We got a chance to hear from Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen earlier in the week, and they both recapped their units play against Atlanta, and how they’re preparing for San Francisco.
Here’s what the coordinators had to say:
DC Jonathan Gannon
On adjustments made early vs Atlanta
It’s no secret that the defense struggled early in Week 1 against the Falcons, but the tackling issues quickly were corrected, and Gannon pointed to cleaning up their technique.
“I think the main two things that changed were we cleaned some technique issues up after the first couple series there. I think guys settled in a little bit better and started trusting their keys. We talk about alignment, assignment, key, technique. If you don’t have those, if one of those four things is wrong, it’s hard to play good team defense.
I think really it’s a credit to our players, they settled down and just started getting back to the basics of that. That’s really pre-snap that we can control everything. The technique part is post-snap. But alignment, assignment, where they put their eyes, that’s all pre-snap. I think we kind of settled down and did a better job of that.”
On preparing for San Francisco
Gannon pointed to the challenges they face preparing for the 49ers offense, including having to factor in two quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance — who both can and have played. And while there isn’t a ton of film on Lance, he did play in the preseason and some against the Lions in Week 1, so Gannon doesn’t think the QB situation is necessarily a detriment to the Eagles defense.
“I think the greatest challenge to playing them is this is a very well-coached, physical football team. We’re going to have to match that intensity. They do a really good job of blocking. They do a really good job of running with the ball in their hands, creating RAC after contact from everybody from all the backs that touch the ball to the tight ends, to the receivers. They catch and run with the ball extremely well. We just got to have a good plan with what we’re doing with everything that they could throw at us.”
The DC also talked a bit about how he has to prepare the linebackers and safeties for all the misdirection and play-action that the 49ers include in their offense. He noted that they have to keep coaching the guys to have a more narrowed view, don’t worry about the whole picture, but rather focus in on your guy and the spot you need to be looking at.
On the defensive line and rotations
Gannon explained that his purpose behind rotating so much and getting every dressed player some snaps is that it both keeps players fresh, but also gives guys experience who might not carry a big load unless someone else gets injured. He doesn’t want a situation where someone only saw snaps on special teams for 6 or 7 weeks and then has to come in and get a lot of work on defense without preparation.
He later talked about how some of the snap counts are predetermined, but that they also go with the flow of the game in case they need to deviate from the plan a bit.
“I thought [Defensive Line Coach] Tracy [Rocker] and Wash [Director of Player Personnel/Senior Defensive Assistant Jeremiah Washburn] did an excellent job. You’ve heard me say that before. We had 10 D-linemen up and they all played. It keeps those guys fresh. You see the effort they’re giving out there in the run and pass game.
It’s a little bit different with those guys because every snap they got hands on them. Where in the back end it’s not always like that. They’re bigger guys. That position, it’s hard for big guys. What they’re doing every snap, in my opinion, it’s hard for them to do that 60-plus plays.”
OC Shane Steichen
On Jalen Hurts vs. Atlanta
Steichen was asked what impressed him most about the quarterback in Week 1, and he pointed to a combination of everything, particularly his calmness and readiness.
“I think any time you’re completing 77 percent of your passes, you’re putting your team in a position to win football games. The way he created plays outside the pocket, scrambling – I mean, we saw it in training camp, but to see it live on Sunday was very impressive. Hats off to him for his preparation and his execution.”
It was pointed out that Hurts had the lowest average air yards per throw in the NFL last weekend, but the OC noted that they had some bigger plays called and the defensive looks required them to check down. He wasn’t too worried about the loss of those big plays, admitting that they’ll take the 10 yard check and keep it moving — plus, he again noted Hurts’ completion percentage and said that number was more important.
“I think yards per attempt plays in, but I look at the completion percentage because when guys are completing balls, like I said, you’re moving the sticks, right? It could be a five-yard completion that puts you at second-and-five. You complete another ball, you’re in first down. When you’re completing balls, you’re moving the ball.”
Steichen later acknowledged that they do have a completion percent benchmark for Hurts each week, but that’s something he wanted to keep in-house, admitting, however, that the QB exceeded that in Week 1.
On DeVonta Smith’s perimeter blocking
“I thought he did a phenomenal job. He’s really a tough football player and the way he gets in position to make those blocks and create space for the backs to run was impressive. Coach [Aaron] Moorehead, our receiver coach, he works with him on that every day in practice. Then you can see it showed up in the game and we got to continue to get better every day at blocking and he’s doing a nice job so far.”
Steichen was also asked about Smith calling out a corner blitz at one point and said that the rookie’s football IQ is really impressive, but that he’s been impressive since the day he got to Philly — the way he talked football and coverages, has always been impressive.
“For him to see certain things on the field, just talking to him on the sidelines about certain things, there’s guys, right, that have played in this league for a long time. When they see an adjustment, or something on the field, they come tell you like, ‘I think I can get them on this route.’ There were some conversations on the sideline that we had with him about certain things. He sees the field really well.”
On San Francisco’s front seven
“Obviously, [Nick] Bosa is a very explosive player. I was with his brother for a while, so I’ve seen the Bosa up front and personal. I know his brother is a really good football player. He’s explosive off the line of scrimmage. He plays the run well.
And then inside, [Fred] Warner, he can fly around. He can cover, right? He can cover, he make tackles, he can do it all. Two really good football players that we have to know where they’re at on the field Sunday at all times.”