With the hiring of Jonathan Gannon as defensive coordinator, the Eagles defense should look different next year. Not just philosophically, but from a personnel standpoint. If the Colts’ recent coverage tendencies are any indicator, expect the defense to be more complex and more aggressive than it had been under Jim Schwartz.
Projections of Gannon’s defense are somewhat presumptive. He has never been a coordinator! However, trends of what he got out of defensive backs in Indianapolis could suggest the type of player he’ll want on his 4-3 defense. Here are five 2021 NFL Draft prospects who should be a great fit.
1 - Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama
Patrick Surtain II is the type of player a former defensive backs coach would love. Surtain is a great athlete, yes, but his asset as a player is his feel for the game. Surtain is a cerebral, physical cornerback who thrived despite being given a lot of responsibility in the Alabama defense. Surtain will no doubt be a first-round pick and a high one at that. However, if the Eagles do decide on going defense at No. 6, Patrick Surtain II would be an obvious pick.
2 - Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Colts seemed to value length and physicality from their outside cornerbacks. Both Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin were over six feet tall with long arms and no fear of getting in a wide receiver’s face. Jaycee Horn is 6’1” and loves getting physical with wide receivers and running backs. He is an aggressive but smart player who made flashy plays this year for the Gamecocks.
3 - Elijah Molden, Cornerback, Washington
While Indianapolis prioritized size on the outside, 5’9” Kenny Moore II was a stalwart in the slot for Gannon’s secondary. The Eagles could find their own Kenny Moore II in the mid-rounds of the NFL draft with Elijah Molden. The Washington defender is a feisty cornerback with great ball skills and better tackling ability.
4 - Jabril Cox, Linebacker, LSU
The Eagles desperately need to upgrade their linebacker corps and Jabril Cox makes a ton of sense for what they need. The 6’4” linebacker moves more like a safety and he defends like one too. Cox could fill a similar role to Colts safety Khari Willis, who played close to the line of scrimmage for the majority of his snaps. Cox is a bit bigger, but could provide similar versatility as a do-it-all nickel defender.
5 - Trevon Moehrig, Safety, TCU
The Colts defense transitioned to predominantly single high looks in 2020. Cover-1 and cover-3 looks put pressure on the deep safety and the Eagles need someone who could shoulder that responsibility. Trevon Moehrig, as typical of TCU defenders, has a high football IQ and thrived as a deep safety for the Horned Frogs. He is a smart, dependable defender who could hold his own on the back end of an NFL secondary.