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Jonathan Gannon: ‘We need to improve quick, and we will’

The Eagles’ defensive coordinator talked to reporters about rotating players, his thoughts on the run defense, and what he expects from the Vikings.

The Eagles are back to work preparing for the Vikings on Monday night, but first, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spoke to the media and addressed some of the issues from their Week 1 win over the Lions.

Gannon opened by acknowledging the many things that the defense needs to fix moving forward, while also noting that there were things they did well.

“I think it’s very clear to the coaches and the players after watching the game what we need to improve on quickly, from an execution standpoint, from a technique standpoint. I thought we did some good things, but 35 points is not good enough.

Had a chance to put that game away a couple different times, I thought, and we didn’t do it. Then that’s what happens. You get into a dogfight like that. Overall happy that we won the game, but that is not the standard that we need. We need to improve quick, and we will.”

Gannon later said that a lot of the run that the Lions went on came down to situational ball, and they had chances to get off the field a couple times but didn’t do it. He said that they have to focus more on preventing third down conversions, citing one drive where Detroit converted five times. He was happy with what they were doing on first and second downs, but is looking for better execution to force more punts.

Here’s what else the DC had to say:

On issues with the run defense

“We have to clean it up because you can’t get gashed like we did. Just from a fit standpoint and a tackling standpoint, I think our execution needs to be a little bit better. Obviously, that starts with me. We have to coach that a little bit better to make sure our guys know exactly where they’re fitting on certain runs. You give up two explosive runs for however many yards, that’s going to skew the rush numbers, and that’s what happened. We have to get those runs down a little bit better, a little bit quicker, and the rush per attempt will go down.”

Gannon later said that he was satisfied with most of their calls against the run, but they need to execute a lit bit better.

The DC refuted the notion that the missed tackles on Sunday was a product of not doing much live hitting and tackling in the preseason. He said it’s about coaching it better and then players tackling better in Week 2.

He did acknowledge that when they had a 17-point lead, the Lions stayed balanced in their offense and continued to run more than they expected — something that affected some of their personnel decisions.

On player rotations

On Monday, head coach Nick Sirianni referenced the depth of the defensive line and the rotation for rookie Jordan Davis not seeing many snaps in Week 1. Gannon emphasized that Davis did a good job with the 22 snaps that he played, but they have a good group of defensive tackles that will continue to rotate. The DC admitted that they have confidence in Davis in the three- and four-man fronts, and that the rookie will play in all the schemes moving forward.

Gannon later explained that they do incorporate rotations at various positions into the game plan, but there is always room for flexibility as they get into a game and see how it’s unfolding.

“You don’t know that you’re going to be up however many points in the third quarter or whatever and you don’t know how many points you’re going to be down. We try to keep that within reason. We set up a game plan and have a game plan for that, but then that can adjust moving forward. That’s why you guys will see all those guys’ snaps — whoever plays for us we feel good about, but those snaps will fluctuate through the year as the year goes within certain games because of how games are played.”

On Vikings prep

When asked about his first impressions of the Vikings offense, Gannon was quick to point to them being explosive.

“They have some explosive people over there. The quarterback is a really good player, knows where to go with the ball, comes out fast. Obviously, they have some wide outs and a back. I was with a couple of those guys and they’re really good players, so we’re going to have to be on it to give ourselves a chance to win a game on Monday.”

Gannon said that WR Justin Jefferson is a special player and is in the top group of receivers.

“He can beat you all different types of ways, so when you’re looking at his game, he’s not a one-dimensional guy. He can take the roof off, he can beat you underneath, he can beat you with yards after catch. They do a really good job of deploying him different ways, so it’s hard to have a plan for him to always have two guys on him. It’s going to be a good challenge for us, and we’ll be up for it.”

Other notables

  • Gannon acknowledged that injuries happen in football, but Derek Barnett’s is tough because he’s one of the DC’s favorites.

“What he brings to the team as far as toughness, accountability, how he plays, being a pro, leadership, we’re all going to have to step up and do our job to replace a player like that.”

  • The DC also admitted that the guys were probably a little gassed in the second half with two long drives in a row. He did say, however, that he feels like their conditioning level is where it needs to be, but they have to get better in situational ball and get off the field quicker.
  • From a play-calling perspective, Gannon said there are some plays he’d like back and felt like there were times he put the players in a bad spot.
  • The DC was happy with C.J. Gardner-Johnson, highlighting how much work he had to do to be ready in 10 days. He loves the “attitude and swagger” that the safety brings to the defense, and looks forward to seeing him improve as the move forward.

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