Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz
There is a lot of hype surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles hire of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Coming off three years of Chip Kelly's offense keeping the defense on the field for more plays than any other team in the NFL, people are excited to see what Schwartz can add to this unit.
One thing he will change is the defensive scheme, going from Billy Davis 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment.
"Our job is to try to streamline the information, allow them to play fast, and give them confidence," Schwartz said today during his press conference. "I think that the other part of a 4-3 is when you can affect the passer with four guys. When you're not forced to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback, you're in a very good position on defense. And I've been there before where you can't get pressure and you have to blitz, and it's not a great feeling. You want to blitz on your terms. You want to be able to blitz when you want to when the situation is right, not, well, we can't generate a pass rush unless we do."
Two years removed from this last job with the Bills, Schwartz’s defense in Buffalo finished the season as the NFL's No. 4 defense including a top five finish in a host of different defensive categories, including sacks (54), and takeaways (30).
"What we did in Buffalo was a little different than what we did in Detroit, which was a little different from what we did in Tennessee." explained Schwartz. "But it's all designed to try to make the most of what you have. I had a guy, Jerry Hughes, that was probably 245 pounds that played defensive end. He had to do it a little bit different than a Ziggy Ansah in Detroit or Vinny Curry here."
One area on defense where the Eagles struggled last year was sacking quarterback, as they were tied for 17th in the NFL at 37 on the year. Another area where the Eagles defense struggled was on third-down, ranking 30th in the NFL, giving up conversions on 42.9-percent of third downs.
Schwartz said that though the season is months away, what the players do now during OTAs can help them take that next step and hopefully improve upon some of the things they struggled with last season.
"It's hard to be patient in the NFL," Schwartz admitted. "But you have to be patient this time of year because we don't have any games scheduled on Sunday and the most important thing is making progress on technique and fundamentals, and building a good foundation that you can draw on in September. I think that's the most important thing now and anything else you just have to play it as it comes to you. You just have to judge everybody on this year and not what happened in the past."
Today at OTA's it was Ron Brooks and Leodis McKelvin lined up as the Eagles' starting cornerbacks, both players played for Schwartz in Buffalo, but right now there is no depth chart, just guys trying to get better by the time training camps rolls around.
"We don't have a depth chart now," Schwartz said. "We're just trying to work different groups. You work different combinations. You want to see guys against different competition."
"This time of year, you're mixing and matching an awful lot. You're trying to put guys in a lot of different situations and trying to sort of see what you have. They're honestly really not even competing right now. They're competing against themselves to try to improve their technique. To try to improve their understanding of the scheme, but the competition will start once we get to training camp. Once we really get going with some contact and full team drills and things like that."
One guy who has impressed has been Eagles sixth round pick Jalen Mills, who played safety and nickel back at LSU.
"He's been impressive so far," Schwartz admitted. "But we haven't really even started yet, to tell you the truth. He's got a lot to learn, and his head's probably swimming a little bit. But what he has shown is he's a very good athlete. He can play the ball, and he's comfortable being on an island. I think if you were check-marking things for corners, those would be three near or at the top."
The cornerback position promises to be one to watch when the Eagles open training camp with plenty of competition with McKelvin, Brooks, Mills, second year man Eric Rowe, incumbent Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepard among the guys competing for playing time.