Skip to main content

Eagles' Defensive Aggression Can be Tied to Execution

The increase in blitzes is always on the play sheet, but it was the situations within Monday night's game that led to DC Jonathan Gannon calling more of them

PHILADELPHIA - The joke in many NFL cities is that some fans would rather see their favorite’s most-heated rival lose than the home team win.

For Philadelphia, you probably know one or two fans that revel in a Dallas Cowboys loss a little more enthusiastically than an Eagles triumph without the proper style points.

And in the Delaware Valley, the easiest way to style points is aggressiveness on defense, something the fan base got during Monday’s shellacking of the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

For one week at least, embattled defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon found the key to the city’s heart by rushing Kirk Cousins into oblivion in the form of 4-for-12 for 22 yards with two interceptions when an extra rusher was sent.

The city, however, is more in a ‘See, I told you so’ mode than following the actual bread crumbs as to why its desires were satiated during a home opener with a raucous crowd.

Fletcher Cox was the first to alert fans that the Eagles didn’t make wholesale changes to their defensive scheme in a week, albeit one with an extra day.

“Nope, didn’t change nothing,” Cox said of the differences in scheme from an underwhelming performance in Detroit to an overwhelming one vs. Minnesota.

“[Gannon] called the game how he was going to call the game, The biggest difference is we were better at what he called. That’s what it came down to.”

Gannon spoke Thursday in a pushed-back press conference due to the short week after Monday Night Football and clarified Cox’s sentiments.

“I don't know if it was more effective,” he said of his blitzes. “I think that we were able to really deploy some of them in the game because the situations came up and we decided when we put the game plan together this is when we want to use some of these calls.”

If those situations don’t present themselves, blitzes in the game plan stay on the call sheet.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

“A lot of times those calls are up in a game, but they don't come to fruition so to speak,” Gannon said. “I thought the guys did a good job when those were called. Some of those pressures were called, they executed them, and the rush got there and we held up in coverage.”

Gannon told SI's Eagles Today that his weekly call sheet has a similar number of blitzes ready if the proper situation arises.

“That's very well said. That's correct,” he said. "... We always talk about being adaptable and what that means is week-to-week you have to defend people differently."

On Monday the goal was to limit Justin Jefferson as much as possible.

“When you set up a game plan, you always look at how they're generating points and he was a major reason that they're generating points,” Gannon said of the star receiver. “Not just this year, but last year as well. I know it's a new system and coaching staff, but he's a really good player.

“We always take into account that hopefully we don't allow their best players to beat us”

Against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, the goal is surely going to change.

“Whether it's what you're doing schematically, how we set up the game plan for me to call it when we talk to our guys’ ‘Hey, this is how I'm going to call the game. These are when these calls are going to come up if we get them to these certain situations,’” he said. “First, second, third down, red zone, two minute, everything within a game that goes on.

“Then it basically comes down to when we practice those things, do we execute them, practice them, do the guys feel comfortable with them? Are we accentuating our matchups? And does it – ultimately is it the best thing to do versus who we're defending?

“From there, then we let it rip.”

The perceived aggression from week to week comes from execution, not wholesale schematic changes.

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen