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Jonathan Gannon talks young Eagles defenders, explains frequent linebacker rotations

Plus, the Eagles’ DC calls Brandon Graham to a joy to be around.

The Eagles were back on the field Wednesday, and following practice, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spoke to reporters about some of the young guys, why they’re rotating so much at the linebacker position, and a bit about why he loves Brandon Graham.

When asked about having much shorter practices than we’re used to seeing, Gannon explained that Nick Sirianni takes the lead with that and emphasizes that the goal is to get one percent better everyday and to stay healthy.

Here’s what the DC had to say:


On rookie Zech McPhearson

“Zech’s doing a good job. He’s taking the coaching points and applying them on the field day-to-day, and a lot of times that’s hard for rookies — especially out there, there’s a lot going on with those guys. But, he’s improving everyday, just like the entire group is, and we’re excited about all those guys.”

The rookie had previously talked to reporters and noted that when he’s on the sideline, he’s studying Darius Slay’s progressions. Gannon was asked what he’d like McPhearson to most learn from Slay, and pointed to Slay’s confidence, noting that it’s a lonely position and you need to have confidence to perform at a high level.

On Davion Taylor

The DC was asked what a young player who doesn’t have a ton of experience needs to do at this point in camp, like Taylor, and Gannon noted that he just needs to stay engaged.

“He’s 100 percent mentally engaged, meets with [LB coach Nick Rallis] every morning on his own. That’s good to see, because we know that he loves ball, but the challenge is the best learning we feel is reps out there and in preseason games. I truly feel like, you can walk it, talk it, you can show it in the meeting room, but until they get on the grass and perform — and honestly, make mistakes, that’s the best form of learning.”

Gannon went on to say that when players make a mistake, they like to see the self-correction and identifying the problem, so that they’re continuing to get better.

On the linebacker group

The DC explained that one of the reasons they rotate guys in different positions with the ones is because there’s often a comfort zone with players knowing who is playing next to them, and right now they don’t want that comfort zone — two reasons for that is 1) everyone needs to be able to think and communicate, and 2) in a game when someone gets hurt, the person they’re used to playing next to could change. So, they’ve been rotating who lines up at WILL and MIKE and the combinations of players at those positions. But, Gannon did say that he’s seen that the group as a whole is comfortable with each other.

As far as whether they’ll have a three-down linebacker, or guys at specific positions, Gannon noted that it’ll depend on the game plan and what offense they have to defend. Right now, in camp, they’re throwing everything at the players and then they’ll start to pare down as they get closer to game day.

On Brandon Graham

“He’s a joy to be around. He’s one of those guys as a vet, that’s played at a high level, that you want on your defense. His energy is infectious, and it bleeds into that whole room. That whole room does a really good job with their energy.”

Other notables

  • Gannon was asked if it’s hard to scout guys from offense-dominating college conferences, but he said that the scouts do a good job of identifying what players need to have in their skillset to allow them to be successful with the team. They also look at the players’ character and how they would fit with the culture of the organization.
  • Milton Williams has been taking reps inside and outside, and Gannon explained that it’s a bit about “motor and mean” and they’re able to eventuate his skillset a little bit, and it’s also a little bit matchup driven.
  • The DC talked about the safeties doing a nice job of understand their role and where they fit within a call, including second-year K’Vonn Wallace, who plays deep just as well as he does toward the line.