February 24, 2018

Eagles stay or go: Jim Schwartz

Eagles NFL
022418JimSchwartz Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Jim Schwartz inherited a talented, but under-performing defense and turned it into one of the best in the NFL.

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' offseason is (finally) underway, let's take a look at each position and figure out which players will be back in 2018, and which ones will be playing elsewhere. Here we'll look at the defensive coordinator.

Previous "Stay or Go" positional analysis
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver
Tight end | Offensive tackle | Guard/Center
Defensive end | Defensive tackle | Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Specialists
Doug Pederson

Jim Schwartz

In the Eagles' win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady did whatever he wanted to Schwartz's defense for the entirety of the second half, until Brandon Graham made the play of his life working against Pats RG Shaq Mason from a defensive tackle pass rushing position.

Graham's strip sack is one of the lasting images of the Eagles' Super Bowl winning season, but Schwartz's defense will also be remembered for allowing 505 passing yards to Tom Brady, and 613 yards of total offense. It's a shame for Schwartz that many will remember his defense for that, because his unit was unquestionably among the best in the NFL up until that point.

Leading up to the Eagles' NFC Championship Game matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, much was made of the Vikings' No. 1 ranked defense. We made the argument that the Eagles' defense was every bit as good

Here's a side-by-side statistical look at the Vikings' and Eagles' defenses during the regular season:

Stat Vikings Eagles 
 Total yards allowed per game275.9 (1st) 306.5 (4th) 
 Yards allowed per play4.6 (2nd) 5.0 (9th) 
 Points per game allowed15.8 (1st) 18.4 (4th) 
 Takeaways19 (23rd) 31 (4th) 
 First downs allowed per game16.2 (2nd) 17.0 (5th) 
 Third down percentage25% (1st) 32% (3rd) 
 Red zone defense (TD%)43.2% (2nd) 53.7% (16th) 
 Rushing yards allowed per game 83.6 (2nd) 79.2 (1st)
Rushing yards allowed per play 3.7 (5th) 3.8 (T-6th) 
 Passing yards allowed per game 192.4 (2nd)227.3 (17th) 
 Passing yards allowed per play6.0 (T-1st)6.5 (T-3rd) 
Sacks 37 (T-17th) 38 (T-15th) 
Defensive touchdowns 1 (T-22nd) 6 (T-2nd) 
DVOA -13.9% (2nd) -12.6% (5th) 

As you can see, the Vikings' defense was in the top five in almost every major statistical category, with three exceptions. The Eagles cracked the top five in nine of the 14 categories shown above.

However, the one glaring statistic where the Vikings weren't particularly impressive is takeaways. On the season, the Vikings produced 19 turnovers, which was good for 23rd in the NFL. The Eagles produced 31 turnovers, fourth in the NFL, and one turnover shy of averaging two per game.

On average, the Eagles produced 1.94 turnovers per game, vs. 1.18 for the Vikings'. A difference of 0.76 takeaways per game is substantial, while a difference of 30.6 yards allowed per game is not. The Eagles also scored six defensive touchdowns during the regular season, as compared to one for the Vikings. 

On the premise that the Eagles made substantially more big plays than the Vikings, in my view, they were right there with them in terms of overall performance.

In that game, as you saw, the Eagles got a huge defensive play from Patrick Robinson, who returned an interception for a score, and the Vikings were held to 7 points.

The Eagles' defense has come a long way under Schwartz. In 2015, they were bad, though certainly, Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense didn't do them any favors. Still, here's another side-by-side comparison, this time of the Eagles' 2015 defense inherited by Schwartz in 2016, compared with his defense in 2017:

Stat 2015 Eagles 2017 Eagles 
 Total yards allowed per game401.6 (30th) 306.5 (4th) 
 Yards allowed per play5.6 (21st) 5.0 (9th) 
 Points per game allowed26.9 (28th) 18.4 (4th) 
 Takeaways26 (T-9th) 31 (4th) 
 First downs allowed per game22.8 (30th) 17.0 (5th) 
 Third down percentage43% (26th) 32% (3rd) 
 Red zone defense (TD%)65.6% (31st) 53.7% (16th) 
 Rushing yards allowed per game 134.6 (32nd) 79.2 (1st)
Rushing yards allowed per play 4.5 (28th) 3.8 (T-6th) 
 Passing yards allowed per game 267.1 (28th)227.3 (17th) 
 Passing yards allowed per play7.1 (13th)6.5 (T-3rd) 
Sacks 37 (T-17th) 38 (T-15th) 
Defensive touchdowns 4 (T-6th) 6 (T-2nd) 
DVOA +3.0% (17th) -12.6% (5th) 

And it's not really as if his players have changed dramatically. Six of Schwartz's starters in 2017, basically the core of the defense, were on the roster in 2015. They were Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, and Malcolm Jenkins.

#JimmyVerdict: Unless some other newly hired head coach around the league decides to slither back to his old team like Josh McDaniels did, Schwartz isn't going anywhere.

Your verdict:

#JimmyVerdict Stay or Go Results

Green = Stay

Red = Go

Orange = They'll make it to camp, and will have to prove they belong on the roster.

(Note: Some mobile versions will not display colors.)

 QBCarson Wentz Nick Foles Nate Sudfeld  
 RBJay Ajayi LeGarrette Blount Corey Clement Darren Sproles 
 RB (cont) Wendell SmallwoodDonnel Pumphrey Kenjon Barner  
 WRAlshon Jeffery Torrey Smith Nelson Agholor Mack Hollins 
 WR (cont) Shelton GibsonMarcus Johnson   
 TE Zach ErtzBrent Celek Trey Burton  
 OT Jason PetersLane Johnson Halapoulivaati Vaitai Will Beatty 
 OGBrandon Brooks Stefen Wisniewski Chance Warmack  
 C Jason KelceIsaac Seumalo   
 DEBrandon Graham Vinny Curry Derek Barnett Chris Long 
 DE (cont) Steven Means   
 DTFletcher Cox Tim Jernigan Beau Allen Destiny Vaeao 
 DT (cont)Elijah Qualls    
 ILBJordan Hicks Dannell Ellerbe Najee Goode Joe Walker 
 OLBNigel Bradham Mychal Kendricks Kamu Grugier-Hill Nate Gerry 
 CBJalen Mills Ronald Darby Patrick Robinson Sidney Jones 
 CB (cont) Rasul Douglas   
 SMalcolm Jenkins Rodney McLeod Corey Graham Jaylen Watkins 
 S (cont) Chris Maragos   
 K/P/LSJake Elliott Donnie Jones Rick Lovato Caleb Sturgis 
 BramanBryan Braman    
 Head coachDoug Pederson    
 Defensive coordinatorJim Schwartz    

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