Jim Schwartz Takes Blame For Eagles’ Struggling Defense

Plus: Schwartz previews the Eagles-Vikings game.

Jim Schwartz. (Jeff Fusco)

Jim Schwartz. (Jeff Fusco)

Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters for the first time since the Eagles allowed 27 points and 493 yards of offense to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. After quickly responding to a “How are you?” greeting with “I’ll let you know on Sunday,” the Eagles’ defensive coordinator gave a brutally honest assessment of his unit.

“A lot of bad things,” said Schwartz in response to what went wrong. “First of all, we were bad at all three levels. Let’s put it four levels. We were bad at defensive line, we were bad at the linebackers, we were bad in the secondary, and we were bad at the defensive coordinator position. It wasn’t just one thing in that game.”

“There was a crack toss and one time we were short on the blocks and it got our edge. Next time they ran a crack toss, everybody overran it — overplaying for that — and the ball cut back on us.”

“We missed tackles in the back end, we didn’t get off blocks in the front end, we were bad with leverage at times. Yeah. There was a reason it looked so bad and it was because we were so bad.”

The Eagles’ struggles against Washington came as a surprise because Philadelphia’s defense got off to a such a great start this season. Schwartz’s unit only allowed 20 points in the Eagles’ first three games. The Birds got off to a rough start in Detroit by allowing 21 points in the first quarter, but they were on pace to pitch a shutout in the second half if not for a costly Ryan Mathews fumble late in the game.

Penalties and missed tackles have contributed to the Eagles’ defensive struggles. It’s clear that players deserve some of the blame. But so does the man who oversees the unit, and Schwartz shouldered some responsibility on Thursday.

“I think it’s my job to find a way to put a fire out,” said Schwartz. “And to find something that, when we’re not having a great day, to be able to have a change-up somewhere. Unfortunately, my change-ups didn’t work either. It didn’t matter, our four man pass rush wasn’t effective […] we got no sacks in the game. That’s not us. We gotta have pressure. Our front four has to carry us. We’ve got good players up there and they’ve got to do it. When we’re not having a good day rushing, our blitz package has to be able to come through. We weren’t successful in that. We had a couple plays we made in there, but not enough.”

“Third down percentage means a lot for us. A couple of those, we had them backed upon a 3rd-and-9. Did a good job in coverage, got leaky in our pass rush, quarterback scrambles for a first down. Those things keep drives alive. If we’re playing at our best, we’re rushing the quarterback, we’re getting off the field on third down. We had opportunities to get off the field on some third downs. Started with the very first one of the game. There was no points on the drive, but I think that set the tone. We did a poor job of the blitz on that one and they were able to throw the ball outside, convert it, we got them stopped later in that drive but I think the damage was done there.”

Schwartz isn’t mistaken; the Eagles barely managed to get any pressure on Kirk Cousins. Washington’s quarterback didn’t get sacked once and he was only hit twice. As a result, Cousins had all day to throw against an Eagles secondary that was starting a rookie seventh-round pick at cornerback.

Looking ahead to this week, the Eagles are set to face off against a quarterback who’s played better than Cousins has this season. That’s right, Sam Bradford returns to town as one of the top performing passers in the NFL. He ranks first in completion percentage and second in passer rating. He’s thrown six touchdowns to zero interceptions.  Schwartz talked about the challenge of facing Bradford and the Vikings’ offense.

“You look at the success, their numbers aren’t going to boggle you offensively with the executions of turnover,” Schwartz started. “I think they have one turnover, is that right? Just one. There’s no interceptions, and that goes a long way. You look at their stats across the board, they’re not rushing for a very big average. I don’t know if you would expect [that] losing Adrian Peterson. But the quarterback is completing a lot of passes. Real high completion percentage. They’re not afraid to take a checkdown. They haven’t made very many mistakes. I think that has led — as well as their defense is playing — that’s been a good formula for those guys. I think a lot goes into that. We’ve got to find ways to take their security blankets away [and] make them be more aggressive in attacking the defense”

“And also it would help if you make them play from behind, all those things go together. They haven’t done that this year. They’ve done a good job of playing from ahead. Takeaways mean a big thing. The one that we had in that game, as poorly as we played against the Redskins, that one big play takeaway kept us in the ballgame. We need to find a way to get more of those. Not just takeaways, but some lost yardage plays and being after the quarterback. [Bradford] isn’t the most mobile guy in the world. Everybody understands that. So I think there’s some opportunities for us to be able to stay after him.”

There’s a lot of pressure on Schwartz’s unit to rebound this week. The Vikings’ defense is arguably the best in the NFL so Philadelphia likely won’t have a lot of scoring opportunities.