After being out of football for the 2015 season, Jim Schwartz has flawlessly taken this Eagles defense to the top of the National Football League rankings. After three games, Pro Football Reference had ranked the Eagles defense No. 1 in the NFL. We are a far cry from last season where the rushing defense ended the season ranked No. 32 (by the way, there are only 32 teams in the NFL if you hadn’t heard) and pass defense ranked No. 28.
Of the 11 starters this season, eight were starters last year in Bill Davis’ “cautious” 3-4 defense. The new personnel, Nigel Bradham, Jaylen Mills (Leodis McKelvin – 1st game of the season), and Rodney McLeod are the only new faces to this Eagles defense. We’re seeing many of the same guys on the field this year as we did last season. However, the vibe and production are unquestionably different.
Schwartz has always been a man on a mission to get the best out of each player he coaches. It’s apparent as we’ve seen a very aggressive approach to his defensive strategy. In a sense, his attacking style is very much a reflection of his personality. However, it cannot solely be his uncompromising defensive style. Much of what we’re seeing is a man who began his NFL coaching career in 1996 with the Ravens. This is a D.C. who has developed and then implemented over time incredible schematic expertise. It’s not by accident and by being simply aggressive that the Eagles only allowed 20 points in three games on attitude and physical gifts alone.
Schwartz has seen the challenges presented with this defensive secondary. The cornerbacks aren’t the most talented in the league or in the NFD East division. He knew going into the season that the safeties and the talent within Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod would have to step it up a notch. And they most certainly have.
This past week, the Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, threw 44 passes. 20 were incomplete. Breaking down those 20, a defender actually got a hand or two on 12 of them and intercepted another. Schwartz only called four blitzes on all of Roethlisberger’s drop backs.
The dominant defensive front is continuing to get into the backfield and disrupt plays week after week. It’s one of the reasons why the Eagles defense is ranked No. 1 in percentage of drives ending in an offense score, which is 11.8%. The next team, the Vikings, come in at 20% where most of the dominant NFL defenses generally are ranked.
When Schwartz was hired in January, excitement rank though many of us. We daydreamed about whether Schwartz could provide results like Jim Johnson used to. But as the preseason wore on, we said, let’s temper our expectations of this defense. We saw some slop, but we also saw growth. Including the preseason, these Eagles have won seven football games in a row. A huge reason why is because of Schwartz and his defensive mastermind.