failed to get a sack or a turnover in a game for the first time since 2012. That’s not the coordinator.
“We have to do something to help our team win,” Schwartz said. “We didn’t do anything to help our team win. You could probably make a case in our other losses that we did something to try to put us in position to win.”
Fletcher Cox reacts after a tackle against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 11. The Eagles have only six sacks in the past five games after recording 20 in the first six. Defensive tackle Cox has four sacks and none in the past seven games.
Green Bay Packers receiver Trevor Davis dives into the end zone past Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll on Monday.