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  1. Jonathan Gannon says the Eagles have the players to make his defense work Gannon said he had significant input during the Eagles offseason identifying the players he needed to run his scheme. Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has been on the hot seat this week.YONG KIM / Staff Photographer by EJ Smith Published Oct 26, 2021 Jonathan Gannon climbed up to the podium and kicked off his news conference with his routine pleasantry. "Happy Tuesday.” Yet the day would seem to be anything but joyful for the Eagles defensive coordinator. Two days removed from the team’s 33-22 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, in which his defense allowed Derek Carr to complete a career-best 91.1% of his passes, Gannon has drawn criticism from both near and afar. His scheme is predicated on limiting big plays down the field by way of two deep safeties, but it has often backfired. At all three levels of the defense, there’s an argument to be made that the players don’t fit the scheme. The defensive line, at times, goes into an odd front that asks players to do more reading and reacting than in years past. The linebackers do more in coverage, and the secondary is often playing soft zones. Gannon said Tuesday that he had significant input during the offseason identifying the players he needed to run his scheme and reiterated that he has the necessary personnel to do so now. "Do we have the right people in the building? Yeah,” Gannon said. "We have to coach better, I know that, 2-5, that says that immediately. Who does that fall on? Us. But in saying that, our guys have proven — we can be more consistent with it — that we can play winning football.” Both Nick Sirianni and Fletcher Cox pointed out areas in which Gannon’s game plan against the Raiders left something to be desired. Sirianni said he felt the defense needed to be more aggressive at times and noted how the prolonged drives the Raiders reeled off negatively impacted the offense’s rhythm. Gannon said Sirianni’s notion that he needed to "challenge” the Raiders more came from himself, conceding that the passivity went too far in Las Vegas. "When we got out of the game, I said, ‘The ball didn’t hit the ground,’ ” Gannon said. "That tells me we have to challenge a little bit more. That’s within our Rolodex of coverages, how we want to play, what we want to get done. I need to change some coverages up and challenge a little bit more. Get a little tighter. Get closer to people, close windows, pre-snap disguise, post-snap disguise, what we’re doing with the coverages.” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon agreed with head coach Nick Sirianni that some changes are needed.DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer The Eagles have typically relied on their pass rush, but pressure was hard to come by in Vegas. Part of that was a result of Carr averaging 2.25 seconds to throw, the second-fastest average of the week according to Next Gen Stats. Still, the Eagles seldom send extra rushers (they rank 30th in blitz percentage) and the four-man rushes haven’t been as disruptive as expected. After the game, Cox expressed frustration with the way he’s been used compared to years past and said that at one point, he voiced his objection to the coaching staff about play calls he disagreed with. Cox has been successful in four-man fronts that allow him to prioritize penetration and getting off blocks over defending the run. But at times he’s been asked to play in odd fronts with more reading and reacting. Gannon said he has talked with Cox about his frustrations with his role and didn’t fault him for publicly criticizing the scheme. "He’s got good points. I need to do a better job of that with him,” Gannon said. "The key thing with that is together, player and coach, coach and player, how we do that and how we go about that. He’s had some very good ideas, as our other players have had good ideas, and then it’s up to us as the coaches to get that done and execute those things.” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox at the line against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, October 24, 2021 in Las Vegas.YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Cox isn’t the only defensive lineman seemingly playing out of position. When the Eagles line up in five-man fronts, they often have to slide defensive ends on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle, where they can be susceptible to double-teams. For smaller players like Josh Sweat, Tarron Jackson, or Ryan Kerrigan, Gannon conceded it’s not ideal. Gannon, who has long preached the importance of tailoring the scheme to the players’ strengths, acknowledged that sometimes the game plan that week calls for that not to be the case. "There are times where they’re probably ... no, they’re not ideally suited for that spot,” Gannon said. "But we try to [plan] within who’s playing, we try to make it where we’re putting those guys in position, for the most part, to get into the skill set that they are most comfortable with. "Some safeties want to play deep half all the time; well, sometimes you’ve got to get in the box and play Cover 3,” Gannon added. "Some corners want to play man-to-man all the time. Well, sometimes with this call, because of what we’re trying to get done with that call, you’ve got to play cloud. So, it’s always a blend of taking our guy’s skill set, putting them in that position as much as possible within the scheme of this is who we’re defending and how we want to play.” https://www.inquirer.com/eagles/eagles-jonathan-gannon-defensive-coordinator-nfl-20211026.html
  2. Eagles practice observations: Nick Sirianni erupts on receivers; Quez Watkins responds; the RB competition The first practice in full pads was not overly physical, although Anthony Harris did send a jolt to receiver Travis Fulgham. Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) watches from the sideline while his teammates run drills during training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer by Jeff McLane Published Aug 3, 2021 The Eagles held their sixth practice of the 2021 training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday. Here are links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Let’s get to Day 6′s action: Padded practice. The Eagles were in full gear for the first time this summer. "Thud” contact was permitted, but for the most part practice wasn’t significantly more physical than it had been when players wore only shorts and shells. There’s a twofold reason for this: Nick Sirianni’s shorts-and-shells workouts have been more intense than the norm, but his padded practice — at least the first one — was rather tame. There were a few pops, but nothing that was delivered with enough force to highlight or start a fight. Safety Anthony Harris did send a jolt to receiver Travis Fulgham during team drills, but that was because his awkward attempt at tackling resulted in a helmet-to-helmet collision. Sometimes it’s just best to tackle in certain drills, but Sirianni said that he has yet to make a decision on whether he’ll have "live” periods in camp. There are only five more regular practices until the first preseason game on Aug. 12. Sirianni erupts on receivers. The Eagles head coach’s background is mostly as a receivers coach, so he spends a considerable amount of time at practice with the position. Beyond his experience, it’s clear the group needs all the help it can get. When Sirianni has gotten heated, it’s often because a receiver has done something wrong. Maybe he’s focused too much on a position he knows well, but it’s not like there are any established receivers on the team. Sirianni got his most animated when J.J. Arcega-Whiteside apparently ran the wrong pre-snap motion. The coach whistled the play dead, barked something to the third-year receiver — yes, third-year — and then glared at receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. It hasn’t been all bad from the unit, but it’s important to factor in the struggles of the receivers when assessing Jalen Hurts’ performance in the passing game. Eagles wide receiver John Hightower puts his helmet on before the start of training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Reagor’s travails. Jalen Reagor was a full practice participant for the second day in a row. With DeVonta Smith out with an MCL sprain — the rookie briefly caught passes from the JUGs machine before practice — the second-year receiver has a chance to make his claim as Hurts’ favorite target. But that has yet to be the case. The quarterback and receiver have hooked up mostly on short, late-read routes, but not on many downfield. Reagor’s best moment in team drills might have come when he caught a pass on a slant vs. Darius Slay’s off coverage and jetted upfield. He couldn’t get separation against cornerback Steven Nelson, though, in their two one-on-one matchups. Quez answering questions. Reagor wasn’t the only second-year receiver who missed most of the first four days of camp. Quez Watkins was slowed by a non-COVID-19 illness. But he has taken steps in his two days back and made a number of clean catches Tuesday. Watkins turned cornerback Craig James around with a precise stick-and-release break during one-on-ones. He extended for a Hurts pass over the middle during seven-on-sevens. And he found enough space at the second level that second-team quarterback Joe Flacco had an easy completion. John Hightower has had his ups and downs, but he beat cornerback Michael Jacquet deep during one-on-ones, and made a diving grab on an out route during seven-on-sevens. Fulgham impressed vs. Slay in one-on-ones. On 2 of 3 passes, he drew holding penalties. Ahem … injuries. Linebacker Davion Taylor (quadriceps) was initially listed as a limited participant, but he left practice early and didn’t return. Cornerback Shakial Taylor (lower body) was also limited. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who left early Monday, was deemed day-to-day with a thumb injury. Guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring), tight end Jason Croom (knee), and receiver Michael Walker (foot) were also day-to-day. And along with Smith, guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) and defensive back Nate Meadors (hamstring) were listed as week-to-week. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws the ball during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni tosses the ball to young football players with the Overbrook Monarchs before the start of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni tosses the ball to young football players with the Overbrook Monarchs before the start of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) holds a ball while he stands off to the side during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Smith will be out 2-3 weeks with an MCL sprain.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham (13) catches the ball during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles defensive end Joe Ostman (right) runs a drill during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) runs a drill during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) wipes his face with a towel during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) reaches out to grab the ball during training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Young football players with the Overbrook Monarchs touch Jason Kelce’s uniform at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Young football players with the Overbrook Monarchs touch Jason Kelce’s uniform at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles quarterback Joe Flacco is greeted by his kids at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles quarterback Joe Flacco plays with his kids at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (left) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith walk off together at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Messiah Johnson, 6, of the Overbrook Monarchs, looks up at Eagles tight end Zach Ertz at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Eagles defensive back Grayland Arnold walks off with no shoes at the conclusion of training camp at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer Fearless MePhearson. I’ve mentioned Zech McPhearson in my last few practice observations, but the rookie cornerback continues to warrant ink. He didn’t record an interception like he did Monday, but he did have a couple of pass breakups and just seems to have a nose for the ball. In one-on-ones, he allowed receiver Andre Patton little space and earned the win. And in team drills, he batted a few throws away from would-be ball catchers. He may have gotten a little handsy with receiver Jhamon Ausbon on one, but no flag was thrown. McPhearson has practiced exclusively on the outside, but he has inside experience. Avonte Maddox has a pretty strong hold on the slot — he dominated receiver Greg Ward in one-on-ones — but the Eagles are likely to cross-train the rookie so he can jump into any role if need be. RB competition. The Eagles have more running backs at camp than I can remember. There are eight total with probably six capable of winning a roster spot. I don’t know how many Sirianni will keep, but an argument could be made for retaining as many as five. Miles Sanders is a guarantee. I think Boston Scott sticks, too. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell gets a spot, although the jury is still on whether it’s justified. And then there are Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, and Jason Huntley. Johnson would appear to get the nod ahead of Howard, but the latter is the best short yardage option if Sirianni is looking for that specific need. Huntley’s quickness has stood out, but I want to see what he can do in the preseason against a defense in another uniform. He would be a candidate to return kicks, as well. Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins have history with the Eagles, but their futures are at best on the taxi squad. More on Hurts. The Eagles quarterback had another solid session, and while certain tight-window throws have been lacking from his repertoire, Siranni and company were likely pleased to see him string together positive practices. His first pass of team drills went to Ward for about 20 yards. He later lofted a long strike to wide open tight end Zach Ertz. He had some questionable throws. Cornerback Josiah Scott notched an interception on a toss to Arcega-Whiteside in one-on-ones. He checked down in seven-on-sevens when he had Ertz free at the next level. And he threw a ball up for grabs rather than take a coverage sack. Sometimes the right decision is to take the "L” and throw the ball away, but Hurts needed to do a better job of killing the play. Dillard vs. Mailata update. I want to focus on why Mailata is winning more than why Dillard is losing because I think the former has been the case more than the latter. The Australian just looks so much better in camp than he did a year ago, and he would still go on to have a decent first foray at left tackle. It was Mailata’s turn with the first unit and in the opening team set, he won every matchup. He pancaked defensive end Brandon Graham on a Sanders inside zone run, sealed the edge on a Scott scoot through a gaping hole and kept Hurts’ blindside clean on two drops. Dillard, it should be noted, didn’t respond well on his first repetitions with the second unit. Defensive end Josh Sweat bull-rushed the tackle all the way back into Flacco, who heaved a wounded duck that floated out of bounds. And a few leftovers … Jake Elliott connected on all six of his field-goal attempts. He was good from 33, 36, 39, 41, 44 and 47 yards. Overall, the Eagles kicker is 10 of 12 on camp kicks. … Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made his first appearance at camp. He yucked it up with Smith and some other injured players on the sidelines. https://www.inquirer.com/eagles/nick-sirianni-quez-watkins-running-backs-eagles-training-camp-20210803.html
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