Before the Eagles took the field for their first joint practice with the Dolphins, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spoke to reporters and gave some insights into his defensive philosophy, and why he changes things based on matchup versus sticking with one specific scheme. He also talked about the safety position, some specific cornerbacks, and what he thought of the defense’s tackling last week against the Browns.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On his defensive philosophy
“2022 offenses look a lot different than they did ten years ago, five years ago. So, I never wanted to get into a meeting on a Monday and say, ‘Well, we did everything right, and they still beat us because of our scheme got us beat or because of the matchups that we knew weren’t advantageous to us, got us beat.’
So that’s the reason for a little bit of adaptability with scheme week-to-week as you guys see is what we do is predicated on how we need to win this game. And that goes to like we’ve talked about it is our people, their people, people versus people, people versus scheme, scheme versus people and that’s how we will always evaluate it.”
On the safety position
Gannon was asked how many safeties he’d like to see on the final 53-man roster, but he noted that was a decision that would be made between Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni, Michael Clay, and himself. They intend on keeping the best players and those players being able to play multiple roles.
He later talked about the leadership of the position group.
“Marcus Epps has taken a little bit of a leadership role, more than last year because he’s playing more, and his production is high, and he does everything right. Anthony Harris is another one. He’s been a leader since I met him as an undrafted rookie in Minnesota, so he has leadership traits. That whole room from a football character standpoint and doing things right on a daily basis, that’s what a leader is to me, and they all do that.”
On James Bradberry
“He can play different styles of defense. He’s smart. He can cover. Gets the ball tough. His level of understanding, especially being first year in the system, and he’s a vet, so he’s played a lot of ball. But just picking everything up. He’s been very comfortable with it. His understanding of what we are trying to get done with different coverages, he understands that and has been a great addition for us.”
Gannon admitted that having another “big-time tough guy always helps,” but said that he thought the cornerbacks were a physical group last year and he doesn’t question anybody’s toughness.
On the defense’s tackling
The DC was asked about the tackling from the defense against the Browns last Sunday. He admitted that they missed some, but some of that was by game plan. Gannon explained that they talk to the guys about tackling certain ball carriers throughout the week, and which guys need to be tackled high versus low, etc...
“We definitely need to clean that up a little bit because I thought there was some leaky yardage in there. I did think our population of the ball was good, but you would like to get the ball carrier on the ground on first contact a little bit more.”
He further explained that how someone should be tackled depends on their running style and size — there are some smaller guys they want to tackle high because they could miss if they go low, and some big guys need to be tackled low so they don’t push the pile a bit.
“There are all kinds of different tackles in space, in the core, in the box, is it a frontal tackle or an angle tackle but you want to attack certain ball carriers a different way sometimes.”
On the Dolphins’ offense
Gannon said he was excited to go against Miami’s offense, calling their scheme significantly different from what they run and what they saw from Cleveland. He’s interested to see how their defense does without specifically game planning for the Dolphins, but rather play their calls, execute, and within that know their matchup issues and play accordingly.
The DC also said that Miami’s speed will be a really good test for the defense.
“They have some guys with some major gas which will be good for our guys to see that type of speed. For three weeks, we see speed, too. Where they deploy people is a little bit different than our offense, so that’s why it’s going to be good to see if we can execute at a high level with a different skill set of their players and a different scheme than ours.”
On the LB position
Gannon said that Kyzir White has adapted very easily to the Eagles’ defense.
“He’s another one that’s extremely intelligent. He’s played in a system similar to ours, so it wasn’t completely polar ends of the spectrum when he got here. He just had to put it in our verbiage a little bit. He’s doing a good job as far as being where he needs to be and executing at a high level in the run and pass game and production.”
The DC was asked if Davion Taylor is still someone they consider a developmental guy, but Gannon noted that all of their guys are competing for a starting job and for a spot on the roster, and that’s where Taylor is at.
- Gannon was asked about CB Josiah Scott playing safety and SAF Andre Chachere playing nickel, and the DC pointed out that it’s not so much that the two positions are interchangeable, but rather that these two players have the skillset to do both — and they’ve both done a good job.
- He talked about CB Josh Jobe and how everything they saw from him on tape pre-Draft — really good coverage ability, smart, tough — has proven to be true. Gannon likes where the rookie is as far as coverage ability, tackling, and understanding of the defense, and now it’s just focusing on getting better everyday.
- Gannon feels good about the evaluation of the run defense from practices. He likes where the group is right now with playing blocks and putting their hands on the right people. They still have to keep working on some things, but that’s a continuous process.