Leodis McKelvin talks keys to Jim Schwartz’s defense

May 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz speaks with the media during OTS
May 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz speaks with the media during OTS /

At the Philadelphia Eagles’ second session of OTAs last week, cornerback Leodis McKelvin had a few things to say about the keys to Jim Schwartz’s defense.

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“The most important thing is to take care of the deep ball,” McKelvin told reporters. “That’s always the most important thing I tell everyone is to take care of the deep ball. There’s certain things Jim [Schwartz] wants us to play but I also just tell them to take care of the deep ball and break up everything that stops in front of you. Other then that, if we take care of the deep ball everything will be fine.”

In recent memory, taking care of the deep ball isn’t something the Eagles’ secondary did efficiently. They weren’t even mediocre in the defensive passing game, it was embarrassing to see the numbers put up each week by opposing offenses without changes being made to the scheme.

Although Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams weren’t shutdown cornerbacks and often got blown by in coverage, the then-defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, didn’t help improve the situation.

Davis’ stubbornness to ditch his scheme that left his corners on an island without help is also a reason why their secondary struggled as a unit the past three seasons.

Under former head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles put up some of the worst numbers in the NFL in passing defense.

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During Kelly’s first two seasons with Fletcher and Williams as the starting cornerbacks, the Eagles allowed the most passing yards in 2013 and second-most in 2014.

In that two-year span, the Eagles also allowed 134 plays to go for more than 20-yards, which lead the NFL.

The Eagles made changes in the secondary in 2015 by signing Byron Maxwell and promoting Nolan Carroll to start at the opposite cornerback position, however. The result was almost identical for the Eagles.

For the third straight year, the Eagles placed in the top-five worst in the NFL for most passing yards allowed, which ended the Davis era as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.

McKelvin said the defense is also built for the safeties to match up with the slot receivers and tight ends.

Schwartz spoke about how he wants his safeties and corners to line up with slot receivers and tight ends in his press conference the day prior to McKelvin talking to reporters.

"“If you have a safety that’s not comfortable playing out there like a corner, you’re going to be in trouble,” Schwartz said. “It’s probably just an eye toward getting ready for those situations. They detach a tight end and put him on the backside, there’s a lot of teams who do that.“They have a big body they can throw a fade to, you can do a lot of different things that way. Our safeties have to be comfortable executing that. Both of our safeties, and a lot of our safeties, let’s put it that way, have corner in their background. And that’s for a reason.”"

One game in particular where the Eagles were overmatched against the tight end position was in a week 16, 38-24 loss against the Washington Redskins.

Jordan Reed hauled in nine receptions for 129-yards and two touchdowns against an Eagles defense that allowed 365-yards through the air that day at Lincoln Financial Field.

Along with Reed, the Eagles will face other deep threats in their division like Odell Beckham, DeSean Jackson and Dez Bryant multiple times this upcoming season.

McKelvin, who signed a two year, $6.2 million contract with $3 million guaranteed with the Eagles had one of his best statistical seasons under Schwartz when he was the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator in 2014 until he broke his ankle in week 11 against the Miami Dolphins.

“The year I had him he was playing at a really level before he got hurt, he broke his ankle against Miami, and was really playing at a high level,” Schwartz told reporters. “He’s not the tallest guy around but he can jump and play the ball in the air. Mentally and physically tough. I don’t know if you see that just seeing his body shape, but he’ll go throw his body around and hit. He’s a first round draft pick and he’s played at a high level in this league.”