Jim Schwartz talking a good game at Eagles workouts | Jeff McLane

Jim Schwartz's filibusters aren't as loquacious as noted stonewalling speakers like Huey Long, Mr. Smith and Bill Belichick, but the Eagles defensive coordinator knows how to avoid a topic and kill time when it suits his needs.

For instance, when Schwartz was asked about Fletcher Cox's absence from last week's organized team activities, he started off by saying that he would avoid questions about attendance at voluntary workouts. But 340 words later, after he meandered into an anecdote about former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, he was still talking.

And then there are the responses he gives to pointed questions that aren't as much filibusters as they are clever evasions. Schwartz gets to avoid telling a lie - or what could be construed as a falsehood - while also dodging unnecessary criticism of others.

Did the Eagles do enough to address the cornerback position this offseason?


Should the Eagles get rid of Marcus Smith?

"Well, we'll find out during the season, for sure," Schwartz said Tuesday.

His non-answers often say about as much had he directly given an assessment. He wasn't shy, after all, about declaring the safety tandem of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod as potentially one of the best in the NFL just weeks into the spring program a year ago.

But if there is one area in which Schwartz will drink the truth serum, it is with his pass rush. It is the "engine" that powers his defense, as he has said numerous times over the last two years and as he said twice on Tuesday, and it is where the Eagles have made their greatest investment since Schwartz was hired.

The production didn't match the salary-cap allocation last season, though. Sacks are just one way to quantify defensive line contributions, but the Eagles' total of 34 was their lowest output in four years. There were games when the front four could hardly move quarterbacks in the pocket, let alone take them down.

"I think our pass rush reflected our defense, and it also reflected our team. We started off hot and then we went into a slump," said Schwartz, who spoke publicly for the first time since the Tuesday before the season finale. "We went a bunch of games without being able to get any pressure on the quarterback."

In the Eagles' first six games, when they went 4-2, they recorded 20 sacks and had 62 hurries (as credited by the team). In their final 10 games, when they went 3-7, they had only 14 sacks and 45 hurries. Sacks per pass attempt is a more accurate gauge of the rush, and the Eagles finished a respectable 14th in the league, but when so much of the scheme is predicated on the aggressiveness of the front, there needs be greater production.

"We're going to cut the D-line loose. That puts a little bit of pressure on the secondary and the linebackers to kind of cover that up and make up for some of those plays," Jenkins said. "But I think that's how the defense is designed."

The Eagles released defensive end Connor Barwin and allowed defensive tackle Bennie Logan to depart in free agency, but they continued to feed Schwartz's beast this offseason. They signed veteran end Chris Long to a two-year, $4.5 million contract, traded for tackle Tim Jernigan, and most significantly, drafted end Derek Barnett in the first round.

Cornerback wasn't completely neglected. The Eagles signed journeyman Patrick Robinson and drafted Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in the second and third rounds, but Jones is unlikely to contribute this year and expecting Douglas to step in immediately without missing a beat would be wishful thinking.

Schwartz can say all he wants about the link between the line and the secondary in relation to the pass rush. And he's certainly right. If the corners and safeties can't cover long enough, the front won't get home. But the odds that Jalen Mills, Robinson, Douglas, and whoever else on the roster will hold up consistently week in and week out are slim.

It'll be incumbent upon Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and the new faces to generate pressure and help the secondary - in particular, the corners. The Eagles have nearly $26 million of their cap devoted Curry, Graham, and Cox, but there is no guarantee that they will reimburse the Eagles in sacks.

Graham played well in 2016, but he notched only 51/2 sacks. Cox led the team with 61/2, but had three fewer than the year before. And Curry had as many sacks (11/2) as the disappointing Marcus Smith, who had less than half the pass-rushing attempts.

"It was sort of a one-year blip and that is the challenge for Vinny," Schwartz said, "proving last year was a one-year blip."

But Curry's production had started to slip a year earlier. Schwartz rarely, if ever, calls out players, but he isn't afraid to insert a few critiques in otherwise positive evaluations. He said that Curry's pressure numbers were high, despite the lack of sacks, but he did identify one of his weaknesses.

He "was on the ground a little bit too much around the quarterback," Schwartz said. "He needed to be able to take that one extra step and be able to finish."

Earlier, Schwartz mentioned how Barnett's "not on the ground very much." Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe it was a subtle challenge to Curry. He shouldn't need it. He has a first-round rookie backing him up on the right side and Schwartz wasn't afraid to drop Curry on the depth chart last year.

It's put up or shut up time for Curry, but Schwartz's wide-nine front is also under the gun. If the coordinator can't improve upon last season, he'll have a hard time talking his way out of any criticism.