The Eagles defense has been bullying teams for weeks, and despite a regular rotating secondary, they were able to hold the Dolphins on Sunday. DC Sean Desai spoke to reporters on Tuesday about what the defense has been able to accomplish, and also talked about how adding Kevin Byard will help the DB room.
Here’s what the defensive coordinator had to say:
On adding Kevin Byard to the secondary
“He’s obviously a great veteran, had a lot of success in this league, has played in a lot of different defenses. Really smart, great leader, I’ve gotten great reports, so really excited to get him into the room and get him going.”
Desai quipped that the process to getting Byard acclimated is pretty similar to the process they’ve done with the whole group the past couple weeks, as they’ve moved guys around to different positions.
“The great thing is he’s got a great wealth of experience that he can rely on, so we anticipate it being pretty smooth.”
The DC went on to talk about how they value players like Byard who can move around and fill different roles — that’s how the Eagles teach and install their defense, so the new DB will fit right into that. As he grows in the defense, they’ll figure out what he does best and how he best fits in.
Despite Byard getting older, Desai said that he still thinks he’s a really good safety in this league and is playing the way he did in his All Pro years.
On the age of the secondary
When Bradley Roby gets back from injury, the Eagles will have four players over the age of 30, but the DC said that there’s value in their experience. Desai said that it’s great to have so many veterans who can draw from their bank of knowledge, but also pointed out a lot of the young players have had to step up these first seven weeks.
It’s been a great opportunity for the young players to mature and get some of their own experience, and Desai said they’ve done a great job embracing that. The DC also credited the coaching staff for getting guys prepared to embrace those opportunities.
On UDFA Eli Ricks
“I like his length. I like his mentality, his toughness. He’s a competitor, and he’s kind of showed that. He’s a sponge, and he keeps wanting to learn and grow in his roles on the defense, and he’s done that.”
When asked how Ricks is able to handle jumping in and out at such a young age, and Desai said it was a credit to their teaching. He explained that a big core philosophy of the Eagles organization, from head coach Nick Sirianni down, is that they want to be great teachers.
On rookie Sydney Brown
Desai said that Brown played a good game, and it was the first start for the rookie, so it was an exciting and emotional game for him.
“He’s such a competitor. He played physically in the spots we needed him to play physically at, came down in the box, and did a good job communicating. So, I think it was a good game for him to get his feet wet and get going.”
On the run defense
Desai said that the guys they have upfront are really bringing the run defense to life, and credited the coaches with emphasizing that guys need to earn the right to rush the passer — to earn that right, you have to knock the run out. He also thought the DBs did a good job of secondary support against the Dolphins.
The DC was then asked about Josh Sweat, and what he did to earn player of the game for the Eagles’ defense, and Haason Reddick who has been a big help against the run.
“You gotta credit Coach Washburn over there with — there’s a certain style of play that we want to have. You guys have heard it from me, speaking about the defensive style, but what our coaches do, is they bring that style to their players, and they transcend it to their room. And that’s been done there.
So, with Sweaty [Josh Sweat], he played a physical game all around, in the run and the pass. Had a couple big sacks for us, had a couple big plays, impacted the quarterback — had a really good job on two of them, I think, on tracing on screens, coming out of the stack. Like, those are critical plays that we need those guys, otherwise you’re short in the screen game if those guys don’t come out of the stack. And Fletcher [Cox] had one that he ran down, Jordan [Davis] and Milton [Williams] came out of the stack. So, all those guys being able to do that, and own that, is critical for us to play good team defense.
And then [Haason Reddick], everyone wants to talk about the sacks, but to get two TFLs in the first two possessions versus that run game is pretty dynamic. And he was able to set that tone early, and it was with his physical-ness.”
- Desai explained why Zach Cunningham took most of the linebacker snaps on Sunday despite the Eagles favoring a rotation for the position. He noted that Cunningham is really long and fast and can set the edge, so those guys will be rotated based on matchups as well.
- The DC credited the players for really buying into what the coaches are telling them, and they’re seeing success from some of those teaching points which builds confidence in what they’re doing.
- He later answered a question about why players have bought in so well, and Desai said he doesn’t know, but he’s authentic and hopes the guys appreciate the preparation he puts in to put players in the best positions.