Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has spent the past few weeks poring over the film of his new players. And while he can see a good deal of what the players can do on tape, he is taking a wait-and-see approach until the offseason conditioning program begins in April.
"We have a philosophy here, but our scheme is going to depend on what the players can do and how it best fits them," Schwartz said during this week's Eagles Live Podcast with Dave Spadaro.
Schwartz shared his thoughts on some of the personnel on the roster.
On Connor Barwin: "I think he fits real well for what we're going to do in the defensive end standpoint. He's done that in the past. He did that when he was first drafted in Houston and he had a lot of productivity there. I think most of the plays that he made were rushing the passer. I think that size-wise, effort-wise, skill set-wise, he fits well there."
On Vinny Curry: "He's a relentless player. He can mess up some blocking schemes. He can crush the pocket. He can stay alive with the quarterback. He also has a high percentage of creating turnovers when he sacks the quarterback. He can rush inside. He can rush outside. We really like what he can do and we're excited about it."
Schwartz also explained how the new scheme will change what the Eagles look for at the linebacker position. He said that vision and instincts are going to be key because once they see a hole, it must be filled.
"You need some linebackers who can close those holes, that can attack the line of scrimmage," Schwartz said. "You're not going to shuffle and stack. You've got to see holes and you've got to fill them. I think you've got to be able to play off of guys up front. Those guys are going to wreck some things up front. Those guys need to clean things up behind them."
Lastly, Schwartz discussed the key stats to watch for. The first one is pretty simple.
"The most important number is points. I always find it odd that they rank defenses in the NFL based on yards. They rank offenses in the NFL based on yards. Well, it's all about points," Schwartz said.
Schwartz also noted red zone defense and third-down percentage are key barometers of how good the unit is performing.
In 2014, Schwartz's Buffalo Bills ranked third in yards allowed per play, first in third-down defense and 11th in red zone stops. Last season, the Eagles ranked 21st in yards allowed per play, 26th in third-down defense and 31st in the red zone.
Also on the Eagles Live Podcast with Dave Spadaro:
Former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese at 8:30
Defensive end Connor Barwin on the new defense at 16:40
Safeties coach Tim Hauck on his position group at 17:30
Your phone calls at 19:10
Jaguars offensive line coach and former Bills head coach Doug Marrone at 25:15
On the latest edition of the Eagles Insider Podcast, Fran Duffy, Chris McPherson and Alex Smith jumped into a number of storylines as the NFL offseason is now officially underway. The first topic of business, however, was none other than last weekend's Super Bowl.
For the Broncos, it's no secret that Peyton Manning's playing days are almost, if not already, over and ultimately, the quarterback was not the reason Denver was able to defeat Carolina, 24-10, in the most important game of the season. It was the strong play of its defense that really sealed the deal, which serves as a positive sign for Eagles fans.
With players like Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan and others already in place, it's clear this Eagles' defense has the talent to succeed. Philadelphia is only a few changes away from being on the brink of something special.
"You look at this Eagles defense and you have Jim Schwartz coming in. The strength of this team is the front seven, that defensive line especially," McPherson said. "With the attacking philosophy they're going to have now, you say, 'Whoever the quarterback is going to be, if you can just build around that quarterback and you already have the strong defense and special teams in place, this Eagles team can make the transition very quickly.'"
In the end, it all comes down to the roster and how players will be used by this new coaching staff. The Eagles need to draft well and add the right people during free agency to have a shot at achieving what Denver did this season.
"The big thing to take away if you're an Eagles fan is looking at the Broncos winning and how they put together the roster," Duffy said. "This is what every team in the league does, they look at the final two teams, how did they put together their roster? How did the final four teams put together their roster? If you look at Denver, it's really a good mix of drafting well and then adding some of those supplementary pieces in free agency."
Also On The Eagles Insider Podcast:
Three-And-Out at the 1:19 mark
Mailing It In at the 23:55 mark
This week on the Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast, Fran Duffy had an in-depth discussion with Bills beat reporter Sal Capaccio regarding Jim Schwartz. When Schwartz was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo during the 2014 season, Capaccio analyzed the system week after week and came away with a major trend – one he believes will be common in Philadelphia this season.
"I think the mission statement would be to pressure the quarterback by using the front four as much as possible," Capaccio said of Schwartz's scheme. "Don't have to commit a lot of guys up front if you can get that pressure. He'd love to do that with his front four guys. That's what he did in Buffalo, and then let the linebackers kind of do what they do in space out there while those offensive linemen are tied up.
"I think that's what he'd like to do. The sack numbers for the Bills were off the charts. They broke a record when he was in Buffalo and led the NFL in sacks. He had some really good players, but he mainly did it with just those front four guys."
Working with the Bills, Capaccio also had some insight on linebacker Kiko Alonso. The linebacker was stellar during his 2013 rookie season but missed the entire year under Jim Schwartz due to an ACL injury and struggled in 2015. Nevertheless, Capaccio believes that if healthy, Alonso could be a real threat moving forward.
"He's a super athletic dude and he can really go sideline to sideline," Capaccio said. "He had a lot of great instincts to make plays on the ball, to make plays going to the ball. If you're going to run a 4-3, I think he fits best at the WILL linebacker spot because that's really where you can use your athleticism the most to go sideline to sideline.
"If you put him right in the middle as a MIKE linebacker in a 4-3, I think that's a little tough on him because now he has to attack downhill all the time, and he can be good at that but he's not the biggest guy in the world. I don't think you want to use him in that role necessarily all the time. I think his best fit in 4-3 would be as a WILL so he can move around a lot."
Also On The Eagle Eye in the Sky Podcast:
Two-technique with Dennis Kelly at the 21:19 mark
Saturday Scouting at the 23:45 mark
On this week's Journey to the Draft Podcast presented by AAA, Fran Duffy, Chris McPherson and Alex Smith selected six edge rushers to keep an eye on throughout the draft process.
1. Joey Bosa - Bosa was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-America selection as a sophomore. Last year, Bosa wasn't as disruptive, but still captured the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. In an interview with NFL Network, Bosa compared his style of play to Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali.
"He can win outside. He can win inside. The fact that he uses his hands as well as he does both rushing the passer and defending the run, he is so advanced," Duffy said. "He attacks tackles a number of different ways. He can counter once he is initially blocked. He's an outstanding prospect."
2. Kamalei Correa - Underclassman from Boise State, Correa had seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss for the Broncos in 2015.
"I think he's got a very high upside as a pass rusher and he wins with that foot speed," Duffy said. "He still has to improve in terms of using his hands and learning how to attack tackles."
Duffy projects Correa to be an effective starting outside linebacker in the NFL.
3. Shilique Calhoun - A three-time All-America selection, Calhoun returned for his senior season to help the Spartans try to capture a national title. He had 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss for the Big Ten champions who reached the College Football Playoff.
"He's not a one-trick pony. He's always around the ball," Smith said. "Even when the play is not to his side, he'll chase it down. I think he's a really talented player."
4. Carl Nassib - Former walk-on at Penn State, Nassib led the nation in sacks with a school-record 15.5 as a senior. The West Chester, Pennsylvania native was a unanimous All-America selection. He's 6-6, 273 pounds and is a player on the rise after his breakout season.
5. Ron Thompson - One of the first underclassmen to declare for the draft, Thompson has experience at both tackle and end. Duffy compared Thompson to 2014 first-round pick Dee Ford and believes a team will get a good subpackage edge rusher.
"Really explosive player. Showed the ability to get off the snap and beat tackles," Duffy said. "Really impressed with his motor and athleticism."
6. Noah Spence - Former Ohio State player who was dismissed from the conference for a pair of failed drug tests. Went to Eastern Kentucky and had 13.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Talent is not a question for the Philly-born Spence, it's whether his off-the-field issues are resolved.
"It's pretty fair to say he was the best edge rusher we saw down there (at the Senior Bowl)," Smith said.
Duffy took that statement a step further and said he was one of the best players overall, period.
Also on the Journey to the Draft Podcast presented by AAA
Draft Buzz at 2:00
Tony Pauline with the latest draft info at 13:30
A one-on-one interview with Noah Spence at 31:00
On the Clock at 32:45
Draft Mailbag at 44:30