Taking a look at Jim Schwartz’s defense ahead of his final Eagles game
Since finishing fourth in points allowed in 2017, when it held opponents to an average of 18.4 per game, the defense has trended downward.
Jim Schwartz will coach his final game for the Eagles Sunday night, After serving as the team’s defensive coordinator for the last five seasons, he won’t be back.
Schwartz’s defense struggled this season. While it is tied for fourth in sacks (46), it currently is 22nd in points allowed (26.5), 21st in yards allowed (370.8), and tied for 24th in takeaways (17). The yards allowed and points allowed are the most since the 54-year-old Schwartz took over the defense.
Since finishing fourth in points allowed in 2017, when it held opponents to 18.4 points per game, the defense has trended downward. It dropped to 12th in scoring defense in 2018 (21.8), and 15th in 2019 (22.1) before bottoming out this year.
The defense’s inability to produce takeaways has been a problem for the last few years. They finished fourth in takeaways in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, forcing 31 turnovers. Since then, they haven’t had more than 20 in a season. They finished 22nd in 2018 with 17, 20th in 2019 with 20 and are 24th this year heading into Sunday’s game against Washington.
More on the defense
The Eagles have given up 70 points in their last two games. That’s the most they’ve allowed in back-to-back games this season.
Opponents have thrown 11 touchdown passes against the Eagles in the last four games. That’s just three less than the Eagles allowed in their first 11 games.
In the Eagles’ last five games, opposing quarterbacks have a 128.2 passer rating on third down. They’ve completed 31 of 42 passes for 411 yards (9.8 yards per attempt) with three TDs and no interceptions.
Through the first 14 games, the Eagles were ranked ninth in first-down defense, holding opponents to 5.1 yards per play. But the Cowboys averaged a season-high 8.7 Sunday.
Of the Cowboys’ 13 third-down situations, 10, including seven of their first nine, were four yards or less. The Cowboys converted six of those first nine third downs.
Schwartz blitzed the Cowboys’ Andy Dalton on just three of 32 pass plays (.9.4%) Sunday. He also called three zone blitzes. Schwartz has sent extra rushers on just 12.1% of opponent pass plays (25 of 206) in the last six games. He’s blitzed just 16.6% this season.
The Eagles have just eight sacks on blitzes this season, not including four-man zone blitzes. Their last sack when Schwartz has sent extra rushers was six games ago against the Browns.
The Eagles are 24th in run defense this season. They’re allowing 127.3 yards per game on the ground. That’s the most by an Eagles defense since pre-Schwartz 2015, when opponents averaged 134.6 against defensive coordinator Bill Davis’s defense.
The defense’s inability to force turnovers has impacted the offense’s average drive start (27.0, ranked 28th), which has forced them to operate on a lot of long fields. Twenty-four of the Eagles’ 36 touchdown drives this season have been 70 yards or more.
Schwartz’s defense has no takeaways in six of the Eagles’ 15 games this season. They are 0-5-1 in those six games. It has one turnover in four other games. The Eagles are 0-4 in those games. They’re 4-1 in games in which the defense has forced two or more turnovers.
The defense has just six interceptions. That’s the second fewest in the NFL. Three of them have come in the last three games. They are sixth in opponent fumble recoveries with 11, thanks primarily to their pass rush. Seven of those 11 fumbles have come on strip sacks.
The Eagles have just 51 takeaways over the last three seasons. That’s the seventh-fewest in the NFL. The six teams with fewer – the Lions, Raiders, Cardinals, Jaguars, Chargers and Bengals – have a combined .340 winning percentage (95-184) and one playoff appearance over the last 3 years.
The scoop on Hurts
Jalen Hurts has an impressive 123.5 passer rating in the first half in his three starts. That rating includes five TDs, no interceptions, a 9.1 yards-per-attempt average and a 62.3 completion percentage. His numbers in the second half, though, have been considerably less impressive. He has a 53.7 passer rating in the second half of his three starts, including no TDs, two interceptions, a 6.1 yards-per-attempt average and a 48.3 completion percentage. Seven of his nine sacks also have come in the second half.
Even Hurts’ rushing numbers have taken a nose dive in the second half. He is averaging 9.9 yards per carry in the first half but just 3.9 in the second half.
Hurts has been sacked five times in the red zone in the last two games. He also had a red-zone interception in last week’s loss to the Cowboys.
Hurts has completed just 41.2% of his third-down pass attempts. He’s 19-for-46 on third down, with two TDs and three interceptions, including two last week against the Cowboys.
Hurts is averaging 6.2 yards per carry since replacing Carson Wentz in the second half of the Green Bay game. Eleven of his 43 rushing attempts in the last 14 quarters have gained 10 yards or more.
The Eagles have 28 rushing first downs in the last 14 quarters. Hurts has 17 of them. Miles Sanders has nine. Hurts and Carson Wentz have combined for 46 rushing first downs this season. Only three quarterbacks have more – Arizona’s Kyler Murray with 52, and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and New England’s Cam Newton, both with 50.
Washington has struggled against teams with running quarterbacks. They gave up 160 rushing yards to Arizona in Week 2, including 67 and two TDs to Kyler Murray. Baltimore rushed for 144 yards against them in Week 4, including 53 and a TD by Lamar Jackson. Seattle had 181 rushing yards against them in Week 15, including 52 on six carries by Russell Wilson.
The Eagles committed 12 penalties for 115 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. The 12 penalties were their most since 2016. The 115 yards were their most since 2017. Eight of the 12 penalties were pre-snap infractions, including an astounding six false starts. The Eagles have been called for 13 false starts in Hurts’ first three starts. They have 25 this season. That’s the second most in the league, behind Arizona’s 32.
The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two possessions against the Cowboys Sunday. It was the first time they’ve scored back-to-back TDs on their opening drives in a game since Week 5 of the 2017 season.
The Eagles are 26th in first-half scoring with 151 points. They are 22nd in first-half scoring margin with a minus-39 differential.