The fire Jim Schwartz crew has been quiet this week for some reason.
That’s one take I never understood.
Get rid of the coach who oversaw the Super Bowl defense, the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense a year ago, who limited the Falcons and Vikings to one early TD each in the playoffs, then when faced with the greatest quarterback in history who was on one of his unstoppable runs, found a way to stop him.
All because a defense missing half its starters has had a few bad quarters.
Let’s look at the job Jim Schwartz has done.
• The Eagles have allowed 30 points just once this year. Only the Cowboys have allowed 30 points fewer times. So while the offense has struggled all year to find itself, the defense has kept the Eagles in 13 of 14 games.
• The Eagles are ninth-best in the NFL on third down, third-best in the red zone, ninth-best in first downs allowed.
• The Eagles have allowed 33 touchdowns, ninth-fewest in the NFL.
And they’ve done this despite this mountain of injuries:
DEREK BARNETT (starting DE): Played only six games. On Injured Reserve with shoulder injury.
NIGEL BRADHAM (starting LB): Has been playing with a broken hand that required surgery during the bye week.
RONALD DARBY (starting CB): Played only nine games. On Injured Reserve with knee injury.
COREY GRAHAM (backup FS): Missed three games with hamstring injury.
KAMUGRUGIER-HILL (starting LB): Has been playing with a broken thumb on his right hand.
JORDAN HICKS (starting LB): Has missed the last four games with a calf injury.
TIM JERNIGAN (starting DT): Has missed all but one game because of a back injury.
SIDNEY JONES (nickel CB): Has missed five games with a hamstring injury.
AVONTE MADDOX(starting DB): Missed three games with knee and ankle injuries.
RODNEY MCLEOD (starting FS): Played only three games. On Injured reserve with knee injury.
JALEN MILLS (starting CB): Played only eight games. On Injured reserve with foot injury.
HALOTI NGATA (starting DT): Missed three games with calf injury.
JOSH SWEAT (backup DE): Went on Injured Reserve last week with ankle injury.
DESTINY VAEAO (backup DT): Played only six games. Placed on Injured Reserve with a quad injury.
PAUL WORRILOW (backup LB): Missed entire season with knee injury.
Honestly, the way Schwartz has been able to keep this thing on the rails despite all these injuries is really impressive.
Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham are the only guys who’ve started all 14 games. The Eagles have used 25 different defensive starters, including an absurd 13 defensive backs.
I still hear the same criticism of Schwartz over and over and over — he doesn’t blitz enough.
It’s easy to say blitz all the time. But you have to consider who’s playing cornerback.
There were stretches where the Eagles were without their top five cornerbacks and Schwartz was playing three corners who weren’t even on the roster a few weeks earlier, two of whom weren’t even in the league.
It’s hard enough asking experienced veteran corners to play man coverage against all-pro wide receivers. But it would be insanity to do it with Cre’von LeBlanc, Chandon Sullivan and De’Vante Bausby at cornerback.
Now that the Eagles are getting some guys back, you see Schwartz using all the tools in his toolbox. When he needs to blitz, he blitzes. Like on the final play of the Rams game.
In Schwartz’s three years here, the Eagles have allowed 19.8 points per game, sixth-best in the league. They’ve allowed 30 points just three times — fewest in the NFL. They’re sixth-best on third down, have allowed the fifth-fewest first downs, the sixth-fewest touchdowns.
And holding a team like the Rams — averaging 39 points per game at home — to 23 in a must-win game Sunday night was tremendous.
Most importantly, you’re seeing guys improve. Look at Rasul Douglas now compared to two months ago. Look at Avonte Maddox and how far he’s come. Look at Michael Bennett and his improvement.
Heck, Schwartz has gotten meaningful reps out of guys like LeBlanc, Bausby, Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector, who were all on the practice squad earlier in the season.
It hasn’t all been positive. The Eagles have had a couple late defensive meltdowns and a gutted roster is no excuse. There are calls Schwartz would love to have back, decisions he would love to do over.
But that’s true of any coach in the league.
When you look at the body of work?
A top-12 defense the first year post-Chip Kelly, a Super Bowl championship last year and a defense that’s never stopped competing and battling this year despite missing more than half its key components from opening day?
The Fire Schwartz crew has been quiet this week, and they really need to stay that way.
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