Can someone please inform “General” Schwartz that blitzing is your ally?
It’s hard to think of defense and the Philadelphia Eagles without remembering former head coach Buddy Ryan and former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. Both are near and dear to the fans in Philadelphia. Both will always be remembered for their attacking styles of defense. Following the loss of Johnson, there were experiments, mistakes and decisions we still can’t figure out. Before we say another word, let’s be clear. The Eagles organization is lucky to have “General” Jim Schwartz as its’ defensive coordinator. Sometimes, we just wish he’d attack more.
A quick look at history:
Let’s just take a walk down memory lane and look at what preceded him. Following the untimely passing of Johnson, former head coach Andy Reid seemingly got desperate. There were experiments with Sean McDermott and Todd Bowles. Both were met with minimal success. Sure, both would eventually find their way (both are now head coaches), but the coaches they’ve become are a long way from what they were when they were in Philadelphia.
We won’t even get into Reid’s decision to make an offensive line coach his defensive coordinator with the promotion of Juan Castillo.
The arrival of General Schwartz and his system:
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Schwartz’s arrival brought hope. Before anyone would even take the field, we knew change was coming. We knew the Eagles would return to the 4-3 defensive scheme. We knew his scheme relied on the front four getting pressure and that the blitz would be used scarcely. Still, watching the Eagles blitz on less than 30 percent of the defensive snaps during the first five games of the season brought both concern and frustration. In week six, versus the Washington Redskins, Philly couldn’t bring down an immobile Kirk Cousins once.
What we’ve learned:
What we saw at the beginning of 2016 revealed a problem that would be seen all season. Not only was the blitz used minimally. It was virtually nonexistent. It became more of an issue once we realized the secondary could be taken advantage of almost at will by just about everybody. Still, Schwartz refused to budge, and he rarely made adjustments when things went haywire. His unit responded, and it wasn’t positive. There was visible frustration, and at certain points of the season, the game in Cincinnati for instance, the defense didn’t seem to be giving maximum effort.
The Eagles ended up with 34 sacks in 2016. Who knows how it happened, but it did. Here’s the point. Nothing ignites a defense like quarterback pressure and turnovers. When you take that away, guys are basically just reading and reacting. It can, sometimes, take them out of the game emotionally. Strides were made by Schwartz’z unit, but if this team could mix it up a little the possibilities are endless, especially with the athletes this team has on that side of the ball.
With the addition of Timmy Jernigan, this team will field him, Beau Allen and Fletcher Cox to hold the middle of the defensive line down. Defensive ends Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Brandon Graham will rotate in on the outside. That’s enough to keep offensive coordinators up all night in 2017. Now, just imagine if you’d add the component of sending Jordan Hicks or Malcolm Jenkins in the backfield from time to time.
Somewhere, Jim Johnson and Buddy Ryan are turning over in their graves.