Jim Schwartz on Buccaneers' offense, DE rotation, iffy baseball analogy and more

Jim Schwartz on Buccaneers' offense, DE rotation, iffy baseball analogy and more

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. 

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Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at West Chester and the unforgettable memories, like Herschel Walker standing at the top of the steps on the west end of the practice field signing autographs in the blazing heat (with his helmet on) for an hour, until every kid had gotten something signed.

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at Lehigh and how fans could stand literally six feet from the practice field and hear the thud of contact and interact with the players as they stood on the sideline.

But I’m not going to do that because those days are gone forever and no amount of me crying about it is going to bring it back.

And I understand why the Eagles — and more and more NFL teams every year — are holding practices in their own year-round facilities instead of remote college campuses. It makes sense to practice where your film library is stored, where your modern medical and training facilities are housed, where all your equipment and gear is, where your immaculately maintained practice fields are located.

I get it.

What I don’t get is just one open practice for the fans.

One. In a year.

That’s inexcusable.

The Eagles moved from Lehigh to the NovaCare Complex in 2013, when Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid. The Eagles scheduled five open practices that first summer, then three in 2014 and two each from 2015 through 2018.

And now just one.

Yeah, the $10 ticket fee for the Eagles’ one open practice this summer goes to a great cause. Every penny goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, a cause that’s close to Jeff Lurie’s heart. The Eagles Autism Challenge raised $3 1/2 million this year, and it’s a terrific event that I’ve participated in the last two years.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles have an opportunity to put on a show for their fans two or three times during training camp, and for reasons they haven't explained, they’ve chosen not to.

The Eagles had no comment on why they've reduced open practices to just one this summer, but I assume it’s because it’s a logistical nightmare loading up all that equipment and moving it across the street for a glorified walkthrough.

It’s a hassle — and presumably an expensive one — for Doug Pederson to lose a valuable practice day in the cozy environment of the NovaCare Complex so Jake Elliott can play catch with fans, Brandon Graham can sign autographs for every kid he can find and everybody can watch in person while Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson light it up.

But this is a franchise worth close to $3 billion, according to Forbes, and these are fans that devote their lives to this football team, buying their jerseys, snagging every ticket the instant it’s available, traveling to their games.

They deserve more than one open practice.

They deserve more than one day to watch their football team with their own eyes.

We all know how hard it is for the average fan to get tickets. If you don’t know someone or already have season tickets of your own or have a whole big pile of money, you’re not going.

The open practices are the only remaining opportunity most fans have to see their heroes up close. To interact with them. To feel like they’re a part of everything.

It’s a long preseason. Training camp starts July 25 and really continues until Aug. 21, when joint practices with the Ravens wrap up.

I find it hard to believe the Eagles can’t find one more day to move their operations across Broad Street for all the people who've helped make this franchise worth close to $3 billion.

We’ve gone from five to three to two and now to one. You can see what direction this is trending. I’m afraid of what’s coming next.

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Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles players will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 24, and the first practice will take place on July 25 at the NovaCare Complex. 

All but one practice will be held at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles will hold just one open practice for fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but this year will charge admission. 

The open practice will be on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.; it will also be Military Appreciation Night. 

Tickets will be $10 and all proceeds will go to the Eagles Autism Challenge. Tickets can be purchased on TicketMaster.com and went on sale at 10:30 this morning. 

For years, most of the Eagles’ training camp practices were open to fans at Lehigh University and even since the team moved camp to the NovaCare Complex, select practices have been open to fans for free at the Linc. This is the first year the Eagles will charge admission to a training camp practice. Parking for the open practice this year will still be free. 

Last year, the Eagles had two open practices at the Linc. Tickets were required, but they were free of charge. 

According to ESPN, there was internal debate about whether or not to charge admission to practice this year, but, "Ultimately, the desire to further the team's charitable efforts won out."

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