Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz (9.28.23)
We talked a lot about the aggressiveness of your defense. How much did you balance the aggressiveness with, obviously discipline when you’re dealing with a guy like Lamar (Jackson)?
“Well, I mean, speed, effort, those kinds of things, we’re going to go. I mean, I think you can error on the other side of Lamar Jackson, and if you sit there and shoe the chickens, as we say, you’re not going to get them either. So, we’re going to rely on our team speed. We’re going to rely on team defense. We’re going to rely on running through with leverage and try to take the fight to him as opposed to sitting back and trying to hem him in.”
What do you make about the turnover number right now? Does it bother you, could you care less?
“You guys are really scraping for criticisms. We’re trying to win the game. We’re trying to keep the points down, trying to set our offense up in good field position. I think it’s a little bit like the first question. You can overcorrect on trying to be whatever the word is, too disciplined isn’t a good word, but you can err on the side of caution with a guy like Lamar Jackson, and that can get him free. You can overcorrect on turnovers, and you can give up a lot more big plays. The big play we’ve given up the whole year was probably a result of guys that were trying to jump a play, feeling that they needed to make a play instead of letting the defense work, we’re just going to let the defense work. We’re going to try to play physical, we’re going to try to play fast, and then we’ll see what happens after that. But we’re going to be around the football, and good things will happen when you’re around the football.”
What seems to be some of the hallmarks or characteristics of their offense under Todd Monken? What is he bringing to them?
“There’s still a lot of carryover from last year, particularly run game and quarterback run game, but probably a little bit more emphasis on some of the dropback game. His completion percentage is way up. They’re trying to get high-percentage completions, get the ball out of his hand fairly quickly, but that goes both ways. It comes out of his hand a little bit faster, but sometimes he’s really dangerous when he’s holding the ball a long time, making guys miss and making big plays down the know the field. There’s still a lot of carryover from years past. And I think with Coach (John) Harbaugh there, he’s not going to let it get too far away from his philosophy and their effort to be physical and control the game with the run game. So, there’s a lot of stuff there, and we’ll have to be ready for a lot of different personnel packages. They use different packages within personnel packages and things like that. So, we’ll match it a lot of different ways.”
In the film room breaking down Lamar, you see he’s shaking off two and three tacklers. Looks like he’s wrapped up, but he’s not wrapped up. What are you telling your players about those situations and why is he such a difficult player to bring down?
“Because he’s one of the best athletes in the NFL that just happens to play the quarterback position. So, if we saw running backs doing that, we wouldn’t bat an eye. We got to tackle him like he’s a running back. Tackle him like he’s a wide receiver. Just because the ball is in his hand doesn’t mean that he’s still not a threat to run. So I think that probably has a lot to do with it, and we’re going to try to be physical if he does run. We’re going to try to play our game and put some hits on him and those kinds of things. But you got to tackle him like he’s a running back. And if you half step, if you play too cautious, or a guy like that, if he pumps you off your feet. We’re not playing good defense if you see guys leave their feet on the quarterback, right, because he’s just going to pull it and he’s going to fly past and he’s going to make a big play. So, we got to stay on our feet. We got to tackle through his midsection, and we got to get him on the ground like he’s a running back.”
What can you say about Myles’s (Garret) three-and-a-half sack game and just how dominant he appeared to be from start to finish in that game?
“I think there’s still meat on the bone, to tell you the truth. I think there are still times – we haven’t played a lot of snaps because we’ve been getting off the field on third down. So, it hasn’t given the guys a lot of opportunities to rush, but they’re still hitting the quarterback a bunch and things like that. So, sacks are great and we want to get sacks, but sometimes a great pass rush doesn’t equal a sack. Sometimes the ball can be thrown quick and it’d be an incomplete pass. Sometimes it can be a tipped ball. There are a lot of different ways, and as long as the defense works, that’s what we’re looking for. Myles was the beneficiary a couple times of Za’Darius (Smith), Za’Darius flushed the quarterback and had a chance to maybe get a safety on that one, but Myles was there to clean him up. You know, we’re about the group up front, you know, and Myles is a great player, but we get a lot of great players up front and we’re trying to produce as a group and we have an unselfish group. They don’t make it about one person. We don’t make it about one person. We try to get the job done, whether it’s Alex Wright or Myles or Ogbo (Okoronkwo) or Z (Za’Darius Smith) or Jordan (Elliott) or whoever’s in there. You guys know we play a lot of guys up front. We have a high standard, and they all celebrate each other’s success. As long as we stay on that track, we’ll be fine. Not worrying about guy’s individual stats and things like that.”
What did you think when the (Tennessee) Titans moved, kept moving the two tight ends and Myles was going back and forth?
“Yeah, you know, I saw that when I was in Detroit as a head coach. Saw a team do that to Calvin Johnson, put two guys in vice over him and sometimes it’s like, ‘Wow, first time ever saw that.’ And teams follow. But we have the ability to be able to give Myles the freedom to move away from some of those situations. And I think you just saw that, they were trying to tail him, we were trying to get away from it. They ran out of the clock. And then at that point of the game, taking a time out was pretty critical because we were 17 up at that point, but timeouts were critical. Its fourth-quarter timeouts are critical. So the effectiveness of that and then having a good effective pass rush on the other play. When it’s all said and done, whether Myles is dribbling or they’re chasing two tight ends across him or whatever, it’s what happens after the snap that’s the most important. And we got to cover, we got to rush, we got to stop the run. We got to stay after this quarterback. We do those things, we’ll be happy.”
With a quarterback like Lamar, who’s equally adept at running or throwing. Do you try to take one away?
“No, we just try to play our schemes the best we can and play good team defense. And like always, we try to put an effort or an emphasis on relentless effort and speed and physical toughness and some passion for the game. And if we do those things, then that’ll be enough to stop a dual threat at quarterback.”
Through the first three games, how do you think the guys have responded to some of the in-game adjustments you’ve tried to make to them? And how crucial is that going to be going against a team like the Ravens on Sunday?
“There’s always things that you adjust here and there, you know, generally it’s like, ‘Hey, we just showed this. Let’s give them something else off of that.’ Or it might even be the opposite. It might be making no adjustments. It’s like, ‘Hey, look, let’s keep bringing it until they stop it.’ So I don’t know. Honestly, half the time I can’t remember what goes on during a game. I’m just sort of in the zone and not really thinking about that stuff. And you’re anticipating the next move. You’re trying to communicate to your players, you’re trying to correct anything that came up. You’re trying to get them ready for the next series and things that you’re going to call and you know, I think they’ve done a good job of responding to those kinds of things.”
You mentioned Za’Darius earlier. What has he brought to that room from not only on the field but also just a personality standpoint?
“Yeah, he’s a veteran player. He’s tough, he’s had a lot of success in the league. He’s done it in a little bit of a different scheme. This is new for Za’Darius. I mean, we talk a lot of time about defensive linemen. I mean, I still remember way back in Greenbrier, he got up one of the plays and he was jamming a wide receiver and he was playing three, four outside linebackers like, ‘Yo, yo, yo, that’s not us.’ And, and he’s taken to it really well. The first play of the season, he just goes and we get that hit on the quarterback, beats the tight end across the ball. And I thought that really set the tone for us. And he’s an experienced guy. He helps the younger players out. He’s good against the run and the pass. He’s been a great acquisition for us.”
What’s the key to this defense? Continuing to play well consistently week in and week out, no matter who the opponent is?
“Yeah, I think that’s probably… the answer is in the question. We just got to take it on a week-by-week basis and we got to put our eyes on the next opponent and not what we’ve done in the past and not what we’re going to do a month from now or two months from now. Let’s live in the moment, let’s practice hard, let’s meet well, let’s prepare well, and let’s go out and perform well on a Sunday and just keep doing that and we can keep stacking those. Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past, don’t worry about what’s happened in the future. I think that you can get derailed a little bit in this league. Sometimes with success, sometimes success is harder to deal with than failure. A lot of guys can bounce back really quickly from failure. There’s a human nature to your pride and you get beat and you want to come back and you want to correct that and things like that. But sometimes it’s hardest when you are experiencing success to not get off track. And that’s my job. My job is to make sure that we stay focused on what we have to do in that moment as opposed to what our stats are and everything else. Because when it’s all said and done, our stats are 2-1, right? I mean, that’s what it is. Our stats are 2-1 and we’re playing a 2-1 team. Some team is going to be 3-1. Let’s keep our eyes on that and let’s let league rankings and pro football focus and all that stuff. We’ll just let that just stay where it is and we’ll concentrate on what we have to do that week. And if we can keep our guys focused on that, and I like our guys that way too. They respond really well and they’re not thin-skinned. It’s hard to play defense for us if you’re thin-skinned. So, there are some course corrections. There was a course correction last week. We needed a course correction and get our minds right for a running back that was coming to town and the players responded well to it and there are going to be those things. But let’s keep our eyes on what’s happening right now and let’s not worry about where we rank or where we’re going to rank or all those things. Let’s just try to win a football game. Let’s keep the score down. Let’s try to set our offense up. Let’s bring some passion to the game. Let’s get our fans excited. Let’s get our home field going and make it hard for opponents to play here. Let them be part of it. And I think if we do those things, then we’ll be successful.”
Greg Newsome was inactive last week, but the first two games, just what you’ve seen from him. And Denzel (Ward) said today, he thinks he’s like the best slot corner in the NFL. And your thoughts on that too, I guess.
“Yeah, he’s in the consideration there. You know, he can play outside, inside. Gives us that, you know, functionality to move him around and he can match up quicker guys, he can match up stronger guys. I thought Cam (Cameron Mitchell) did a good job in his place. Not perfect, but did a good job in his place. We had a miscommunication on one where we gave up a completion that was pregame warm-up completion, but rookies make mistakes. He corrected it and then came back. But I thought Cam did a good job stepping in and that’s what we need. Ronnie Hickman went in the opener on very short notice and did the same thing. So, we’re going to continue to have guys step up like that. But it is nice to have Greg back on the practice field. We’ll see where he gets to by Sunday.”
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