The Eagles offense may be the equivalent of a trainwreck right now, but the team still sit just one win away from tying the Dallas Cowboys at the top of the NFC East. That wouldn’t be the case without a sudden defensive rejuvenation.
Whether it came as a result of external pressure, an article being written stating his involvement in personnel signings, or maybe just some input internally, Schwartz has changed his defense significantly over the last few weeks and the results speak for themselves.
Schwartz blitzed MVP candidate Russell Wilson on 14 of 31 pass plays on Sunday. Four of the Eagles’ six sacks came on those plays.
“I think the other thing with blitz is, it’s never just one guy.” Schwartz said of its recent success. “It’s everybody doing their job within the scheme. All 11 guys need to execute or you can look bad in blitz, whether it’s a physical mistake or a mental mistake.”
This wasn’t just a magical appearance against Seattle, either. Over the last 3 games, Schwartz has sent extra pass-rushers 31 times on pass plays, leading to 7 sacks.
“Different every week. Different philosophy. Same, within the execution. Like I said, schemes change from week to week.” Schwartz explained. “I think what you’re seeing on defense is you’re seeing guys that are playing with passion, guys that are enjoying playing with each other, that are communicating well, that are tackling well, that are covering well, rushing well. I’ll throw that in there, too.
It’s tough to get after Russell Wilson. Our guys did a really good job of executing that plan, and even when we weren’t blitzing, our guys still put good pressure on him and limited his mobility.
That’s an outstanding player. I said that last week at this time. We knew we were going to have our work cut out for us trying to get him stopped. I’m proud of the way the guys have been playing.”
The Eagles defense has caught a second week over the last month, allowing just 61 points (15 per game) in the last four weeks. The Seahawks and Patriots both had to empty the playbook and turn to a trick play in order to find a way to catch this surprisingly disciplined unit off-guard.
The defensive backfield is now fully healthy, Fletcher Cox has some support alongside him, and the veterans on the team such as Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham continue to set the tone for younger players to follow.
Jenkins registered 4 QB hits, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, and 9 total tackles against the Seahawks…by himself. The unrelenting energy of Brandon Graham meanwhile has pushed him to 7.5 sacks, with the chance to set a new-career high now larger than ever.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to stick together.” Jenkins said. “We have five more opportunities together. We still have a chance. We’ve got to obviously clean up all our mistakes, we have to start playing better as a team – not just offense, not just defense, not just special teams – as a team we’ve got to get it together.”
The defense is single-handedly keeping the offense within reaching distance of games…and not just any games, but tough ones. An emphasis on ‘winning ugly’ has been placed due to so many injuries and setbacks offensively, but there’s nothing ugly about the way this defense has improved.
The Eagles ranked 25th in interceptions last year, with Rasul Douglas leading the way in interceptions. The team has 9 already this season and rank 2nd in Fumbles, forcing 13 balls loose.
After eight weeks of criticism, a lack of adaptation and a pass defense with more holes than a Golf Course, Schwartz has rallied his troops, flicked a few switches and is letting the uncaged animals dominate as they have on so many occasions prior to the rollercoaster season.
If defense truly does win championships, this rampant pass-rush, and suddenly water-tight secondary may just give a struggling offense the lifeline it so desperately needs.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports