Jim Schwartz Defends Rodney McLeod’s Effort

But the Eagles' defensive coordinator did question his unit's energy.

Rodney McLeod. (USA Today Sports)

Rodney McLeod. (USA Today Sports)

While Doug Pederson questioned his team’s effort in the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Bengals, Jim Schwartz doubted his defense’s energy. Cincinnati recorded season-highs in points and passer rating (130) without star receiver A.J. Green and starting running back Giovani Bernard.

“Here’s what I’d say about that, and I actually talked to the defense about that this morning: When it’s all said and done, we have to take the most pride in our effort, and sometimes there might be a difference between effort and energy,” Schwartz said. “It’s hard to have energy when you’re down 29-0; it’s not hard to have effort, and I think you saw us have effort.

“Regardless of what that scoreboard says, you got to come out and you got to play. The camaraderie — it’s too precious not to. I was a little bit — I don’t want to say disappointed, [but] disappointed may be an okay word. We need to play with more energy whether it’s at the beginning or at the end and that’s a challenge every week.”

Schwartz pointed to Bennie Logan’s and Nigel Bradham’s forced fumbles in the fourth quarter as examples of effort, noting that he’s “encouraged” by those plays. He also addressed Rodney McLeod’s hesitation on the goal line on Jeremy Hill’s two-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter.

“His fit on that play is not inside; his fit is outside and he got caught flat-footed. He’s getting ready to fit backside and all of a sudden the ball pops out frontside and he wasn’t expecting it right there,” Schwartz said. “I’ll put my name on Rodney McLeod any day. That guy plays the way the game’s supposed to be played. He’s tough; he’s not the biggest guy on the field, but that guy is a warrior and he’s going to do everything he can to win that game.

“He got caught flat-footed, probably no different than a baseball player that’s sitting on a fastball and you throw a changeup and he looks foolish on the play. That wasn’t his best presentation; he didn’t look good on that play. I think it had a lot more to do with where he was expecting that ball than anything else.”

Schwartz’s unit tallied 63 penalty yards, too, including one sequence when they had back-to-back 15-yard personal foul penalties by Jaylen Watkins and Bradham. But the Eagles’ defensive coordinator doesn’t believe those mistakes are reflective of hesitation by his players or a lack of effort.

“To go back to the effort question, those penalties we had, they weren’t from lack of attention; they weren’t from lack of composure. They were aggressive penalties,” Schwartz said. “(Bengals running back Rex Burkhead) is fighting to get a first down and (Watkins) goes in to clean that tackle up to try to get us off the field on a critical third down and the guy ducks his head, [so] he ends up hitting him in the head.

“Those penalties hurt us, we recognize that and we want to avoid penalties the best we can, but if you gave me the choice of Jaylen Watkins getting that foul right there or passing on that hit and that guy fighting for the first down, we all would’ve lost our Philadelphia card right there. You’d never be able to step out for pizza in South Philly if he hadn’t tried to make that play.”