Schwartz Has Eagles’ Defense on the Verge of Something Big
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In the three years, Chip Kelly was in charge of the Eagles the team's defense never finished higher than No. 28 in a 32-team league.
Things figured to improve on that side of the football in a more traditional environment and sure enough, Jim Schwartz turned what had been a staple in the bottom five to a defense that was top-half in the league, No. 13 overall to be exact.
But don't pat the veteran defensive coordinator on the back for doing his job because Schwartz doesn't think he's even near the finish line.
"Please don’t put on my resume that I elevated this defense to a top 15," Schwartz said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday in advance of Sunday's season- opener against the Washington Redskins. "That’s a participation trophy, in my mind."
What matters to Schwartz more than anything is the scoreboard and too often the Eagles were on the wrong side during his first season in charge on the defensive side.
In Schwartz's mind, his job description is as simple as it gets, hold the opposition to fewer points than Doug Pederson's offense musters, no matter the context.
If it's 40, just hold them to 39 and if the offense struggles and only manages 10, Schwartz expects his group to step up and allow less.
"The stat that we care about the most is points allowed," he said. "I think we were 12th in there. That’s still not as good as we can be."
The Eagles' defense has different makers at all three levels -- Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham up front, Jordan Hicks at linebacker and Malcolm Jenkins at the safety position -- and that core group has been strengthened in the offseason.
A healthy Vinny Curry and rookie first-round pick Derek Barnett should bolster what was an inconsistent edge presence from a year ago and Tim Jernigan should help with the interior push up front while Ronald Darby brings a presence the Eagles haven't had in years at the cornerback position.
“On paper, we’re better," Schwartz assessed. "We’ve added not only depth but we’ve added some key components to the defense."
Schwartz believes in simplicity and allowing his students to play as fast as possible. Consistency is always the buzzword for the DC but he also understands that each game is its own entity and the grading is done on a curve from week-to-week but results are the only acceptable outcome.
"We’re going to have good games; we’re going to have bad games," he surmised. "When the season’s over, we have to [have given] our offense, our team, consistently, a chance to win the game."
And how do you do that?
“Don’t allow many points, and set the offense up to score.”
And if the Eagles do that, top-half will quickly turn into top-10. Just don't congratulate Schwartz for participating.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen