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Eagles players reflect on Jonathan Gannon and the defense’s development

T.J. Edwards and Anthony Harris explain why Gannon would be a great head coach, as well.

As the season comes to an end for the Philadelphia Eagles, players were back at the NovaCare Complex on Monday to clear out their lockers. Several guys spoke to the media before heading home, including some notable names on defense. They talked about how the group as a whole evolved throughout the season, as well as what they thought about defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and his potential as a head coach.

Fletcher Cox talked about the defensive line specifically, and how being consistent as the season progressed helped the group get more comfortable — consistency is what the DT also pointed to as the biggest factor in this Eagles team being even more successful next season.

“I think we started slow, and that can go into various ways. You know, it was a new scheme, new defense, basically everybody kind of getting comfortable and kind of knowing what they’re doing early in the season. Later in the season, as the season goes on, as the season progresses, I think the biggest thing you see was the consistency of the way we were playing defense up front — the style of defense up front and the way guys were getting after it, more comfortable. So, I think that was the biggest part.”

Javon Hargrave echoed Cox’s sentiments and felt like the defense kept growing and getting better as the week’s went on. He also felt like this was one of the best seasons of his career thus far, and credited Cox with giving him little cheat codes every week to be more effective at the line — although, he coyly wouldn’t give up some of those secrets, just noted that the veteran DT made things easier for him.

Cox was asked about developing in Gannon’s system, and he didn’t shy away from addressing his comments (read: criticism) earlier in the season. He acknowledged that talking to Gannon about his concerns and working together, really helped the defensive line overall.

“Having conversations with JG and basically, we all know what happened earlier in the season with me and my outburst in the media, but the biggest thing is I went and talked to JG. I think that’s the only way two men can handle situations, you go talk to each other and you figure it out. I think we both figured it out. We both put the defense in the best positions to win. I think it allowed — the way we moved some things around, it allowed the good players to really get a lot of one-on-ones and just be disruptive. It was really fun playing.”

Linebacker T.J. Edwards wasn’t happy to have to come out of Sunday’s game, but said his forearm will be fine. He had a difficult time talking narrowing down some of the areas that the linebacker group needs to improve in this offseason, saying that as football players they want to be as close to perfect as possible, and there’s plenty of time to address things over the next few months.

Edwards also talked about how Gannon broke things down for players and why his ability to communicate really helped players understand the nuances and details of what they were trying to do.

“JG, man, that’s my guy. I think, just in terms of his football IQ and how he views the game is so interesting, to just have conversations about how he sees certain things fitting.

I think the one thing he did all year that was awesome for us, and helped us a lot, was letting each position group, and specifically each position, know how they fit in the scheme. I don’t think that there’s been ever a question, in terms of why we were doing something.

We’d go in, and we’d show exactly the film why we were playing second coverages to this team, and why we were playing certain front structures to this team. I think as a player you always kind of want to know the bigger why, on why everything’s happening. For him to be able to do that in a personable way I think is rare.

He’s got a lot of respect around here. He coaches hard, he wants practices executed and really good, and fast, and high intensity, all those things. So, I think he was awesome for us this year.”

Gannon has already interviewed for the Houston Texans head coaching job, and is scheduled to meet with the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, as well. Edwards gave his stamp of approval for the DC making the move to head coach and explained why.

“I think he’d be awesome. Again, he’s a great leader, in terms of when he’s up there talking, you know exactly what he’s talking about. He gets his message across very clear, and there’s a reason behind everything that he’s saying, it’s not just words for nothing. He’s the head coach of our defense. He’s our leader every Sunday and he’s been awesome for us this year.”

Anthony Harris reiterated Edwards notions about Gannon being able to explain the why behind what they were doing, and how being able to do that allowed players to focus on even more detailed portions of their role rather than trying to figure out the bigger picture. Gannon is someone Harris has worked with before and for a long time, so should Gannon end up getting one of these head coaching jobs, he’ll be happy for him.