2019 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE 5
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz tried
to make do with the players available to
him for most of the first half of this season,
with admittedly mixed results. He mixed
and matched his personnel, and the Eagles
played scrappy defense and hung in there
and even had a dominating game against
the New York Jets.
But as the defense has gotten its pieces
back, one by one, Schwartz sees a steady
jump in defensive performance. The
Eagles had a standout performance in a
win at Buffalo. They shut down Chicago
in a victory a few weeks ago. Last Sunday
against New England, the defense
held quarterback Tom Brady without a
touchdown pass in a narrow defeat.
It appears the defense is in its best
shape of the season, literally, with a very
tough Seattle offense in town led by
the incomparable Russell Wilson, a true
multiple-threat quarterback who beats
teams in every way.
“It has been good getting guys back. I don’t
think there’s a big surprise. I don’t think it’s
breaking news – good players make good
plays. It’s been a big help getting players
back – (defensive tackle) Tim Jernigan,
(cornerbacks) Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox,
and Ronald Darby,” Schwartz says.
A secondary that is relatively whole after
a season of injury is playing good, solid
football with Mills and Darby starting at
cornerback on the outside and Maddox
playing inside in the nickel. Schwartz has
moved those pieces around to create
some good matchups and it’s worked:
Since Week 7, Mills has compiled a passer
rating of 57.7 on passes thrown at the
receiver he’s covering, third best among all
NFL cornerbacks. Since Week 8 when both
Mills and Darby returned to the starting
lineup, the Eagles are fifth in the NFL in
defensive passer rating, 75.9.
That’s impressive stuff.
But today is different. The Seahawks
feature Wilson, they have big-play wide
receivers, they incorporate the tight end
quite a bit, and they run the ball effectively
– and creatively. In the red zone, Wilson’s
mobility adds to the offense’s success.
In other words, while the Eagles are
pleased with the progress they’ve made
on defense, they know they have to take it
up another level in this game.
“Wilson makes everything go because
he’s mobile and he can run on you, he
can buy time in the pocket, he can leave
the pocket and keep plays alive, and he’s
always looking down the field to throw
the football,” linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill
says. “He’s tough.”
Says Darby: “Every play is alive in the
passing game. He’s never going to give up
on throwing the football, so you can’t bail
on your man to try to help tackle Wilson.
He’ll burn you by throwing the ball when
you thought he was running it.”
In a way, then, this is the litmus test for
the defense. As much as Schwartz wants
to pressure Wilson, he knows that if the
defense doesn’t get to him, Wilson will
use his legs to gain 20 yards. But a mush
rush won’t work, either, because Wilson is
a deadly passer from the pocket.
So what do the Eagles do to get the Seattle
offense off the field?
“We have to give them different looks and
we have to be sound,” linebacker Nigel
Bradham says. “It’s quite a challenge. He’s
a unique guy. You really can’t prepare for
any one thing because he’ll make plays in
a variety of ways on you.”
The Eagles’ defense knows the stakes are
high today. The mission is not an easy one.
Having so many key players on the field,
together finally, is a big step forward for
ON THE INSIDE
SEATTLE PROVIDES A LITMUS TEST FOR THE DEFENSE
BY DAVE SPADARO, EAGLES INSIDER
Dave Spadaro is the host of the Eagles Insider
podcast, an Official Eagles Entertainment podcast.
Download new episodes weekly.