The Schwartz Rises in the East

The Eagles have made quite a splash already and we haven’t even made it to Super Bowl 50 yet: they’ve let go of the infamous Chip Kelly as their head coach and brought in Doug Pederson (formerly KC Chiefs Offensive Coordinator.) But that’s not here nor there as I’m here to talk about the underrated signing of their new defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz. The big question still goes unanswered as of right now on whether or not he’s going to use a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and bring along his “wide-9” defense.  


What is the “wide-9”

For those who are unfamiliar with what the “wide-9” is, it’s pretty much run in a 4-3 base but with the ends lined up wide. Their job is to set the edge on the outside of the offensive tackle(s), the more explosive the DE the better because they’ll be able to get on the outside shoulder quickly off the snap and force pressure on the QB. The DEs in the wide-9 can align themselves directly toward the pocket for better access to the QB, creating harder angles for the OTs to block them. If it’s executed correctly, the ends will provide pressure and the LBs will fill the gaps left over; otherwise big running lanes open up.  


The Schwartz Effect

Schwartz has done his fair share of being a defensive coordinator (Titans ’01-’08 Lions ’09-’13 [HC] and Bills ’14) and with his recent stint in Buffalo, they led the league in sacks (54), 7th in takeaways (34), 3rd in PYA (205/per), 4th in total yards allowed (312) and 4th in scoring defense at (18.1).  

Schwartz brings many things to the table: 

  • Understanding his players and realizing their talent
  • He’ll put his players in position to succeed
  • Helps players feel prepared
  • Opponents know his defense is coming after them and fast
  • Must cultivate talent as he did in TEN, DET and BUF
  • Possible two DT’s become 1-gap tech’s


The IDP Effect

Brandon Graham (LDE):  IF Schwartz does indeed use a 4-3 with the defensive personnel he has at his disposal then Graham goes back to being a DE.  He was one coming into the league back in 2012, put up 5.5 sacks and 38 tackles in rotational play. Graham should have no problem transitioning back to DE, but would need to improve quickness off the edge to succeed. His numbers should mirror 2014 Jerry Hughes (BUF); 54 tackles & 10 sacks. If Graham succeeds then he can rise above those numbers; looking at the sack total in general. I’d be targeting Graham heavily in leagues once he gets the DE tag, his IDP value jumps.

Connor Barwin (LOLB):  There’s a slight chance Barwin goes to RDE but he’s mainly played LOLB/SLB in 4-3’s and has some solid success. Back in ’13 he put up 62 total tackles and 5 sacks, followed by a monstrous 14.5 sacks and 64 tackles in ’14 as a Jack LB. I see his value remaining the same if he continues to start (he should) and he should maintain his LB tag unless stated otherwise, draft normal as you would if you’re one who wants Barwin. Barwin is definitely one to keep an eye on this off-season though on how Schwartz moves his defense around.

Fletcher Cox (DT/DL):  Fletcher is my 4th ranked DL right now in dynasty and will stay there. He’s coming off a career year (71 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 3FF, 2FR) and has developed into a solid 3-tech.  If he becomes a 1-gap he can mirror Marcell Dareus’s 2014 numbers (49 tackles, 10 sacks) although I’m expecting Cox to maintain current production with a slight uptick in sacks (10-12 ceiling) and will continue to create havoc on opposing offensive linemen.  

Bennie Logan (DT):  Logan going to turn in a career year as a 1-gap DT, shall pile up the tackles in bunches; just don’t count on him to provide any sacks.  He put up 55 tackles in ’15 and 57 in ’14, in 2016 he should continue to float around this number total and remain a borderline DT1 option with a solid floor.  

Vinny Curry

Vinny Curry (RDE):  Curry needs to be re-signed by PHI this off-season; he’s an underrated pass rusher that has been underutilized during his time in Philly.  He put up 9 sacks in 2014 as a sub package player and is arguably their best pass rusher off the edge. If Philly brings Curry back and he gets a shot to start at RDE, his explosiveness will help him have a career season and don’t be surprised if he leads the team in sacks too (12-14 range), that’s his ceiling and will instantly become a solid DL2 option in IDP with top 17 upside.  


Jordan Hicks (MLB):  Hicks was definitely a surprise last season as a rookie, with an impressive campaign before he suffered a season-ending injury. Injuries to the Eagles LB depth forced Hicks into early season play and didn’t take that long for him to take advantage of his opportunity. Hicks was impressive from the jump and piled up 50 tackles, 1 sack, 2-int and 1 FF.  Entering 2016 he should be their unquestioned starter at MLB, becoming a leader of this defense. I have him ranked as my LB11 in dynasty and won’t be shocked if he reaches top 5 level sooner than later, so continue to draft Hicks as you would in 2016 or make an offer for him if the price is right. Hicks can be the “Stephen Tulloch” in this Schwartz defense but with more athleticism and quickness.

Mychal Kendricks (OLB):  it’s unclear where Kendricks would play right now if the switch is to a 4-3 scheme; I could see him as a SLB though as he’s arguably the better pass rusher among the LBs not named Barwin (has 12 sacks in his 4-year career so far) and piled up 86 tackles and 3 sacks while playing under 70 percent of the snaps in ’15 (which I don’t get because he’s normally in the mid 80’s on percentage of snaps).  With Hicks’ emergence though Kendricks goes from a LB1 to a LB2 starter in leagues but remains a top 15 option/ceiling. I think you’ll be alright going after Mychal in drafts, could make a nice buy low target as well. Kendricks has the potential to become Schwartz updated version of “Keith Bulluck” who commanded the Titans defense when Schwartz was there, racked up over 800 tackles from 02’-08’.  

Kiko Alonso (OLB):  Kiko has fought back from a knee injury that sidelined him all of 2014 and kept him on and off the field in 2015.  It’s no secret how terrible he is against the run but is above average in coverage, which this could lead him to being the weakside LB in Philly.  I’m not a big Kiko fan but he could provide pretty good value as a LB3 heading into ’16.  The question will be who will be their every down LB between Mychal and Kiko because Hicks is already one.  Kiko can definitely rebound in 2016; just don’t expect 2013 numbers anymore.  

Eric Rowe

Eric Rowe (DB):  with the possibility of more zone coverage than man, Rowe has the chance to excel in his sophomore season.  There’ll be more opportunity and I’ll peg him down as a “Bashaud Breeland” ceiling or “Brandon Flowers” floor, definitely a target in CB required leagues and a spot starter or depth move in DB leagues.  Rowe has all the upside to become a 2016 IDP Breakout.  

Other notables:  Malcolm Jenkins (FS) shall remain a top 10 option, has been ballin’ since he got to PHI, DeMeco Ryans (LB) does he stay on roster? Cedric Thornton (DT) could see his value take a nice uptick but will be behind Cox/Logan.

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