Snap Count Science: Eagles were Concerned with 49ers' Running Game

The way Jonathan Gannon used his personnel indicated what the Eagles were concerned with in their 17-11 loss on Sunday
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PHILADELPHIA - Sometimes the snap counts will take us where the coaches don't want to go and the disinfectant of playing time shined a light on what Jonathan Gannon's plan was for the San Francisco 49ers in what turned out to be a 17-11 setback for the Eagles.

As expected, the rookie defensive coordinator was concerned first and foremost with the well-regarded Kyle Shanahan running scheme and that meant a little less time for the recently-extended Josh Sweat on the defensive line, as well as back-seven defenders Eric Wilson, the team's best coverage LB, and Avonte Maddox, the starting slot corner.

The plan worked with the 49ers needing 38 runs to amass just 117 yards, a dismal 3.1 yards-per-shot. The front four was also able to keep QB Jimmy Garoppolo uncomfortable and sped up despite not getting home.

The defensive line snaps were affected by the Achilles injury Brandon Grham suffered late in the second quarter while the offensive line took its first hit when losing Brandon Brooks to a pec injury after 25 snaps.

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So let's dive in with the defensive side.

The defensive line rotation was again paced by Fletcher Cox, who played 51 of 70 defensive plays (73 percent). From there it was Javon Hargrave with 50, Derek Barnett (45), Ryan Kerrigan (32), Sweat (28), Milton Williams (27), Hassan Ridgeway (25), Graham (15), and rookie Tarron Jackson (11).

Graham would have likely been at the Barnett level had he not been injured and it seemed in-game that Gannon defaulted to his typical left-end option in Kerrigan, though Sweat flipped a little and Jackson got probably a few too many reps at RDE.

With a week to prepare for Dallas, a more conventional 11 personnel offense, it will be interesting to see if Williams, who the Eagles drafted in the third round as a Graham-like player who can move from base end to inside and back again will get more of a look as the potential starter or Gannon tries to get his two best DE ends on the field at the same time with Barnett and Sweat.

The Niners zone-running scheme made the SAM LB position a bigger emphasis than the slot corner, so Genard Avery's playing time spiked with 39 reps (56 percent) and his backup, rookie Patrick Johnson, got 13 reps. 

Maddox, meanwhile, slipped back to 21 snaps (30 percent) due to the beefier lineup.

T.J. Edwards (21), Alex Singleton (57), and Avery started at LB but Wilson still was No. 2 in playing time with 48 snaps. 

Davion Taylor made his 2021 debut with nine reps but also aggravated his calf injury. With Taylor playing, Shaun Bradley's time was scaled back to just special teams reps with 18 in the third phase.

The secondary had the only player that toiled in all 70 snaps, safety Anthony Harris, while K'Von Wallace (40) and Marcus Epps (32) essentially split the other safety position depending on what Gannon wanted.

Starting outside CBs Darius Slay and Steve Nelson each played 68 of the 70 snaps with Maddox being the only other CB to play.

Five offensive players went the distance (58 of 58 offensive snaps) starting with QB Jalen Hurts and four members of the offensive line: Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson. 

Rookie Landon Dickerson (33) replaced Brooks (25) in his NFL debut and finished the game while Andre Dillard got two reps in jumbo packages.

The Eagles used plenty of 12 personnel and both Dallas Goedert (38) and Zach Ertz (37) saw significant playing time with undrafted rookie Jack Stoll also getting a taste (6).

The RB rotation continued to be a two-man outfit with Miles Sanders (39) and Kenny Gainwell (19).

At WR, first-round rookie DeVonta Smith led the way with 49, followed by Jalen Reagor (42), Quez Watkins (29), Greg Ward (21), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (8).

Michael Clay's core special-teamers were Andre Chachere (19), Zech McPhearson (19), Bradley (18), Epps (17), and Edwards (15).

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at or and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.