Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon has taken a lot of heat this season for the team’s inconsistent defensive play, but on Sunday against the Broncos, they were able to put it all together for a solid performance. He spoke to reporters on Tuesday about Derek Barnett and penalties, how the DTs handle being double-teamed, as well as some notes on the linebacker group and secondary.
Gannon also talked about why the defense has been much more effective, and he was quick to point out that it comes down to all 11 players doing their jobs consistently. They’ve struggled in games when the front played well but the coverage wasn’t there, or when the front didn’t win one-on-ones but the secondary played well, so it really came down to being a balanced effort from all units.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On Derek Barnett and penalties
Gannon said his message the DE has been to just keep improving and working on his game. Not drawing penalties has to be on Barnett’s mind, but the DC notes that it is and that he loves how Barnett played on Sunday.
“This guy, he’s playing winning football for us. The pre-snap stuff, we have to continue to practice that stuff and put him in those positions in practice, which helps.
The other one that he got, kind of a bang-bang. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. We got to keep educating our players, why that penalty was called over and over and over.”
Gannon went on to explain that they asked for some clarity from the NFL on Barnett’s roughing the passer penalty, and whether he lead with his crown or did he fall on him with his body weight, but they haven’t heard back yet. He admitted, though, that the referees are always going to protect QBs.
“That’s a tough rule for pressure players, whoever’s hitting the quarterback, to, ‘Hey, as you’re going to the ground, pull off.’ But those are the rules and we got to do a good job of it.”
On the DTs being double-teamed
Teams have to pick their poison when deciding if and who to double team on the Eagles’ front, but Gannon acknowledge that Javon Hargrave has been seeing more lately. But, when Hargrave is doubled, Fletcher Cox is able be disruptive, and vice versa.
Still, Hargrave has been going a good job and won a lot of his one-on-one battles and split a double one time on Sunday, as well.
“They doubled him in the run game one time where it’s a hard block and he got back in and got back into his gap and had an assist on the ball. So, he’s doing a good job. He’s playing winning football and his production will continue to come.”
Gannon also talked a bit about how they coach different techniques in the run and pass game depending on the front they’re facing and what they’re asking the line to do.
“In the pass game, it’s tough. There’s not a lot of space in there when you’re getting doubled, the slide’s coming to you. Not a whole lot that you can do when that happens. What you need to have happen is your other guys that are getting the one-on-ones win their one-on-ones. And you saw that happen.
If it’s a six-man protection and they’re doubling the inside guys, well, you should have two or three one-on-one guys on the other side or the other people. I think that’s what you saw early in the year he was getting some one-on-ones, because Fletch was getting the double and he was winning those one-on-ones.
So, it’s always a blend of, when I get my chance to win my one-on-one, do I? And when I do get a double, to get done what we need to when we do get a double. So, he’s doing a good job of that, as all our inside guys are.”
On the linebackers
Head coach Nick Sirianni had pointed out TJ Edwards physicality, specifically, postgame on Sunday, and Gannon agreed, but also noted that the whole unit played with an edge and they did a good job outhitting the Broncos offense and playing hard.
“And that was one of the challenges to our guys, ‘Hey, we need to play harder than this team.’ Which it always is. But I think that they kind of rallied around, ‘Hey, we’re going to outplay this team.’ And I think we did that.”
The DC also talked a bit about rookie Davion Taylor through five starts and how he’s been playing well. He called Taylor a unique player as far as his skill set and what he can do when the ball is snapped. Since he’s a little inexperienced, Gannon said Taylor is continuing to get better on certain plays that he hasn’t seen before.
“Some mistakes he made a couple weeks ago, he’s not making anymore. He’s in the right spot a lot — not a lot more, but there’s certain harder plays and harder things we’ve asked those guys to do, he’s improving in those areas. He’s doing a good job for us.”
He went on to explain that as young linebackers come into the NFL, one of the areas they need to work on most is the processing of what’s going on. Gannon elaborated, saying that a linebacker has a responsibility, alignment, assignment, and key technique, but pre-snap or post-snap that all can change quickly, and they have to be able to make that shift.
On the secondary
Gannon was asked what prompted the rotation at safety, and he talked about how the group is going a good just and they feel like they are able to move guys in and out based on the game plan, packages, and specific play calls.
“And like I’ve said all along, that room is doing a really good job. And if they’re playing winning football, we’re going to figure out a way to get all those guys on the field.”
He also acknowledged that Marcus Epp’s play the last couple weeks has led to more playing time, and he’s playing winning football for them and will continue to play.
The DC was asked about Avonte Maddox and the season he’s having, with Gannon noting that the CB is doing a good job.
“Like I said before, we put a lot on his plate. And he has a lot to process and think about. And we put him in that spot as a slot nickel corner. He wears a lot of hats. He’s in the run game, he’s covering man-to-man. He’s in zone. He’s got a pattern match. He makes a lot of adjustments.
So, I mean, I like where Avonte is. I like where he’s going. And he’s doing a really good job for us playing winning football in that spot.”