Schwartz Throws a Curve Ball at Overmatched 49ers
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Jim Schwartz is fond of baseball analogies so we'll play along.
The Eagles defensive coordinator threw a curve ball at rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard and the winless San Francisco 49ers during a 33-10 win over Sunday.
Previous ankle and calf issues to Jordan Hicks had given opponents a clear indication of what the Eagles would be doing without their defensive leader. Second-year man Joe Walker would hold down the fort in the base defense while Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks would be the three-down linebackers playing in the team's nickel defense.
When Beathard reached third down for the first time, however, he may have been jarred to see No. 27 next to Bradham on the second level.
Schwartz unleashed a 12-to-6 Uncle Charlie by moving the versatile Malcolm Jenkins into a rover-like position with veteran Corey Graham rotating in at Jenkins' normal safety spot.
"It's Malcolm, he can do everything," Bradham joked when asked about the look.
By definition it was a dime defense because there were six defensive backs on the field but make no mistake Jenkins was playing the role of a linebacker
Playing in their first full game since Hicks was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, Schwartz used a variety of looks in what was almost like a scrimmage-like environment, especially after the 49ers kept losing offensive linemen.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Schwartz went with a dime look on 14 different occasions and it was all hands on deck, especially after Patrick Robinson went down with a concussion in the second quarter.
Jaylen Watkins played a season-high 28 defensive snaps and was a part of the game plan even before Robinson's injury, while rookie corner Rasul Douglas played in 30 snaps and Dexter McDougle toiled in a career-high 32 defensive snaps due to Robinson's absence.
Nearly every pitch Schwartz called was effective as the Philadelphia defense generated two turnovers, sacked Beathard four times and held the Niners to a dismal 3-of-15 on third downs.
Walker did indeed start in the base defense at Mike LB, and Kendricks was next to Bradham when Schwartz did go with two linebackers in the nickel.
"I played two games prior to this, when Jordan went down, so we’ve had some time to build chemistry," Kendricks said when discussing his expanded role. "We can still build on that chemistry, and we’re not only building with each other, we’re building with everyone on the field and every teammate in the locker room. The whole defense has to come together as people go down and people come in. The thing about our team is that we’re really well prepared. That’s the ones, twos, and threes."
Prepared enough to roll out new looks in Week 8 and play at a high level.
"It starts with the defensive line," coach Doug Pederson said. "I thought in the back end they did a great job of coverage -- just tackling too in the open field. There were some great tackles in the open field, and Mychal Kendricks stepped up and had a couple PBUs. I thought overall it was a great team effort today."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen