The Eagles defense has been dominant and aggressive through three games under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai, and he spoke to reporters on Thursday about their focus on the techniques and fundamentals, and what he’s seen from some of the young guys. He also talked about Fletcher Cox being the consummate professional and how the secondary is still evolving.
Here’s what the DC had to say:
On the defense’s aggressiveness
Desai gave credit to the defensive line and Coach Rocker and Coach Washburn for instilling the mindset for how they want to play.
“We don’t want people to run the ball on us. There’s a certain mentality we want to play with, and certain aggression level and physical-ness level that we want to play with. It starts [up front], and then translates to the back end. It becomes kind of contagious and everybody kind of sees the product of when you play a certain way, you can eliminate part of a game for an offense.”
He later talked about tackling and how, like everything else, they want to be aggressive and swarm the ball. They want guys to the ball, and that’s how turnovers happen. The DC said they want the big men running out of the stack, guys from the back side of the field running up, and to see a whole lot of jerseys around the ball.
Desai referred to earlier comments he’s made about wanting the Eagles’ defense to be felt — from the guys on the field to people watching TV — and said that swarming the ball with a lot of players creates that.
On Zach Cunningham
The DC said the first thing the noticed about Cunningham, right away, was that he was a veteran who’s played good football in the NFL and has good instincts and feel for the game. This allowed the linebacker to learn the defense relatively quickly.
“That’s what’s kind of helped him impact us on defense at a relatively quick rate, and so you see that on tape. You see his physical-ness. You see his range, his play-making ability, uses his hands well at the point of attack. Obviously, he can move well, he’s quick side-to-side. And so, all that stuff shows up on tape from him, and I think the more he keeps learning and growing within this defense, and the finer points of this defense, he’ll just continue to keep improving.”
On Jalen Carter
Desai said that he probably didn’t think Carter would be this impactful so early, but he acknowledged that partly because he tends to limit his expectations of people. The DC explained that especially with young guys, once the get to Philly they start going through the development program. Carter obviously has some great skills and traits, and he needs to continue to develop those within the defense.
He highlighted that to be great, it’s a day-in and day-out process, and that’s something that Carter is learning. Coach Rocker is focusing on the details and fundamentals they want the rookie to have every day, and he’s in turn found spots to be successful.
Desai was also asked about Carter’s playing time, noting he’s been averaging about 40 percent of the defensive snaps. He explained that they wants him, and everyone, to be able to go all four downs, and that’s to be sure they have a constant wave of fresh legs affecting the quarterback.
“We want to be able to send guys in waves at these guys, and make them stay fresh. And that’s why the standard is the standard in that room. Coach Rocker and Coach Washburn really hold them to that standard that they’ve gotta earn the right to rush the passer, and that means you gotta play first, second-down defense, you gotta play run defense, and you gotta be good with our techniques and our fundamentals that we’re teaching so they can do that. And [Carter]’s doing that.”
On Fletcher Cox’s dominance
The DC was asked about Cox and whether the young guys like Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis rejuvenated him a little. Desai was quick to give the credit for Cox to Cox.
“I don’t think so. I mean, Fletcher’s been dominant for a long time, and I think it’s a credit to Fletcher and how he prepares his body and his mind for a season. I think the young guys really need to take notice of that if they want to have a long career like Fletcher, really learn and takes some notes on how to go about doing that.”
He went on to say that they have a lot of great veterans, Brandon Graham included, and there’s a reason that those guys have had sustained success. Desai notes that being in the league for 10-plus years isn’t for everybody, but there is a roadmap to do so.
“[Cox] practices at such a high level, in terms of running and setting a standard for the guys, and that’s inspirational for a coach to watch that, and it should be inspirational for the fellow players to watch. And I think they do take inspiration from him.”
On the secondary
Desai said that James Bradberry did good for his first time in the slot at game speed, and will continue to get better.
“It’s only Week 3 for us, we’re still climbing in terms of our technique and fundamentals, and building that cohesiveness. And then when you have some transitions that we’ve had, in terms of moving pieces, we’re still building that continuity, but the good part of it is, they’re all getting it. They’re all getting those reps at it, and so Josh [Jobe] falls in a similar place.”
He went on to emphasize the importance of players working on their technique and fundamentals, and gave credit to the coaches who got a lot of guys prepared at different spots.
The DC was asked about rookie Sydney Brown, who he called hungry and has worked hard to be versatile. He was impressed by how Brown stepped into the role they asked of him on Monday night, and with how the rookie didn’t panic during that Mike Evans TD breakup.
- Desai said that he thinks the 5-1 front is a really good front and there are spaces for it and the matchups that can be created with it. Like everything, there’s advantages and disadvantages.
- The DC noted that there isn’t really anything that Nolan Smith needs to do to earn more snaps, it’s on him to get him more involved in the rotation. He mentioned that the defense didn’t really on the field in the fourth quarter on Monday, so that affected Smith’s snaps as well. But, Desai said the rookie’s snap count will go up and they’ll be diligent about that.
- He called Reed Blankenship the rock of the back-end, saying that the young safety has really taken ownership of some of the communication and is really making it his own. Desai gave him credit for the interception on Monday, explaining Blankenship made a great read.