Five nuggets from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s chat with the media Tuesday ...
How many points?
A couple of Eagles defensive backs talked about this on Monday (see story), but the Bucs put up 48 points on the Saints this weekend. This coming game is looking a little tougher than we once thought.
The Eagles’ defense, though, is obviously better than the one the Saints put out there against Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday, but still … 48 points stands out. Beating Drew Brees in a shootout stands out.
“Yeah, they made a lot of big plays,” Schwartz said. “DeSean Jackson down the field, [Mike] Evans, tight end. A lot of big plays. Fitzpatrick has been around for a long time. He got hot, and New Orleans had a hard time getting him stopped.
“Yeah, it was eye-opening to watch it for sure.”
Cox barely leaves field
We don’t have to worry about Fletcher Cox’s conditioning. The Eagles’ best defensive player played 65 of 70 defensive snaps in the opener. That’s the kind of workload Cox took on during the playoff run last season.
“It's probably not ideal,” Schwartz said. “But it's what we had to do to win the game, and that's what we did.”
Schwartz pointed at the Eagles’ lack of depth at DT as a reason why Cox played so much. Tim Jernigan is still on NFI and Bruce Hector was playing in his first NFL game. Hector played just seven snaps; Schwartz said they wanted to limit the rookie.
The Eagles’ DC said the rain before the game helped some because it dropped the temperature. It also helped when the Eagles started getting stops to get off the field. Both things allowed Cox to play as much as he did.
Rotating at defensive end
Schwartz seemed proud of the Eagles’ rotation at defensive end. While a couple of the guys play inside too, check out these snap counts for the four defensive ends on Thursday night:
Brandon Graham: 46
Michael Bennett: 45
Derek Barnett: 40
Chris Long: 39
Schwartz said the Eagles “violated” Graham’s pitch count some, but they liked what they saw from him after he missed all of training camp and the preseason as he recovered from ankle surgery. They kept making sure he was OK.
Schwartz’s answer about rotating at defensive end is worth reading in its entirety:
First of all, it takes unselfish players. I like where we are that way. Our front judges themselves on the entire group, not individual accomplishment. You see that on the field. Fletch makes a sack and they're all excited about it, because they all played a part in it.
So I think you need to have unselfish players. It just needs to be stressed. I think when you show plays like those last five plays in the game when they were fresh and they were coming and it didn't matter who was in the game, I think that that goes a long way to selling those kind of things.
It's good for not just one game, but over the course of the season. I think our players recognize that. I think it also goes to another theme of what we've been talking about: you have to trust a guy that he can go in and make those plays.
If you want to rotate players, you need to have players that can be on the field. You can't say, ‘Well, ‘this’ guy can't be out there in ‘this’ situation or ‘this’ situation or ‘this’ situation or ‘this’ situation,’ and then he doesn't play very much snaps in the game.
So we have trust in those players. They work hard together. They realize it's about the group, it's not about them individually. That's where the production counts.
The Eagles are counting on that production continuing throughout this season.
Two big penalties
Second-year defensive end Derek Barnett was called for two defensive offside penalties during Thursday’s game. Both penalties negated sacks.
“We can't afford to take sacks off of the board,” Schwartz said flatly.
One sack actually led to an interception, but that was just a weird coincidence. Schwartz said the Eagles will take a look and see if it’s worth having Barnett line up six inches back to avoid future penalties.
Schwartz stopped short of saying Barnett made up for the two penalties, but did like his physicality and thought Barnett was still going really strong in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game.
From the stretch
As he’s wont to do, Schwartz tried to use a baseball analogy on Tuesday. It was one even he admitted was a stretch.
He was asked about all the time Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks haven’t played together over the last couple of years. His point was that there’s a silver lining because he’s used different combinations and has done different things that can eventually help the team.
The baseball analogy was … just a bit outside.
“I’ll take you back,” Schwartz said. “Frank Tanana could throw some heat, and he hurt his shoulder or elbow or something and became a soft-toss specialist. He played forever. It was all about control and things like that.
“So I think — boy, that's a really bad analogy. But when you are lacking something, it does force you to try to find another way to do it. There is nothing like having that fastball.”
Just so we get the baseball right, Tanana injured his shoulder in the 1978 season after he struck out at least 200 batters in 1975, '76 and '77. That 1978 season was the last time he made the All-Star team, but Tanana developed some off-speed pitches and pitched 16 more MLB seasons.
“Since I haven’t been able to throw hard, I’ve learned to pitch,” Tanana said in 1984, having no idea his name would be brought up by an NFL defensive coordinator in a loose analogy 34 years later.