Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spoke to reporters on Tuesday and talked a bit about Fletcher Cox’s frustrated post-game comments on Sunday, as well as what he sees from the players on the roster, and a little about the game planning and areas they need to improve.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On Fletcher Cox’s comments and criticism
Gannon admitted that he understand Cox’s points and that his comments are coming from an unselfish player who has a lot of passion for winning and losing. He noted that the whole defense is frustrated that they are 2-5, and know they aren’t playing well enough.
“What any player says after a game out of frustration comes from a good place of, ‘We want to win.’ That’s what this game is about, winning and losing. And that’s where I think that comes from, from Fletch. So, I love that about him.”
The DC also acknowledged that Cox’s comments about how he’s being utilized were good points and that he needs to do a better job of scheming to his, and other players, strengths. Gannon said Cox had some very good ideas, and it’s up to the coaches to get those done and execute those things.
He was also asked whether they’ll make some changes to free Cox up from being double-teamed, and Gannon said that they would as much as they can. They’ve got some things in their pocket that they’ve done and some things they are going to look at moving forward.
“You always want to try to free up the inside guys so they can play one-on-one with offensive linemen where they have a better chance to win that down.
People typically aren’t going to let you roll off and play five one-on-ones all day long because they know that our D line, we have an advantage over offenses. So, it’s always a blend of schematically what is this call? Why are we putting it? What situation does this call for? What is the strength? What is the stress? Why are we calling it?”
On the defensive roster
Gannon noted that he’d had a lot of input into the players they have to match the scheme he wants to run, and it was a collective effort during free agency and the draft. He had long conversations with Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni, and all the scouts about what they were looking for and they wanted to play each position.
“Everybody that we need to play winning football is in that building right there. I’m 100 percent confident in that.”
He was asked how the players they have fit into their system, and he noted that while they have the people they need in the building to do what they schematically, they still need to do a better job coaching — obviously, based on their 2-5 record.
“As far as what our corners are asked to do, it fits what we have in our building for our corners. Our safeties, they run the show. They’re smart, physical players that are good in coverage. We have that. Our linebackers, from a standpoint of when we play shell defense, are pattern match. So, they have to process and figure out who to get on and drop in zones first and then match people. They do that. Our D line, when we ask them to penetrate and attack, they do a good job of that. And we ask them, when they have to play a certain style depending on the coverage behind them, to be salty in the run game and play blocks, they can do that.”
On the defensive game-planning
Head coach Nick Sirianni spoke after the game and on Monday about the defense needing to challenge offenses more, and Gannon noted that the assessment was actually something he commented on right after Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
“I said, ‘The ball didn’t hit the ground. That tells me we’ve got to challenge a little bit more.’ So that’s within, ‘Hey, this is our rolodex of coverages, how we want to play, what we need to get done. I need to change some coverages up and challenge a little bit more, get a little tighter, get closer to people, close windows, pre-snap disguise, post-snap disguise, what are we doing with the coverages?’
So that needs to get corrected because it’s hard to play winning football when the ball doesn’t hit the ground.”
It was pointed out that it wasn’t just an issue against the Raiders, but that most quarterbacks are completing 74 percent of passes against the Eagles defense. Gannon admitted that needing to challenge more is something that has been expressed before.
“So, a lot of times like you look at it and if a completion percentage is really high but it’s really not – it’s going to the success rate of them scoring or them winning the game, sometimes you’re okay with it by certain coverages. This is where we want the ball to go. You guys heard me talk about with some of the shell defenses, like this was an explosive shot play and it got eight yards, like that’s really a win for the defense.
Now, with saying that, you have to blend getting tight on people to where you’re eliminating some of those hidden yardage on catch and run checkdowns and where it’s a high level of completions where now you’re not – you don’t get it to third down, you don’t get off the field, you have these long drives. So, I can do a better job of mixing to get tighter and challenge a little bit more and put our guys in a better position to win certain downs.”
Sirianni also said in an interview on Monday that it’s hard for the offense to get into a rhythm when the defense is on the field for so long. Gannon explained that there’s a balance with them trying limit big plays while simultaneously giving up short ones that end up extending drives. But, the DC said he understands the head coach’s point, and they have to do a better job of forcing opponents into third down situations and get off the field.