In the aftermath of Sunday's loss at Tennessee, the Eagles know very well, the best thing to do is critique, correct, and move on to the next challenge. That's how Jim Schwartz is handling his defense, one that allowed too many big plays, missed too many tackles, and gave up three fourth-down conversions on the Titans' game-winning overtime drive.
Minnesota is next.
"We've played a lot like a 2-2 defense. We've played a lot like a 2-2 team right now," Schwartz said. "There have been inconsistencies all around."
There is no panic, then, for Schwartz. He's not moving Jalen Mills from the cornerback position, despite the clear target on Mills's No. 31 jersey – "I'm firmly behind Jalen Mills. That guy has played a lot of good football for us and he epitomizes a lot of things we're about defensively – toughness and competitiveness and the ability to bounce back and I'm confident he will."
Schwartz faced a long list of tough questions on Tuesday at his weekly press conference at the NovaCare Complex two days after the Eagles let a two-touchdown lead slip away in the second half in Nashville. It was a disappointing outcome after an excellent first half defensively, and Schwartz made it clear to his team that he was not pleased with the performance. Every single time a defense should win a fourth-and-15 play, Schwartz said, but "loose coverage" allowed the Titans to complete a pass for a first down to keep the overtime drive alive.
Will there will be personnel changes on Sunday when a high-powered Vikings team plays at Lincoln Financial Field? Schwartz wouldn't say. You can be sure he's looking at every position on his defense. Schwartz said he doesn't think that veteran Corey Graham is best suited to play 71 snaps a game, as he did at Tennessee, so maybe the Eagles will give more responsibility to rookie Avonte Maddox, a fourth-round draft pick drafted to challenge at the nickel position but now in a spot where he could play significant snaps at safety. Maybe Schwartz changes his personnel rotation in places, and perhaps he will alter some of his play-call tendencies.
Bottom line from Tennessee, as Schwartz said: There were "about six plays" on which the Eagles had a chance to end the game and the defense fell short. Disappointment all around. Time to move on and not let it happen again.
"We're confident that we can cover anything with the guys that we have in the room," Schwartz said.
So how do the Eagles get back to being a dominating defense? They've got to be better with the must-dos of NFL football – play with intelligence, discipline, and attention to detail. The Eagles need to tackle better. They need to button up the across-the-board communication. They need to slow down the big plays and tighten up the coverage.
It's not like Schwartz has a magical answer in his back pocket. He won't make rash decisions just for the sake of making them. He's got confidence in the players who helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII and he knows his scheme works. Sunday brings another challenge against a Vikings offense loaded with receivers, bolstered by the return to good health of running back Dalvin Cook and infused with much more flexibility and firepower with Kirk Cousins at quarterback.
The Vikings are for real offensively, even with a 1-2-1 record entering Lincoln Financial Field.
"New quarterback, obviously. A lot of the same skill guys. Getting Dalvin Cook back has been big for them," Schwartz said. "They haven't been able to run the ball because they've been behind in some games and have been in some shootouts in others. They put a bunch of points on the board last week. Put a bunch of points on the board against the Packers. I think coming into the season, everybody expected San Francisco to be a strong contender. They dispatched them in the opener.
"They just had one awful game. They were down 27-0 in the middle of the second quarter against the Bills, and it just shows you what this league is all about. … They haven't really been able to run the ball. Few changes on the offensive line. Obviously, a new quarterback and his stats are really good right now, completing 70 percent of his passes, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions.
"And they scored a bunch of points. We'll have to keep the points down and then make sure they don't get the run game (going)."
Another week, another challenge. Schwartz knows his defense has to be better. He knows the Eagles have to shore up their coverages and the basics. A 2-2 team is playing like a 2-2 team, with the defense as inconsistent as the rest of the group.
And that's the bottom line, like it or not.
"We need to play more consistent as a team and particularly as a defense," Schwartz said.