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Eagles D: For The Love Of Schwartz

Posted Oct 20, 2016

Jim Schwartz isn't one to shy away from expressing himself. He did so on Thursday at his weekly press conference, speaking in critical terms of the way his Eagles defense played Sunday in the loss at Washington, and he's said mostly the same things, in perhaps more colorful language, behind closed doors to his players all week ...

Jim Schwartz isn't one to shy away from expressing himself. He did so on Thursday at his weekly press conference, speaking in critical terms of the way his Eagles defense played Sunday in the loss at Washington, and he's said mostly the same things, in perhaps more colorful language, behind closed doors to his players all week.

"Jim is going to tell you like it is. Always," defensive end Connor Barwin said.

That's just fine with his defense, which allowed 493 total net yards and 230 rushing yards in the defeat. It was a particularly frustrating, painful performance from a defense that had been so good in the first month of the season, and it cast an even greater urgency on this week's game against Minnesota (1 PM, Lincoln Financial Field).

"Our entire week, that's been our focus. We want to redeem ourselves for Jim and for ourselves," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "It left a nasty taste in our mouths."

From the day Schwartz was hired to run Doug Pederson's defense, Eagles players have talked in excited tones about the aggressive scheme and how the players would be "unleashed" after playing for three seasons in the "read-and-react" defense of Bill Davis, the defensive coordinator under head coach Chip Kelly. There was the move to the 4-3 front, the instructions to play "downhill" football and the mindset of being physical and punishing.

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It's all peaches and cream when it works. And, generally, in the history of Jim Schwartz and his defenses, the scheme has worked.

Sunday it didn't.

So what is Schwartz, who is clearly an intense and demonstrative guy on the sidelines, like when things don't go well?

"He's a teacher. I mean, he's going to get his point across, but he does that when things are going well or not going well," middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We're grown men and he treats us like men. He's demanding and that's what we want. We know he wants what's best for us. When we're all playing our best football, our defense is where we want it to be."

It wasn't anywhere close to that level against the Redskins, as Schwartz explained on Thursday. Just about every imaginable thing that could have gone wrong went wrong. The Eagles lost in the trenches. They couldn't get off blocks at the second level. They missed tackles in the third level. And the fourth level - Schwartz himself - failed to "push the right buttons."

The result? A game to learn from, not necessarily to forget.

Minnesota comes to town on Sunday riding high with a 5-0 record and an offense that hasn't turned the ball over. Quarterback Sam Bradford is a smart veteran who can make every throw. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is a handful. Wide receiver Adam Thielen has come from nowhere (actually, Minnesota State) to chip in with 20 receptions after two unproductive seasons. The Vikings aren't statistically awesome on offense with a below-average running game and an offensive line that is missing its top three tackles and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (who has been limited in practice this week).

But Schwartz knows that Minnesota watched the defensive performance at FedEx Field and probably feels it can "run it 65 times" against the Eagles' defense.

It's up to the players and Schwartz to rise to the occasion. The players want to do it for Schwartz. It's a respect thing. It's a love thing.

"I feel good about Jim. You want a guy who is straight forward, who is going to let you know what's real, that demands a lot out of you and will demand it even things are good. He wants it to be perfect," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "I feel like we let him down when we play a bad game. He's going to yell at you when you mess up and he's going to give you praise and the truth and he is still going to stay on you when things are good. Even when he's yelling at you, you know it's coming from a good place."

Said Bradham: "I have the utmost respect for the guy, for what he's accomplished in his career and then for what he does for his players. His scheme is proven and he allows guys to make plays and be aggressive and that's what we all want. You can't help but fall in love with him. Jim is a real upfront guy about what he wants and what he expects from you. He has meant so much for me and my career. He was a main reason I came here when I was a free agent. I played for him in Buffalo for a season and we all loved him. He's definitely a huge part of my career and I'm going to give him my all every game.

"Sunday was only our second loss. It was not the end of the world. There are going to be plenty of games to come out here and make up for it, starting this Sunday."

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