PHILADELPHIA – Jonathan Gannon is losing patience.
Not with his players, but himself.
“It's wearing thin on myself - ‘Hey, Jonathan, let's get them in better position so we give our team a chance to win the game,’” said the Eagles defensive coordinator on Tuesday. “It's not really towards getting irritated at the players. That's how I'll always roll, that's how the coaches roll.”
To be fair, this defense that has given up chunk plays on the ground and dozens of crooked numbers on the scoreboard the past two weeks isn’t just a Gannon problem. It’s a front office problem, too.
The Eagles have made 18 picks on the first two days of the NFL draft dating back to 2015. Seven of those were defensive players and only one in the first round – Derek Barnett in 2017. Just two came in the second round, which means the other four were third-round picks.
Of the seven, there are just three left on the roster and two are the most recent picks – linebacker Davion Taylor last year and Milton Williams last spring. Barnett is likely playing his final year in Philadelphia and will follow cornerbacks Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Rowe, along with linebacker Jordan Hicks, out the door.
Gannon is still learning his players, but he also admits to not being locked into one particular scheme. He is simply seeing what his players do best and trying to put them in position that will allow them to succeed.
The rest is on them.
“I think we're all pissed off about the last two games,” the DC said. “We haven't played great on defense. That's evident. And that starts with me and starts with the coaches.
"So, it always comes down to self-evaluation, ‘Hey, what can we do to help our players? What did we say the three things are to win this game? Did we get those three things done?’ And the last two weeks, we have not done that.”
The run defense has been particularly bad, and, after the Chiefs ran wild for 200 yards last week, the Eagles have now plummeted to next-to-last in the league rankings at No. 31, surrendering 150 yards per game on the ground.
“When you look at run defense, like, we have to be in the right spot and we have to win individual matchups,” Gannon said. “And from a coaching standpoint, what adjustments can we make and how can we position our guys to be a little more successful than what we've been so far.”
Gannon can do his best to put his players, such as his linebackers, in position, but if they can’t get off blocks or win individual matchups, stopping the run could be an issue all season long.
Perhaps the closest Gannon came to admitting that personnel isn’t up to snuff was when he was asked why he doesn’t utilize dime defenses to stop the pass when teams are in third-and-long.
The dime package utilizes six defensive backs on the field at the same time. It’s a defensive look that uses four down linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs. It is a lot like the nickel package with the only difference is a sixth defensive back for the Sam linebacker.
“I just don't believe in it right now with who we are,” said Gannon. “I like to play out of four down and two linebackers. We feel like that's kind of the best way with second down and drop back and defending - who we've defended up until this point. On third down, as well, to play with two linebackers in a game.”
Is he saying he doesn’t have six DBs he can trust yet and can scrounge up two linebackers that he does?
KC wasn’t in third-and-long much, anyway. They converted nine third downs in 10 opportunities but seven of those came in third-and-less than three yards, with another being third-and-four.
“We have to do a better job on first and second down,” said the DC. “On first down, to get it to second down and manageable, to get it to third down and some longer distances where we can get to some of our stuff and some of our packages to be successful and get off the field.”
The Eagles’ interception from Eric Wilson came on third-and-nine for the only third-down stop of the game.
Sunday’s opponent, the Carolina Panthers, don’t have the kind of explosive offenses the Eagles have seen in the Chiefs and Cowboys and could be without running back Christian McCaffrey, who missed last week’s game against Dallas with a hamstring strain.
And maybe that’s part of what ails the defense – simply playing top five offenses in Kansas City and Dallas.
The Panthers’ offense is ranked 13th, and there’s nobody on that side of the ball, other than McCaffery, who sends shivers down anyone’s spine.
So, this will be a good test to see what the defense looks like against a team that isn’t as explosive as the ones they ran into the previous two weeks, and maybe Gannon can rediscover some patience with himself.
“The patience for me is wearing thin, ‘Hey, let's get competitive. Let's get in a game,’” he said, “Because right now, we haven't been in a game - I know we were in that game, but from a defensive standpoint, like, we got to keep the points down, keep the yards down, get off the field to give our team a chance to win.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.