Next up, Aaron Rodgers. The road doesn't get any easier for Jim Schwartz and his Eagles defense with a short week of preparation and a date on Sunday at Lambeau Field against Rodgers, the veteran Packers quarterback who is having a career season with 33 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Rodgers leads the NFL in touchdown passes, average yards per pass attempt (8.7 yards), and passer rating (117.6).
The Eagles' defense, playing good football, has its collective hands full on Sunday.
"I think he's really taken his game to another level this year," Schwartz said on Wednesday at his weekly teleconference with reporters. "He's incredibly efficient. He was always good at making big plays and doing those kinds of things, but he's just so efficient. He doesn't miss a checkdown. He runs a boot and he's taking the positive yards. He still scrambles. He still makes those plays, but I think you're seeing it in his overall play. He still makes his big plays down the field, but I think he's taken his game to another level this year."
Green Bay's first-round draft pick in 2005, Rodgers has been selected to eight Pro Bowls and has twice been an All-Pro, and this is the seventh season in which he has thrown for 30 or more touchdowns. In his remarkable career, Rodgers has tossed 397 touchdown passes and only 88 interceptions. His quick release, outstanding decision-making skills, and the ability to keep plays alive with his feet and avoid the pass rush are attributes that have made Rodgers so esteemed in what has been a Hall of Fame career.
The Eagles need to hunker down against a versatile Green Bay offense, with a running game that now complements Rodgers and his arm. Rodgers is 3-2 against the Eagles in his career – although the first game against Philadelphia came in 2006 when Rodgers was inexperienced. He had won three consecutive games against Philadelphia until last September when the Eagles pulled off a 34-27 victory at Lambeau Field, limiting Rodgers to two touchdown passes despite his 422 passing yards. A key last-minute stop – a Craig James tipped pass that linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted in the end zone, preserved the Philadelphia win on Thursday Night Football.
"It's hard to look at their offense and say it's simple. Because like I said before, there's so many layers that go into it. But he's a player that's had a lot of success in his career, he's won (a Super Bowl), he's been an MVP-caliber player pretty much every time he steps on the field," Schwartz said. "But I think probably the biggest thing is they're extremely efficient. He has great command over their offense, they're hardly ever in bad plays. He seems like he always makes the right decision. He's willing to check the ball down. He can still scramble, he can still make those big plays, but they're a lot less one-dimensional than at times they have been in the past.
"At times their run game wasn't a big part of what they did, or short passes weren't a big part of what they did. I think that they have really done an outstanding job of having an offense and it's not about one person, I've said that before, not about one person in an offense, it's the efficiency of the whole offense. I think that that's probably the complement that I would see. It's going to be a great matchup. We're going to work really hard to stop them, they're going to work really hard to score against us, and it will be a fun game to be in."
The defense is coming off a solid effort on Monday night against Seattle, limiting Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and the league's No. 2 scoring offense to two touchdowns and three field goals. Cornerback Darius Slay was given the assignment of guarding standout wide receiver DK Metcalf one-on-one all over the field, and even though Metcalf had 10 catches and 177 yards, the Eagles were able to use their other 10 defenders to stymie Seattle's running game and Wilson's scrambling.
Schwartz praised Slay for his work.
"I appreciate Slay taking that on him. He didn't play his best game, but his willingness to take that matchup allowed us to do a lot of other things that you have to do when you play Seattle," Schwartz said. "If we had made ourselves weak in the run game or made ourselves weak on the scrambles, all those other guys could have had big days. When it's all said and done, it's not him. He kept him out of the end zone. Didn't allow him to score touchdowns and that was a big part of that game.
"I wasn't at all disappointed, really, except for one play with him and I really appreciate his willingness to accept that matchup and go. I mean, imagine in the game if we told Fletch (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox) that he had to be a zero nose and not rush the passer, or we told BG (defensive end Brandon Graham) he was going to spy the quarterback and he wasn't allowed to rush the whole day. I mean, that would have been a very – they'd take it for the team, to do those kinds of things. Well, Slay took it for the team, and I was proud of him for that. I was proud of his accountability, but a lot of that accountability is me, too, because that was the game plan. It was 'put him one-on-one and try to keep him out of the end zone and it's all about limiting their offense.' It's not about limiting one player."
This week, that one player is Rodgers, who has a lot of weapons at his disposal. The task isn't any easier for the Eagles' defense in this short week with a road game ahead on Sunday.