Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz explains why soft coverage schemes can sometimes be the best calls.

Nick Fierro
The Morning Call

Everyone could see it coming last Sunday.

With the Eagles facing a severe shortage of defensive backs that forced them to start rookie Rasul Douglas at cornerback and special-teams ace Chris Maragos at safety, they made the logical decision to play soft coverage against the dangerous New York Giants receivers, allowing them to catch balls in front of them as they closed in for almost instantaneous tackles.

The approach worked to perfection for three quarters and well enough overall for their shorthanded squad to survive with a win.

Another component was that they expected quick passes from the Giants anyway, given the issues they have protecting their quarterback and the proficiency of the Eagles’ pass rush through their first two games.

This coming Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers could feature a different approach — from both teams.

Because the Chargers have allowed only four sacks of quarterback Philip Rivers through their first three games, they might be inclined to take more deep shots than the Giants did.

Conversely, the Eagles may be more equipped to defend them because it looks like they’ll be getting starting safety Rodney McLeod (hamstring) back.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz normally prefers his corners to challenge everything while his pass rush forces the quarterback into uncomfortable throws. But as they showed last week, they can function at a winning level playing a different way.

What it all means is that, depending on how the Chargers choose to attack, the Eagles have the ability to counter.

“I think [the Chargers are] a little bit different,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “I think they have more route concepts downfield than the Giants have, and [we] expect to see that going in.”

If it does, expect to hear from the Eagles pass rush, which produced eight sacks in two games before being held to zero last week, again.

Every week, an opponent is capable of taking at least one thing away. The Eagles have to just make sure they can do the same.

“You know, everybody is a little bit different,” Schwartz said. “Like I said before, it goes both ways. If you want to throw it that quick, you can't really get routes down the field. You know, we were doing a pretty good job on third down, third and fourth down [against the Giants] — it’s hard to sustain drives without big plays — up until we started leaking at the end of the game.

“One of the keys to that was that we weren't giving up 20-yard plays. Then [at the end] we gave up a 20-yard run and a 77-yard pass, which showed how that affects your ability to score. When we were tackling well and limiting their effectiveness, it was hard for them to score that way. Whatever way somebody plays, we’ve got to be able to answer.”

Because of how strong the Eagles’ pass rush is, they could be seeing a lot more of what they saw last Sunday: throws that are quick but not hurried.

As they begin to get healthier, it will be fascinating to see how they respond.

The Eagles likely won’t continue to play it the way they did last Sunday when they get their full complement of players back, though Schwartz pointed out that you can win that way if you committed to it.

“Oh sure, there’s been plenty of teams that have done it,” he said. “I mean, Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl and never got within 6 yards of a wide receiver. They played Tampa 2 and they played Cover 3 and hardly ever blitzed or played man. Indianapolis [went to] Super Bowls doing that same thing. I think a lot of it depends on your talent — the specific talents of your guys, where your offense is, how the game is being played, how your pass rush is doing. All those different things play into it.

“That was the decision we made in this game. Every game is a little bit different. I think it surprised all you guys how much pressure we had in the opener against the Redskins and [there were] a lot of questions about, `Hey, is that going to be the thing?’ ” Hey, every week is probably a little bit different, and it’s all really depending on the offense, what your matchups are, who the quarterback is, what their scheme is, how that best fits against us, what our injury situation is — all those go into account.”




Outstanding Defensive Coordinator. PERIOD !