Jim Schwartz Explains Why He Likes His “Sticks” Defense

via NBC

Saw this on Twitter a short time ago and figured some people would be rolling their eyes:

Sticks defense.

That’s when the Birds line up literally on the line of gain and allow short completions on third and long, then immediately swarm the ball carrier. They might give up ten yards on third and 15, but they are forcing a punt and getting off the field.

The problem I think most of us have with “sticks” is the rare occasion when that 10 yard or 11 yard completion puts a team in field goal or four-down range. Schwartz typically only calls the defense when opponents are backed up in their own half of the field, but there are some situations where teams will cross midfield and then re-think whether they’re gonna take a risk and try to convert a fourth down effort.

Typically, you’re gonna see it play out like this, after the jump:

Simple concept really, they just don’t want to get beat over the top. So you allow that short completion and then immediately break on the ball carrier. The scheme usually involves three pass rushers, a linebacker who sits in the middle of the field, and then the other seven guys straddling the line.

Other times, Schwartz will sit those DBs near the line in typical off coverage but disguise blitzes to try to force the ball out early, as you see here:

Today at training camp, Schwartz was asked why he uses this scheme, to which he replied:

“I think it fits us. One thing about me is that we don’t really care how many yards we give up. It’s about getting off the field on third down and keeping points down. Whether you’re giving up 10 yards on a third down and long play or playing good red zone defense, it’s all just part of the same thing.”

Nothing incredibly groundbreaking or new there, though I think you could certainly make a case that you’re giving your offense 10 more yards to go if you’re going to sit back and allow a completed third down pass before swarming and making the tackle. I think it’s worth going back to the analytics for the Eagles and determining where the sticks cut off point is on the field, i.e., ‘we’re going to play it only when the opponent is behind the 40 yard line, 35 yard line,’ etc. Something like that. This defense is good enough to play nickel on 3rd and 15 at the 50 yard line and get a stop without allowing 12 cheap yards.

Anyway, it’s a topic that will come up again this season, I’m sure. This won’t be the last we hear of it.

Here’s the full audio if you’d like to listen to what else the defensive coordinator said today:

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