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Jim Schwartz Prepares For Potent Chiefs

Posted Sep 12, 2017

Here’s the thing about Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz: He isn’t going to back down from a challenge. And he knows he has a big one on Sunday when the Eagles play at Arrowhead Stadium against a Kansas City Chiefs team that put up, hold on to your seats, 537 yards of total offense, averaged 8.3 yards per play, and went 3 for 3 in the red zone in a blowout win over New England last Thursday ...

Here’s the thing about Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz: He isn’t going to back down from a challenge. And he knows he has a big one on Sunday when the Eagles play at Arrowhead Stadium against a Kansas City Chiefs team that put up, hold on to your seats, 537 yards of total offense, averaged 8.3 yards per play, and went 3 for 3 in the red zone in a blowout win over New England last Thursday.

Kansas City wasn’t even all that perfect, converting only 4-of-11 third downs in the Thursday night win. So, yeah, the Eagles' defense has its hands full on Sunday.

The fun part is ahead.

Tuesday is the grind, the day and night when the coaching staff goes over film from the previous game and puts together the game plan for the week ahead. No doubt, Schwartz already had a head start on Kansas City from his offseason work and the familiarity the Eagles' coaching staff – mostly head coach Doug Pederson – has on Kansas City’s offensive approach, but what he saw in the Chiefs’ opener was eye popping.

Quarterback Alex Smith had a perfect game against New England, completing 28-of-35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. He is a veteran quarterback, pressured in Kansas City perhaps by the team’s decision to trade up in the first round and draft Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Smith gets rid of the ball quickly, can move in and out of the pocket, and clearly has mastered the system.

Schwartz knows that Smith is going to be a handful.

“I don’t know if it goes underrated, but it is in my book – he’s a good athlete. They run a lot more read-option-type plays than most teams that we’ll face, so you have to account for that,” Schwartz said. “Bootleg passes, you have to account for that. He does throw the ball quick, but he has the ability to escape if he doesn’t throw the ball quick. You couldn’t have a much better game than he had in Week 1.

“He’s been around for a long time and I’ve got a lot of respect for his ability to execute the offense. We’re going to have to play our very best against him.”

Kansas City’s offense is multiple enough that Schwartz can’t concentrate on one weapon. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt burned New England to the turn of 246 yards from scrimmage (148 rushing, 98 receiving) and a trio of touchdowns. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill may be the fastest player in the NFL and he’s hard to pin down, witness the seven catches, 133 yards, and a touchdown he had against the Patriots.  Tight end Travis Kelce – the brother of Jason, yes – is a handful with his great athleticism and receiving skills.

The Eagles won’t have cornerback Ronald Darby, a significant loss. Schwartz has confidence in his players in the secondary, and he will have a plan designed to take away some of the weapons, but it is so very difficult to take them all away.

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If there is any advantage at all, it’s that the Eagles’ offensive scheme is similar to the one Kansas City uses, particularly in the passing game. Schwartz said the running game has some wrinkles, some “distractions” with formations and personnel groupings and motions, but at the end of the day, the Eagles won’t be caught off guard.

It’s going to come down to pressuring Smith with the front four, putting Kansas City in third-and-long situations, and getting off the field on third downs.

Minus the team’s top cornerback.

“We have a lot of different ways we can cover it (Darby’s absence) in different packages,” Schwartz said. “I don’t want to announce any of those now or divulge any of those now. No sense giving Kansas City a jump on knowing what numbers will be out there, getting any kind of jump on the game plan.”

It’s going to take a really good design and really good execution to hold the fort with Darby out. Defensive backs like Patrick Robinson, rookie Rasul Douglas, and newcomer Dexter McDougle could see expanded roles. Jaylen Watkins, a cornerback/safety/cornerback/both in his career, may play more. You get the sense that it is going to be a week-by-week design with Schwartz based on the opponent.

And it’s also going to be important that the front four plays the way it played at Washington, where Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan and Vinny Curry and Co. took over the game. This is a game in Kansas City on Sunday that the defensive line absolutely must win. That group has to force the issue with the Chiefs.

Schwartz spoke for 15 minutes on Tuesday and then went upstairs to his NovaCare Complex laboratory to come up with the proper defensive concoction. This is a challenge, no doubt about it, and one that suits Schwartz just fine. He likes to scrap. He enjoys the fight.

In a backs-up-against-the-wall moment, expect Schwartz and the Eagles to come out swinging on Sunday.

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