There was a time just two years ago when the Eagles defense was playing so well, the worry was whether or not the organization would be able to keep defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz from landing a head coaching gig elsewhere.
Now, Eagles fans want him on the first plane out of town. He has become the whipping boy for a defense that struggled to cover the forward pass, gives up huge plays on third and fourth downs, wilts in the fourth quarter, can’t tackle, can’t create turnovers and now, after Zeke Elliott trucked the Birds for 151 rushing yards on Sunday night, can’t stop the run.
It’s a long list and there may be some things missing from it.
Schwartz met with reporters on Tuesday and talked about his failing defense.
Here are some of the highlights:
On the fourth-quarter meltdowns: “I think so many of those have come down to a play in a drive that we got a chance to get it stopped, and we haven't made the play. I think part of the NFL goes in streaks. I think it was a couple years ago that we were giving up a bunch in the first half and -- I think it was maybe 2016, first half we gave up a bunch of points, and then second half we didn't give up any.
“But took a lot of questions earlier this year about the difference between us, between road and home (games). I think some of those things are just things that come up over the course of time. Those guys make plays at different times.
“But I think the theme of the fourth quarter is we need to finish, and we need to make the plays when they count. We haven't done that. That's why we're 4 and 5. We haven't made the plays when they've needed to be made. Whether it was Carolina, whether it was last week, whatever week it is, we need to make those plays not just in the beginning of the game. We started some games pretty good. It doesn't matter, it's a 60-minute game.”
No, Schwartz doesn’t think his defensive line wore down, at least against the Dallas Cowboys. He thought the line was still generating consistent pressure, and said that he scratched several blitz calls because he needed more help in coverage.
On the lack of turnovers: “You guys know my stats, what are they? Points allowed and takeaways. Because one is our ability to control the game by keeping points off the board. The other one is either scoring on defense to help the offense, or putting the offense in position to score.
“I mean, he's (linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill) got a half cast on his hand, but we've got a chance to have a pick six early in the game. Didn't make the play. Didn't do it. It's a chance to really get a lot of momentum on our side and go. Those are plays when they are there, we've got to make them. We can't hunt those plays and chase those plays. When you do, you start giving up gaps in your run game. You start guessing on routes and start looking bad in coverage when you start chasing turnovers. We need to guard against those things.
“Like I said, if we do a good job stopping the run, we do a good job getting stops on third down, turnovers are gone. They're important to us, but it's one of those things where the harder you try to get them, sometimes the more you press, and the less likely you are to get them.”
The Eagles have four interceptions this season after getting 19 of them last year. Their last pick was Oct. 11 from Grugier-Hill in the first quarter against the New York Giants.
On the injuries that keep piling up on the secondary: “I hate to get cliche, but it is what it is. We've got some guys hurt, we've got some guys that are working hard to get back. We've got some young players that need to fill in and make their way in the league. We've got some guys that aren't coming back, obviously. (CB Ronald) Darby is not going to come back, [S] Rodney McLeod's not going to come back. The other guys will all have a chance to get back. But our job as players and coaches is work to find a formula that works for the guys that we have. In my mind, that's the essence of coaching: Take what you have and try to figure it out. It might look different than when we were at 100 percent strength.”
On the tackling troubles: “I think a lot of tackling goes to positioning, it goes to playing fast, playing confident. I think first when you look at tackling you generally go there. I don't think we've looked as fast and as swarming on defense. I think here's what happened. I think a lot of times last year we would miss the same number of tackles, but we were just flying around so fast and guys were covering each other up.
“I think that we got a lot of new faces and they're all sort of working their way through playing off of the other guy. And there is something to that sort of communication like offensive line, knowing what the other guy's going to do. I think we've got some work to do there. There are zero good defenses in the NFL that aren't good tackling defenses, and Sunday night we were not a good tackling defense.”