The Eagles blitz hasn’t been very effective this season, but Jim Schwartz isn’t concerned.
Schwartz has sent five or more pass rushers after opposing quarterbacks 33 times on 175 passing plays. That’s 18.9 percent, which is higher than last year’s 15.8 percent but lower than in the two previous seasons, which both hovered around 21 percent.
The problem this season has been the effectiveness of the blitzes. The team has struggled in each of its first four games converting blitzes into sacks, turnovers, or negative plays for the offense.
Quarterbacks are 20-for-32 for 400 yards against the Eagles blitz, with five touchdowns and one interception, for a 132.8 passer rating. What’s more, the Eagles have gotten just one sack from the extra rushers on those 33 plays. The only one came against the Atlanta Falcons, when Andrew Sendejo got to Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter of the Week 2 loss.
“Just the way the game goes,” Schwartz said during his news conference Monday. “It’s a quarter of the way through the season, we’re 2-2, and we’re just trying to improve. I know that sounds so vanilla and so cliche, but that’s what we do. We try to tighten up the areas that have been loose, try to improve the areas that haven’t been up to par. ... This league truly rewards people that are in it for the long run and can do it over the long run. We have to be able to do that and improve over the course of the season.”
There’s no doubt that facing a quarterback as skilled as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has hurt the numbers. Schwartz sent extra rushers only six times on 54 Rodgers pass attempts last Thursday, and for good reason. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he thrives on getting the ball out when blitzed.
He had completions for 31, 40, and 58 yards against the five-man rushes Thursday. His touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham in the third quarter came with the Eagles sending seven rushers.
In 2017, the Eagles forced six interceptions and had 11 sacks when blitzing, holding quarterbacks to a 69.3 passer rating. But the defensive line’s ability to generate pressure without extra help has been one of the cornerstones of the Eagles’ defensive success under Schwartz.
The line’s lack of sacks this season has likely been the main reason for the uptick in blitzes. But safety Malcolm Jenkins said there’s more to it than that.
“We don’t blitz necessarily to just get sacks, it’s also sometimes to speed the quarterback up and get rid of the ball,” Jenkins said. “Sacks doesn’t necessarily equate to or really value the productivity that we have been getting out of our blitz packages.”
But the sacks are still vital. It took the team’s defensive ends four games to register one, and when Derek Barnett got to Rodgers for a strip-sack at the end of the first half, it changed the game.
“We did see, in Derek’s sack, how important sacks are to us,” Schwartz said. “It’s not just creating lost-yardage plays. There’s a lot of ways to create lost-yardage plays. ... Contact on the quarterbacks and sacks have a high incident of turnovers. I think we saw that on his play.”