By Peter Gleason
The bloom is off the rose of Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his once-sturdy troops.
After a blistering start to the season and holding the high-flying Atlanta Falcons to 15 points in Week 10, Schwartz’s defense has gotten torched. Philly has allowed at least 26-plus points in each of the last three games, including a 32-14 beat down by Andy Dalton and a Bengals offense missing several key players.
Schwartz said he tried everything to slow Cincinnati. Nothing worked. The former head coach pointed the finger squarely at one position: struggling cornerbacks.
“Facts were, in this game, we got beat in blitz, we got beat in zone, we got beat in Cover 2, we got beat in two-man, we got beat in six. We rolled through every one. We got beat in all of them,” Schwartz said. “Facts of life, our corners aren’t playing very well right now.
“It doesn’t mean I’ve lost confidence in them, because that’s the same bunch of corners that shut down some of the best offenses in the NFL. But we’re in a slump, and it didn’t matter what we were calling. A couple weeks ago when I was up here, we were talking about Minnesota and I said, ‘It didn’t matter what I was calling, they were all working.’ In this game, it didn’t matter. Didn’t matter what we were calling, it wasn’t working.”
Early in the season, Schwartz’s corners were masked by a potent pass rush and stellar safety play. Without pressure on the quarterback, that weakness on the edge got exposed.
The Eagles have managed just six sacks since Week 8 and earned none in back-to-back games.
This isn’t all about Schwartz either. The Eagles’ defense disintegrated last season under a different staff with mostly the same front-seven players.
Coach Doug Pederson mentioned blitzing more Monday, but that’s never been Schwartz’s style. Dating back to his days with Tennessee, the defensive coordinator has relied on a penetrating front four while dropping more into coverage.
Pederson backed off his blitz suggestion Wednesday after discussing it with Schwartz.
Eagles corners have been brutal and were a clearly a weakness entering the season — which is why the trade of Eric Rowe to New England seemed head-scratching before the season.
After putting his corners on blast, Schwartz now wants them to get back to basics.
“The only thing you can do in a slump is go back to basics, go back to technique,” Schwartz said. “If you’re a corner, it’s about technique and it’s about confidence. We’re not playing with a lot of confidence at corner, and we need to tighten up our technique.”
Corner will once again be a focal point this offseason. Whether Howie Roseman can actually upgrade the unit this time around remains to be seen.