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Sean Desai talks preparing for the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes, and bunch formations

The Eagles DC is excited about getting some players back from injury after the bye week, and is eager for the challenge that waits for them in Kansas City.

The Eagles defense has been really strong and aggressive this season despite more than few injuries affecting the group, but following the bye week, guys are coming back from injuries and the team might finally have a full-time nickel CB. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai spoke to reporters on Friday and gave an overview of where the defense is halfway through the season, why he’s excited for Bradley Roby, and all that they’re doing to prepare for the Chiefs on Monday night.

Here’s what the DC had to say:

On his reflections of the first half of the season

“We’re still growing. I think we’re still trying to get better. There are some places we’re doing really well at that we want to continue to improve on, and some of the spots we feel good coming out of the bye of really evaluating ourselves as coaches and teachers, and then trying to get our guys in good positions to make some plays a little bit more consistently.

They’ve been doing such a good job — the players I’m talking about — of executing on the field and helping us win some of these games in critical situations. We want to build on a lot of those things they have been doing well.”

On Bradley Roby returning

Desai pointed out that they’re getting most of their guys back after the bye week, and they just want to keep developing them.

“[Roby]’s a veteran player who has played a little bit for us and been around us now for a little bit. I think that will continue to help with our continuity and just getting more players back.”

The DC agreed with Roby, who noted that he spent his time off the field getting better acquainted with the defense. Desai explained that the extra time Roby had to study and learn the defense in the meeting rooms, will now translate to the practice field.

On the defensive scheme

It was pointed out that the Eagles haven’t used much dime this year, and Desai pointed to a lot of reasons, including personnel, opponents, rotations at linebacker and in the secondary that they’ve had to use due to injury.

The DC noted that they aren’t resigned to having a WR matched up with a linebacker as a result of the personnel, and it’s something they’ll continue to work on.

“I think we’re always trying to get our best matchups on the best people. It’s always on the play caller to get the best matchups there, and even if it’s nickel people, there are different ways to adjust with scheme, which like part of the bye week, we’ll continue to improve upon in those situations as well.”

On preparing for the Chiefs

Desai talked about Patrick Mahomes’ ability to avoid sacks, and said that they have to look at the entirety of what they’re going against.

“It’s really about trying to disrupt his time to throw and really changing that because, like you said, he’s elite at avoiding sacks.

He really does a good job holding the ball and creating and extending plays that way, and waiting for his guys to get open. That’s where they’re really artful.

Our big emphasis is trying to understand that fact and get after them in different ways from a rush and coverage standpoint to impact his time to throw.”

The DC went on to laud Mahomes as a special, generational player, but acknowledged that their process to prepare for him is no different than the way they prepare for any other team.

Desai noted that he doesn’t like to speak on the Super Bowl loss last season when asked about the tape, but said the guys played hard at all levels.

“But that’s last year. Our guys are in such a great mindset now and really looking forward to this week and really trying to beat the opponent we have ahead of us. It’s not last year’s opponent and we’re not last year’s team. That hasn’t really been part of our conversation at all, to be honest.”

The defensive coordinator later talked a bit about the Chiefs using bunch formations, explaining that they try to create matchups for their guys and run people differently.

“Displacement and how people come out of the bunch impacts how you pick up the bunch, and so you got to have a really good, solid clean plan of how to pick up the variety of their bunch routes from all the displacements they come out of.”

Getting the tools they need built up and cleaned up is a point of emphasis for the Eagles defense this week, and making sure they’re sound in their coverages.

On Chiefs WR Rashee Rice

“[Rice is] growing. His target share, his route variety, and his trust level it seems like within the offense has grown. He’s a good receiver. He can do a lot of different routes for them and catch the ball and run and create some one-cut moves and make people miss in space, so he’s done a really good job for them.”

Other notables

  • When talking about the past matchups between Travis Kelce and Kevin Byard, Desai said that they watched tape of those types of matchup before trading for Byard, and he’s been able to do a good job in that matchup.

“I think [Byard] has a good mindset. I think he understands some of Travis’ route stems, at least off the tape I’m talking about. And then he challenges them up.

And then they had some different looks, too, from a schematic standpoint that Tennessee had done that helped him win in those situations.”

  • With Nakobe Dean back on IR, Desai wouldn’t commit to Nicholas Morrow and Zach Cunningham being the only two linebackers. He explained that they would still consider rotating guys like they did when Dean was in the mix, noting they have Christian Elliss and Ben VanSumeren. It’ll be a weekly discussion based on matchup.
  • Desai said that James Bradberry could still see certain situations in the nickel, and that at this point in the season, they’re focused on making sure they have enough answers and depth, which the Eagles do, and are then able to move guys around as and when needed.

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