Jim Schwartz needs to learn to adjust, or the Eagles need to move on.
This past Sunday continued a common trend for the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite a solid showing on defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to find an easy flaw and attack it to their advantage to win 38-29.
Nate Gerry is the center of attention for all the wrong reasons on the Eagles’ defense. The Steelers attacked the Eagles linebackers relentlessly throughout the entire game. The blame however, cannot fall entirely on Nate Gerry’s shoulders. It needs to be placed on the man who has continued to play him, week in and week out, without any change in personnel or defensive scheme. While, Jim Schwartz has a ridiculously talented defense this season he has failed to help support a weak linebacker unit.
You are only as strong as your weakest link and for the Eagles, we all know that is Nate Gerry. Every week Gerry has been picked apart by opposing teams. Jim Schwartz has failed Nate Gerry. There are so many simple adjustments he could make to fix or at the very least help his struggling linebacker. It is so easy for opposing teams to identify this weakness and attack it relentlessly.
We’ll look at the LA Rams game first.
Los Angeles Rams:
Sean McVay is easily one of the NFL’s smartest coaches but this Eagles defensive scheme could probably be beaten by Hue Jackson. What they do isn’t complicated. Either they are in blatant man coverage, man coverage with the Safeties overtop in a zone, or in a hybrid coverage with the linebackers in a zone.
You can easily check to see what that coverage is on offense by moving players at the line of scrimmage and seeing how the secondary adjusts. If you’re talented across the board usually you know your weak points and adjust towards them and provide them with a crutch in coverage.
For a lot of the plays, the Eagles seemed to be in a hybrid with the linebackers in a zone, or in complete man coverage.
Sean McVay had Goff target this early and often. He lined Cooper Kupp in the slot and would run slant routes towards the inside, that the corners could never beat, and forced the LB’s to make a play, but of course they never did. He didn’t exclusively target the LB’s though. Goff threw several out routes, which are a prime man coverage route for WRs.
At this point, you would see many defensive coordinators adjust their coverages by either stacking the box with a safety and taking that mid-game away or adjust their zones to where they are targeting. This is not a ridiculous ask of the players, this is something that should always be installed if necessary.
Schwartz did not make that adjustment and allowed the Rams to score 37 points and dismantle this defense.
McVay helped map out for every single team in the NFL on how to beat the Eagles because Jim Schwartz was not going to adjust. This is a defense with the league’s best defensive line and the first competent secondary in over a decade for Philadelphia and they are being hung out to dry week after week.
Yesterday, there was 3 Minutes left in the 4th Quarter and the Eagles caught a break with an offensive pass interference that saved an easy 4th touchdown from Steelers rookie Chase Claypool. At the time, Claypool had 6 receptions for 75 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Steelers constantly attacked this Eagles weak point on defense. They ran empty backfield sets or trip WR sets almost every play.
On 3rd and 8, everyone and their mothers knew a pass was coming from the Steelers, who were up 2 points at the time. The Steelers lined up in an empty shotgun formation with trips left and an additional 2 wideouts on the left. Not a single tight end. It was all wide receivers. The Eagles were in man coverage with Rodney McCleod above in a zone coverage set with Marcus Epps. Almost immediately, Big Ben had eyes on Claypool manned up on Gerry and targeted him right away. McLeod made the wrong read. Claypool scored easily.
This is not on Nate Gerry. Maybe a few Linebackers in NFL history could keep up with Claypool in the open field. Gerry shouldn’t be out here on this play. Really, no linebacker should. There are very few that could keep up with Claypool in the NFL.
You have to expect the pass is coming and easily should have your best coverage guys out there. Most teams would probably have put an extra safety in his place. Even though the fault is towards McLeod on this play as a player, the scheme is far more the issue.
This is a basic adjustment and not the first time Schwartz has made this mistake. Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor are sitting in the trenches ready to play and they have yet to be given a single chance.
With all the chances and shortcomings he had on defense personnel-wise, there is no reason for this group to be giving up this many points week in and week out.
Jim Schwartz has Darius Slay and the best D Line in football and is giving up the 8th most points in the NFL. It won’t happen right now, but Eagles need to move on from Jim Schwartz.
Mandatory Credit: : Matt Slocum AP