Defense vows to take some pressure off Schwartz
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.
Coordinator Jim Schwartz placed the blame for the Eagles’ defensive problems through the first two games squarely on his shoulders.