PHILADELPHIA —The Eagles and woes at the cornerback position have been a common theme for a decade.
Jonathan Gannon becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in Philadelphia since 2012, while the previous three failed to develop any young cornerback prospects on their respected rosters into legitimate starters.
Now, Gannon will be tasked with breaking the dry spell and molding a young cornerback into a long-time starter for the Eagles.
Gannon, ironically, has already played a pivotal role in the successful development of arguably the best slot in the NFL and one of the better outside cornerbacks over the last several seasons.
Kenny Moore was an undrafted free agent out of Valdosta State signed by the New England Patriots. The Patriots released Moore as part of their final preseason cuts in 2017, and the Indianapolis Colts claimed him off waivers only a day later.
Moore sat his rookie season as the fifth cornerback on the team’s depth chart, barely seeing the field. But that all changed when the Colts brought in Jonathan Gannon as defensive backs coach.
Since 2018, Moore has been nationally recognized as the best slot cornerback in the NFL. The Colts’ star has been on the field for 2,474 snaps allowing only six touchdowns combined the last three seasons and nine interceptions.
Gannon has stressed the sentiment that Nick Sirianni campaigned about his coaching philosophy since arriving in Philadelphia — tailoring the system to fit the player’s skillset. Moore is a prime example of Gannon successfully being able to do so.
Another substantial accomplishment on Gannon’s resume is the development and rejuvenation of former All-Pro Xavier Rhodes.
Colts General Manager Chris Ballard cited Gannon’s relationship and development with Rhodes in Minnesota as to why the veteran rejuvenated his career in Indianapolis this past season.
"Xavier had a heck of a year. He really bought into what we were doing. I give Jonathan Gannon a lot of credit for that," Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. "He had a relationship with Xavier coming in from Minnesota. Xavier worked and bought into everything we were doing."
The Eagles possess a veteran cornerback similar to Rhodes in Darius Slay. Slay is still at the top of his game despite a couple of poor performances versus some of the elite wide receivers in the NFL in 2020.
Slay is 30 years old now, and a cornerback-friendly defense at this point in his career could maximize the excellent caliber of play the Pro Bowler has showcased. Rhodes proved Gannon could put an aging veteran in the best position to perform. There’s little reason to doubt the same can occur with Slay.
The most challenging task on Gannon’s to-do list as Eagles defensive coordinator is finding his next Kenny Moore.
Zech McPhearson, the Eagles' fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been the new coaching staff’s most significant investment at cornerback since the hiring of Gannon. A trade for Josiah Scott and a claim of Shakial Taylor off waivers round out the other additions the team has made for their first-year DC.
There is still plenty of time until the season opener in Atlanta on Sept. 12. Still, it’s apparent Gannon has the trust of the organization to take one of the current cornerbacks on the roster and to develop him into a starting-caliber defensive back.
Philadelphia’s faith in Gannon is more than justified. Seeing Gannon develop Moore, in addition with guys like NFL journeyman T.J. Carrie and former second-round pick Rock-Ya Sin, should instill confidence in the fanbase for the future of the cornerback room despite how unproven the group is.
Whether it’s the likes of Avonte Maddox, Michael Jacquet, Kevon Seymour, or the names mentioned above, Gannon will get a ton of inexperienced prospects with which to work.
After his impressive track record in Minnesota with Rhodes and following up in Indianapolis reuniting with the veteran and conquering his brief regression, in addition to developing Moore into an elite nickel cornerback, the Eagles’ brass should be confident in their new defensive coordinator to meet expectations.
Gannon’s plate will be packed in Philadelphia dealing with the inexperience at cornerback, but his resume indicates he’s exactly the man for the job, and by this time next year, Gannon should be able to add another unexpected name to his successful developmental track record.