Teams are figuring out how to beat the Eagles defense, but can Schwartz adapt?


It’s easy to look at a pass defense that ranks 29th in the NFL and begin pointing the finger as to why Philadelphia are now 1-2. But through a combination of offensive dysfunction and opposing adjustments, the Eagles kind of have their hands tied.

‘Disappointing’ would be an understatement. Through 3 weeks, the Eagles have failed to register a single sack and have 10 QB hits. PFF ‘Pressures’ included or not, that track-record is abysmal. But why?

“We’re not getting to the quarterback – especially me.” Fletcher Cox said after the game. “I’m not getting there quick enough. We have to do a better job as a group, as a defensive line, and as a defense.”

That may be the case, but Detroit learned from Atlanta and deployed a lot of ‘max protection’. Chip-blocks were a focal point of an offense that has ultimately looked at the ways every other offense in the last year or so has beaten the Eagles. With cornerbacks playing so far off the ball and a rampant pass-rush, you can easily negate both by throwing underneath. Matthew Stafford’s average of 6.3 yards per pass speaks for itself…especially when he came into this game averaging well over 8 yards per pass.

“I just knew coming into the game that they weren’t going to do so much max protection, but I guess after they looked at the way Atlanta blocked us they had no choice but to do it.” Cox explained. “We have to come up with a plan to attack that, and I know [defensive line] Coach [Phillip] Daniels will do a good job at it. We’ll sit down and talk about it. We just have to buy in as a group. We know that teams are trying to slow down our pass rush, but we have to get more aggressive up front and get after the quarterback.”

The fact of the matter is, this team wasn’t built to win from behind. When the Eagles burst out of the gate to 7-14 point leads, teams have to throw the ball. They have to stand in the pocket and wait for routes to develop. That’s where off-coverage and a 4-man rush comes in. But when the opposition doesn’t need to do that and you’re short-handed at defensive tackle, there’s only so much you can do. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett have been a force in the face of the quarterback and have pressured mistakes, but it hasn’t been enough to generate turnovers…something that’s long been missing from this scheme. Teams are figuring out how to stop the Eagles defense running rampant at a time when the offense can’t seem to get it together.

So, what’s the solution? The window to trade for Jadeveon Clowney has passed them by and may not have helped if the ball is coming out within 2 seconds every snap anyway, and trading for Jalen Ramsey wouldn’t help the fact that there’s a lack of depth at DT and a lack of impactful depth at DE. The defense then, is relying solely on a sputtering offense to do its job.

The unit isn’t perfect and certainly not exempt from criticism. After the Eagles pulled back within three in the second half, the defense allowed a 75-yard drive that took a chunk of time off the clock and gave the Lions a 10-point lead again. But that’s a double-edged sword.

The Eagles had two chances to win the game in the final two minutes thanks to defensive efforts and special teams prowess and failed to capitalize on both.

Jim Schwartz will be on the receiving end of some harsh words today, but with a lack of depth, a less than 100% Fletcher Cox, and an offense that isn’t tilting the scales in favor of his scheme, what more can he do?

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports