We didn’t get too much into the Eagles yesterday because of the Jimmy Butler press conference, the Markelle Fultz stuff, and also because nobody really wants to talk about a shitty home loss to the 4-5 Cowboys.

That said, Jim Schwartz did have some interesting things to say at his Tuesday press conference, and even Mike Groh had a worthy quote or two.

Schwartz answered questions about the banged up secondary, his “picket-fence” scheme, and the defense’s inability to hold things together in the fourth quarter.

Some highlights from his availability:

  • Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod are definitely done for the year, but Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills will have a chance to be back
  • Defense wasn’t set and wasn’t ready to play on the Dak Prescott QB sneak for a touchdown – “We had plenty of time to communicate the call and get set. We just weren’t there to do it.”
  • they liked Avonte Maddox in the slot against Cole Beasley and thought he did a nice job there, wanted to play that matchup
  • Rasul Douglas “played like a 27-20 loss. And that’s the way the team played. That’s the way the defense played.”
  • they rotated Corey Graham and Tre Sullivan at safety because Graham was returning from the hamstring injury and they didn’t want him taking too many snaps in a row
  • wasn’t disappointed with four-man pass rush, but he was disappointed in the run defense, which includes linebackers and secondary as well

Schwartz was then asked a series of questions about the “picket fence” defense he sometimes uses on third and long situations. This is when they basically stand seven guys on the line of gain and allow that underneath completion, then swarm the ball carrier.

Exchange after the jump:

Q. 3rd and long and 4th and long, what makes you go with the picket-fence defense there and what needs to be better? (Zach Berman)

JIM SCHWARTZ: What do you mean what needs to be better with it?

Q. Well, if at all, do you think it needs to improve? (Zach Berman) 

JIM SCHWARTZ: We haven’t given up one first down in three years playing that defense.

Q. The Tennessee game 4th and 15? (Zach Berman)

JIM SCHWARTZ: That was not that call.

Q. And the 3rd and 15 the other day? (Zach Berman)

JIM SCHWARTZ: It was not that call.

Q. It does seem like some of the situations where you are 3rd and 10 plus and you’re playing well off coverage, the idea is you kind of want them to dump the ball down and make the run for the first down — (Jimmy Kempski)

JIM SCHWARTZ: They haven’t gotten any first downs on those calls. So I don’t know what you’re really talking about right there. You mean the end of the first half one? That was man-to-man. That wasn’t soft zone. Our picket-fence-type defense has not given up first down. The closest it came was they had a 4th down and short, and ended up false starting. But I remember saying on the sideline, “Hey is that the time that it finally,” — because I would include, if you gave up enough yards on third down that they went for it on fourth and converted, I would consider that as the defense being defeated. The biggest thing is we’re certainly willing to give up ten yards — we ran that same defense later in the game, gave up two yards. All calls look good if they work. All calls look bad if they don’t work.

Just to be clear, there were two 3rd and 15 plays for Dallas on Sunday. This happened in the first quarter and is an example of the Eagles lining up in the picket fence look:

They typically run this on third and long when the opponent is in their own half of the field. On this play they allowed 14 yards, which wasn’t pretty, but Dallas false started on the 4th down attempt and wound up punting.

The second 3rd and 15 came right before halftime, when the Cowboys gashed the Eagles on a screen pass for a first down. This is not the picket design:

See the difference?

In the picket look, you just rush four and drop everyone else to the line. That second play there is nickel defense with two linebackers in the game, but the corners are sooooo far off the line. Douglas was bad on that play. I really don’t know why the corners are always 10 yards off on these plays.

Anyway, that should clear up that exchange.

More Schwartz:

  • injuries and loss of Rodney McLeod makes playing dime a little more difficult than it was last year
  • didn’t want to “telegraph” where Sidney Jones would play this week if he returns (they can play him on the outside since Darby and Mills are out)
  • on turnovers: “You guys are worried about turnovers. I’m worried about stopping the run. I’m worried about getting 3rd-down stops. If we take care of those things, then turnovers will come.”

Finally, this is how Schwartz evaluates each game:

“First, I always watch the film three times. One time is evaluating the scheme and where we broke down on a play. The next is looking at individual players and how they played within the scheme. Then the last time I circle back was like was this an effective call? Is there a better alternative in those situations? Nobody ever calls a perfect game. It’s always a matter of trying to figure out why something didn’t work and have a better alternative for the future.”

As Andy Reid would say, they’ve “got to do a better job” defensively, or else the Saints are gonna blow ’em out of the building.

Some notes from Mike Groh’s jawn:

  • coaching staff is spending a lot of time trying to fix the offense’s slow starts
  • they played a lot of 11 and 12 personnel because it was “just how the game unfolded, to be honest.”
  • On Wentz missing Alshon Jeffery in the end zone on the incomplete pass: “I think Alshon hesitated ever so slightly as the defender played out into him, and I think it just threw the timing off just a little bit. Both guys were really where we anticipated them being, meaning Carson and Alshon, and we just missed the play, unfortunately.”
  • Groh was asked about his role in scripting the first 15 plays of the game: “I’m not going to get into the specifics of how we go about our game planning.”
  • Josh Adams is starting to play his best ball and will be involved moving forward

I thought this was an interesting question, so let’s wrap it up with T Mac:

Q. Just to tie a couple of these questions together, have you guys explored the possibility that maybe Carson Wentz isn’t at his best working in scripted plays and that maybe he’s just more of a quarterback that likes to play in the moment where it’s not as premeditated? (Tim McManus)

MIKE GROH: No, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t have any evidence that would support that. I mean, all these plays are on the game plan. You know, they could get called at any time during the course of the game. In fact, they could get repeated during the course of the game.