The Most Important Technique In Schwartz’s Scheme

How new defensive line coach Chris Wilson is making a difference.

Beau Allen and Jim Schwartz. (Jeff Fusco)

Beau Allen and Jim Schwartz. (Jeff Fusco)

On the first play of 11-on-11s, Vinny Curry lined up opposite of Lane Johnson at left defensive end. When the ball was snapped, he moved around the edge so quickly Johnson barely got a hand on him. If defenders were allowed to hit the quarterback, Curry would have surely had a sack, and perhaps even a forced fumble.

This happened on Saturday, but Curry — and his teammates — make similar plays every day during training camp. The 28-year-old’s explosiveness is already well-known — that’s a big reason the Eagles signed him to a five-year contract extension worth $47.25 million in February. But through the first week of training camp, and even during OTAs, Curry looks noticeably quicker.

“I just feel like it’s a product of working with [defensive line] coach [Chris] Wilson,” Curry said. “He’s taking what people do in our room good, tweaking it up a little bit and putting finesse on it, but then also still teaching us different things to make us even better to take us to the next level.”

What has particularly helped Curry, as well as the rest of the defensive line, is what Wilson calls the “launch.” Rather than simply taking a step when the ball is snapped, Wilson is teaching the defensive line to explode through their hips, or as Mike Martin puts it, “jumping out of your hips.”

According to several defensive linemen, the launch technique helps them be more explosive and to get upfield quicker, which is what Jim Schwartz’s scheme is built around.

“I gain more ground faster off the ball,” Alex McCalister said. “It’s for everybody, but it especially helps pass rushers because you get that big push, you get your second step in the ground faster and you’re moving quicker. Coming off that edge, the launch is everything.”

Brandon Graham called getting off of the ball “half the battle,” which is why he thinks the new technique will bolster the entire unit’s play. Connor Barwin referenced how the launch is what makes blockers react to the defensive line, which is integral to what Schwartz wants to do.

In the 3-4 two-gapping scheme the Eagles used to run, the defensive line was focused on absorbing blocks and preventing offensive linemen from reaching the linebackers. Now, Schwartz wants them to not just occupy the gap, but penetrate through the offensive line, similar to what Seattle and Atlanta do.

According to Jason Kelce, there’s “no question” the defensive line is getting off the ball quicker and making life more difficult for the offensive line.

“It’s a completely different philosophy,” Kelce said. “You had a 3-4 two-gapping philosophy, which we ran the last three years, in which they are truly almost mirroring the person in front of them. They’re reading the offensive line as the play goes — no penetration — and it’s more set to read the play and to hold the line of scrimmage.

“Now, they’re not reading the offensive linemen at all. They don’t care. They’re just designed to be explosive and quick as possible to get on the other side of the line of scrimmage and screw the blocking schemes up.”