Donnellon: Jim Schwartz still searching for answers

Jim Schwartz on Oct 17 2016
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz along the sidelines during the game against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 16, 2016 at Washington.

Remember when we figured Jim Schwartz was one and done here, and the only question was which lucky team out there was going to make him their next head coach?

How many years ago was that?

Oh, right. It was just two months ago, after the Eagles whupped the Steelers, 34-3 at the Linc to improve to 3-0, after people started looking into flights to Houston, before millions of disappointed fans followed such folly with the trite but appropriate nod to NASA:

"Houston, we have a problem…’’

Back then, Schwartz’s wide-9, his utilization of a front 4 that was behaving as advertised, made it appear that the Eagles might survive just fine with a corps of cornerbacks that had caused so much anxiety in the walk-up to the regular season.

Um, OK… Maybe not.

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The Eagles are still ranked eighth overall in team defense and 11th against the pass, but much of that status was built over their surprising start. Of their 26 sacks, only six have been recorded over their last five games, none in consecutive losses to Seattle and Green Bay – which not coincidentally feature elite, elusive quarterbacks.

Both Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers turned stops into re-starts and extended drives. But it is worthwhile to note that Schwartz’s line about how "my changeups didn’t work, either’’ came after a loss to the Redskins and their pocket-passing quarterback, Kirk Cousins - after the Eagles' defense broke down two weeks in a row against guys not known for their legs (Matthew Stafford).

With the exception of the mummified Sam Bradford in a Week 7 victory over Minnesota, opponents have been hitting quite well against Schwartz's changeups. Did he forget what he was doing? Hardly. But injuries to his secondary have forced him to promote and use practice squad players, made him even more reluctant to blitz, and allowed teams to max-protect with greater frequency on the safe bet one of their receivers will pop open given the extra time.

Still, it’s a league of what have you done for me lately. If you were worried about Schwartz going elsewhere after this season, well, there’s your good news. Until his secondary improves, he’s not going anywhere.

The bad news, of course, is that neither are the Eagles.