When Philadelphia Eagles fans look for someone to blame for the team’s 0-2 start, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz usually isn’t one of the first names mentioned. It’s usually General Manager Howie Roseman, who has gotten a lot of heat because of his shortcomings with the NFL Draft, resulting in the lack of young talent on the roster. Or it’s usually quarterback Carson Wentz, who has gotten a lot of heat from a certain segment of the fanbase every time he doesn’t play perfectly because of his team winning Super Bowl LII with him injured on the sideline. Or it’s usually head coach Doug Pederson, who has gotten a lot of heat ever since his assistants Frank Reich and John DeFilippo left because his offensive system and play calling hasn’t been the same without them. They all seem to get the finger pointed at them before anyone else, but maybe one or two of them shouldn’t without having the finger pointed at Schwartz first.
Some may argue back and say, “Schwartz can only do so much without the necessary talent on the defensive side of the ball.” However, some factors would say otherwise.
There was an article written back in November of 2019 by Jeff McLane that detailed the power that Schwartz has as the defensive coordinator, even when it comes to personnel decisions. A link to the article is below, and I highly suggest you read it before you continue reading mine.
Jim Schwartz’s sway within the Eagles is unparalleled for a coordinator | Jeff McLane https://t.co/xmsrGhE3y7
— Philadelphia Inquirer Sports (@phillysport) November 16, 2019
The exact degree of power and sway Schwartz has when it comes to personnel decisions may not be known, but he does have it. And if that’s the case, then he should be held just as accountable for any lack of talent on that side of the ball as Roseman is.
This past offseason everyone in Philadelphia knew that the LB position was one of the team’s biggest needs. So, in turn, the Eagles’ offseason additions consisted of free agent Jatavis Brown and rookie prospect Davion Taylor.
Brown started 10 games in 2018 and amassed almost 100 total tackles, but then fell out of favor with the team in 2019 resulting in only 1 start that season. Brown was slated as an under-the-radar signing and was expected to be one of the starting linebackers for Schwartz’s defense. However, he surprised everyone when he suddenly decided to retire from the NFL before training camp started.
Taylor was considered by many, including myself, to be a late-round prospect with high upside. The physical ability is there, but a lack of overall playing experience made him a very raw prospect who would need time to develop before being ready to play at the pro level. However, the Eagles determined that his potential was too great to pass up in the 3rd round and took the project with the 103rd overall pick. And just to make the point, a linebacker prospect who possessed similar traits but was much more pro-ready was still available at the time, and his name was Akeem Davis-Gaither.
Aside from those 2, no other linebackers were brought in to upgrade the position. The team felt confident in Nate Gerry, Duke Riley, TJ Edwards, Jatavis Brown, and Davion Taylor to be good enough. But after 2 straight weeks of the LB corps being exposed by opposing offenses, it’s safe to say that they aren’t. You could even make the argument that the Eagles’ LB corps is the worst in the entire league. Roseman and/or Schwartz have continued to neglect that position time and time again, and now they are paying the price for it.
Let’s not forget that Schwartz also has “his guys” on the roster. He’s shown an affinity for DB Jalen Mills, DE Derek Barnett, and LB Nate Gerry countless times. Yet, Jalen Mills has consistently been a liability at CB, and his move to safety all but confirms that. Barnett has yet to live up to the expectations of being a premier pass rusher worthy of a 1st round pick, and he likely never will. And Gerry repeatedly displays a lack of mental processing, instincts, and just overall talent to be a starting linebacker for a defense.
This season was supposed to be different for Schwartz and the defense, though. The loss of Malcolm Jenkins was supposed to be offset, at least to some degree, by Mills’ position switch. And most importantly, the acquisition of a true CB1 in Darius Slay was supposed to be the key. Adam Caplan, NFL Insider and co-host of Inside The Birds, mentioned how Schwartz was handcuffed in years prior by the lack of talent in the secondary and therefore wasn’t able to be as creative as he would like to be. But now that he has a CB who can cover and shadow the opposing team’s top receiver, he can do more things schematic wise. Well, we’re 2 games into the season and I can’t say that things have looked much different in Schwartz’s scheme.
— Chris Infante (@Infante54) September 22, 2020
You’re mad at Jimbo. I’m mad at Jimbo… and we pick apart pressers word-for-isolated-word but I actually thought this opening answer from Schwartz took accountability, making me slightly less mad (but also still concerned) – pic.twitter.com/fXvGgUzfaO
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) September 23, 2020
It is good to hear that Schwartz has taken accountability for the loss to the Rams, and he was transparent about what he did wrong too. And although things look bleak right now, we still are only 2 games into a football season that had no preseason games. Schwartz has shown in the past that he is more than capable of coming up with excellent gameplans, so maybe he does deserve the benefit of the doubt here. It’s too early to call for the firing of anyone. But just as it was on Doug Pederson to make the necessary changes to his offensive gameplan after Week 1, it’s now on Schwartz to do the same. Both are under a lot of pressure to turn this early disaster of a season around quickly. And so is Carson Wentz. And so is Howie Roseman.