De­fense vows to take some pres­sure off Schwartz

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

Brandon Gra­ham re­ported for an Ea­gles de­fen­sive meet­ing Wed­nes­day, pre­pared for what­ever crit­i­cism was about to be fire-hosed around the room.

It’s what hap­pens when a team al­lows an av­er­age of 32 points over its first two games. Feel­ings are bruised. Ears ring. Jobs are threat­ened. Fin­gers are pointed.

So what was de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz do­ing, any­way, re­mov­ing the bur­den fromhis play­ers and ac­cept­ing the blame?

Hit­ting the right note, ap­par­ently.

“Once Schwartz took credit for what he did in that game, that just boosted morale,” Gra­ham said Thurs­day, be­fore prac­tice from the No­vaCare Com­plex. “A lot of guys know it takes a strong per­son to say, ‘Hey, I messed up on that.’

“I, and all of us, thought we were go­ing to get cussed out be­cause we had a bad game. But for the source to take it like that made me want to fight for himeven more, and it­made the team want to fight for him even more.”

Why the Ea­gles ev­i­dently were fight­ing less through their 0-2 start is its own mys­tery. All they know is that it is early enough to make the cor­rec­tions. That will be­gin Sun­day at 1 against the vis­it­ing Cincin­nati Ben­gals, and a man­date to make Joe Bar­low not seem like Jared Goff.

While Goff is a vet­eran with an NFC cham­pi­onship to his credit and Bar­low is a rookie, the No. 1 over­all se­lec­tion in the last draft, there is a con­nec­tion. Cincin­nati is led by sec­ond-year head coach Zac Tay­lor, most re­cently an as­sis­tant to Rams coach Sean McVay, in­clud­ing a year as Goff’s quar­ter­backs coach.

So Bar­low’s act could have a fa­mil­iar feel to the Ea­gles.

“We know we have to rush him good, be­cause we know he likes to run around back there,” Gra­ham said. “He’s pretty fast and has a great arm. Bar­low. So we have to pres­sure hi­mand His ac­cep­tance of re­spon­si­bil­ity, get to him. We’ve got to make then, was some­thing of sure we dis­rupt him the whole a start­ing gun. game. “We have to trust our­selves,”

“You could see why he was Gra­ham­said. “I have to getmy No. 1. You could see why he won mis­takes cor­rected. And for a cham­pi­onship in col­lege. You the head­man to do that, it was can see him out there get­ting a great feel­ing for us to know com­fort­able with the of­fense. He that he’s re­ally down for us. looks good back there. We have “And just like he is, we are our hands full. We have tomake go­ing to make sure we get it sure we don’t take him lightly.” right.”

That might have been the re­ac­tion had Schwartz car­ried on in the de­fen­sive meet­ings. In­stead, Al­shon Jef­fery, who has not his un­ex­pect­edly calmap­proach played since Week 14 of last seems to have res­onated. sea­son due to a com­pli­cated

“Mov­ing for­ward, we just foot in­jury, was a limited prac­tice have to scratch what hap­pened par­tic­i­pant Thurs­day. last week,” said Derek Bar­nett. “It felt good to see him “We have a whole a whole new back,” Greg Ward said. “Just op­por­tu­nity to play fast and know­ing how much work he get a ‘W.’ Last week is in the put into it in the off­sea­son, ev­ery­body past. We are 0-and-2. But mov­ing was over­joyed. I was for­ward, we still have ev­ery­thing happy to be out there, run­ning we want in front of and catch­ing balls with him.” us. And it is on us to go out and While un­likely to play at­tack them this week.” against the Ben­gals, Jef­frey’s

The be­tween-the-lines in­ter­pre­ta­tion full re­cov­ery should soon be was that while of help. ad­mit­ting to hav­ing au­thored “He is some­body who has an in­fe­rior game plan for the played at a high level, one of Rams, Schwartz has rec­om­mended the best a to speed­ier ever do at­tack it,” Ward of

said. “So to have him out there to guide us, lead us, talk to us and en­cour­age us is re­ally big for us. We’re all happy to see him out there. And I am ready to get go­ing with him.”

With Jalen Reagor on the in­jured re­serve list with a thumb in­jury, the bur­den of catch­ing passes in­creases on Ward, among oth­ers.

“I’m just go­ing to be ready when­ever my num­ber is called,” Ward said. “It’s foot­ball. You just have to keep the main thing the man thing, and that’s win­ning.”

Ward was tar­geted just once against the Rams and has been limited to six catches in two games.

“I have the same mind­set ev­ery sin­gle day and ev­ery sin­gle game,” Ward said. “I’m not go­ing to be tak­ing on an ex­tra load. We’re all pros and we all have to be ready.”

Fletcher Cox (ab­domen), Rudy Ford (groin) and Reagor (thumb) did not prac­tice Thurs­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz placed the blame for the Ea­gles’ de­fen­sive prob­lems through the first two games squarely on his shoul­ders.

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