Members of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense knew they were part of something good in 2016, when Jim Schwartz became the team’s defensive coordinator.
His scheme proved to be a good fit, allowing the group to maximize its effectiveness.
‘We’re playing to our strengths, I think that’s the biggest thing’
The Eagles ranked 13th in the NFL in total defense — 15th against the rush and 13th against the pass — last season. They’ve improved to seventh overall, and first against the rush, while falling to 19th against the pass.
“I think we all have a better comfort zone this year with everybody being in that second year in the system, knowing Jim, Jim knowing us and knowing what works and knowing his players and allowing our skills sets to really show,” safety Rodney McLeod told Alex Marvez and Bill Polian on Late Hits. “And we’re playing to our strengths, I think that’s the biggest thing.
‘We started off hot and kind of slipped up midway through (last) season, but this year we’ve been right on it’
“And we’re playing consistent ball. I think last year we kind of fell short of that. We started off hot and kind of slipped up midway through the season, but this year we’ve been right on it.”
The Eagles’ defense has used last season’s shortcomings as fuel for this season. It has been detail-oriented and dialed in, and that has gone a long way toward the club’s NFL-best 9-1 record.
‘We’ve got one goal in mind and that’s to win the division’
“We learned a lot last year about ourselves and we didn’t want this year to be the same results,” McLeod said. “We came in locked in and focused. We’ve got one goal in mind and that’s to win the division. We’re right on pace to do that.”
The Eagles’ five interceptions are, in many ways, a reflection of how much the secondary has benefitted greatly from a strong pass rush. McLeod readily acknowledges as much.
‘As a guy in the secondary, we enjoy where we don’t have to cover more than four seconds within a down’
“It’s definitely good when you know the ball is going to come out quicker than usual and the quarterback doesn’t have time to sit back there and pass the ball and scramble around,” he said. “And that’s a credit to our D-line, a credit to our blitzes and guys being discipline in their blitzes and getting home. As a guy in the secondary, we enjoy where we don’t have to cover more than four seconds within a down and we’re able to make a lot plays because of it.”