The Eagles were back to work on Monday in their first joint practice of the preseason, hosting the Cleveland Browns leading up to their Thursday night game. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai spoke to reporters before taking the field and talked about the linebacker position, what he’s seen from the rookies, and what he wants to get out of joint practice.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the linebacker position
On Ben VanSumeren against the Ravens
“He’s come a good bit of way. He’s kind of new to the position, and so he’s done a great job. He’s really taken all the coaching that Coach [D.J.] Eliot has given him, and the biggest thing we wanted out of that game was for guys to go run and show their talents and try to keep our list down a little bit so they can go execute, and he did a good job for the most part there.”
On Myles Jack and Zach Cunningham
Desai said that the two veterans are still going through the acclimation process — they’ve only been in Philly for a couple of practices and one preseason game, so they still have a lot to learn.
“You can tell these guys are pros. They’ve been around the league, that they know some football. They’ve been around different defensive systems.
Right now, it’s just their process of learning our stuff and our culture and our standards, and they’ve been doing a good job. They’ve really embraced it, so it’s nice to see.”
The DC explained that they’ve been watching tape of Jack since he was coming out of college, and then at Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. Desai had a chance to meet with the LB when he came in for a workout, and credited Howie Roseman and his staff for staying up on guys.
On their plan for the position
Desai noted that they’re just focused on getting all the guys evaluated, and seeing different combinations to see the best fits.
“I mean, Patriots week is still three, four weeks away. That’s the time frame. We don’t need to make any decisions up until then, and we’re going to keep finding the best combination and make sure our guys keep competing.
Now it’s about mastering your techniques and fundamentals.”
On rookie development
Desai talked about Sydney Brown, noting the safety has had a good camp and continues to grow and learn the defense. Similarly, Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith both played well on Saturday against the Ravens, but there are areas they need to improve.
“We’ve all got to remember, this is their first NFL game that all these guys have played, right, so there’s a lot of emotions that go into that for these young men, and we want them to embrace those emotions, but then they’ve got to learn how to manage those and play that, and it was a great opportunity for all them, and they all did a lot of good things on the field and where there was mistakes, that’s why it’s preseason. That’s why we’ve got time to correct some things and keep moving forward.”
On CB Eli Ricks INT
“He just keeps trying to develop. He’s learning more every day, and there are things that we still need to clean up with his game, and I’m obviously really thrilled for him to have the play that he had in the game. That’s a great opportunity for any young player — for any player but even a young player like that to do that.”
On joint practice with the Browns
“ I think one thing that we’ll get a really good grasp of as a staff, as a team on defense, is how strongly can we rely on our techniques and fundamentals. This is great because it’s like an unscouted opponent; you’re not really preparing for them, you’re still in training camp mode, but it’s a different team, like you said, than the team you’ve been facing for the last three weeks. So, you get to really test out your rules and see who’s really mastering it, and that’s what I think I’m most excited about.”
Desai explained that it’s also nice to see different looks and get practice against certain schemes they might not see much of from the Eagles offense. Plus, they get to see it at game-like speed, and have to really rely on their training.
- Haason Reddick had mentioned wanting to take on more of a leadership role this season, and Desai said that he has, noting that they’re leaning on all their veterans as leaders.
- The new Eagles DC doesn’t recall having met former Eagles DC Jim Schwartz before, but admires him as a coach.
“I think he’s a tremendous football coach. He’s had a lot of good defenses. We played against him a lot when I was in Chicago and those guys were always playing physical and fast, so I think he’s a really good mind, and you’re right, there’s a lot of good stuff to study from his schemes.”
- Desai later acknowledged that he did interview for the Browns DC job in the offseason, but is blessed to have landed in Philly.