The Eagles are in Cleveland for joint practices with the Browns ahead of their Sunday preseason game. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spoke to reporters in Berea, Ohio about the depth of the safety position, what he’s seeing from his linebackers, and how the young defensive tackles are developing.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the safety position
Gannon was asked about the depth of the safety position, and he noted that they continue to get different guys in the mix — K’Von Wallce, Andre Chachere, Reed Blankenship, Anthony Harris. The group as a who is doing a really good job, and the DC is excited to get a chance to see them compete against different people during the joint practices with Cleveland.
He then went on to talk about rookie Reed Blankenship, specifically:
“Just like all those guys, he’s very smart, he’s instinctive, and has a unique skillset. When I say unique skillset, he’s not a post safety or a box safety. He can do it all. He tackles and he processes fast, and he just needs some reps and time on task.
There are certain things, as a rookie, he hasn’t seen like some of the older vets have seen. I really like though that he’s a guy that when he makes a mistake, he’s not a repeat offender.
From that, you know he’s going to continue to keep progressing. I’m excited about Reed.”
Gannon later talked about the characteristics he values at the safety position, pointing out ball skills and coverage ability — he wants to see players make plays on the ball when it’s up in the air.
“Anticipation, timing, what their eyes are seeing and the coaching points of all those things within each coverage to be in the right position to have a chance to make certain plays on balls down the field.”
On the linebacker group
Gannon was asked about Nakobe Dean’s first preseason game and all the tackles he made, but the DC noted that he expects all the linebackers to hit the ball when it’s in between the tackles. Dean has been doing doing that in practice, and even though practice isn’t full tilt, he wasn’t surprised with how the rookie played against the Jets.
The defensive coordinator explained how much he values Haason Reddick and how the two have worked together to try and find the best way to utilize the LB/EDGE player this season.
“The greatest research tool, in my opinion, when we acquired him was his brain. We had a good talk, sat down with him and said, ‘Hey, what are you comfortable with, what are you not, what spots do you want to be in, and what don’t you? Here’s how we see you fitting into the scheme. Here is our vision for you of how we’re going to deploy you and how we’re going to use you. Are you comfortable with that, are you not?’
And we’re still figuring that out. All those overhang players, that’s always a continuous evaluation of hey, this is why we’re doing certain things, this is what this guy is really good at; let’s put him in those spots a little bit more.
Haason is so smart. Just because I want to do something, if he doesn’t want to do it, we’re not going to do it, or if it’s not the best thing for the team, we’re not going to do that.
So just really pleased with Haason and his growth and the maturity that he brings and the football character that he has.”
Gannon also talked about how they rotate players at the linebacker position, something you don’t see much of from other teams. He simplified it by pointing out that they move guys around based on who their best players are for what they’re trying to do each week — basically, what are the favorable matchups. The DC noted that they do have to take into consideration which LB is calling the defense, because they don’t want to sub that guy out a ton.
He later was asked about Patrick Johnson, and while Gannon emphatically stated that Johnson still has a role with the Eagles, he also mentioned that these next two weeks will be big for the linebacker.
“He’s doing a good job. He’s been violent the last couple weeks with playing in the run game. When those guys get singled, we expect if the ball comes to them, if they’re getting a blocker, they need to hit the ball.
He’s shown really good rush ability and he’s a natural in pass coverage. When we ask him to drop a little bit, he has no issues with dropping.
It’s really the overhang players. You guys hear me talk about. It’s rush, crush, and a little bit of — rush obviously the passer, crush the run game, and a little bit of drop ability.
When you play those different spacings that’s what you have to have those guys do. He’s done a good job, and it’s all those guys. I’m excited to see them go against a different scheme and different people and this will be a really good week for us to see how we stack up.”
On some of the DTs
Gannon was asked about Jordan Davis’ conditioning and how he’s developed since the spring, but he was quick to negate the notion that they need to limit him. When Davis is on the field, he goes full tilt. The DC admitted it’s tough to grade the defensive line (and the corners) because the plays aren’t always on their side, but overall he thought Davis showed good effort and stamina in last Friday’s preseason game.
He also talked about Marlon Tuipulotu and how he came back having improved his game like they asked, and Gannon said he’s happy with where the DT is in the run and pass game. Tuipulotu is another guy that’s very smart and he’s very good with understanding the front mechanic and why he’s aligned certain places.
“He’s doing a good job from a production standpoint and playing the run and the pass game. I’m excited about Marlon.”
Gannon said another guy who is doing well is Marvin Wilson. He was a little nicked when they got him, and it showed up at times, but the DC doesn’t think it’s a problem anymore. Wilson has done a nice job getting into better shape to be able to play hard for the number of plays they’d like to see from him.
“He’s another one. He’s a big man, he’s violent, he plays with good pad level, he’s hard to block. That’s what you like from your inside guys, that. Are you hard to block? Can they allow one blocker to block you, or do they have to put two on you, and when you have a one-on-one in the pass game, can you affect the quarterback? He’s done a really good job with it.”