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A hidden advantage of rotating defensive linemen for Eagles


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A hidden advantage of rotating defensive linemen for Eagles


Jonathan Gannon rotates a whole bunch of defensive linemen because he doesn’t want to play anybody too much, because the Eagles have tremendous d-line depth, and because he likes keeping all his guys fresh.

But you already know all that.

There is also an unintended — and fascinating — byproduct of that rotation.

Brandon Graham mentioned Wednesday that Gannon's rotation creates a system where the guys coming off the field have an opportunity to constantly provide intel to the guys who are about to go on the field.

Because you can study and prepare all week, but until you’re out there actually facing the guy opposite you, you really don’t know exactly what he's all about.

"We’re problem solvers out there,” Graham said. "When I’m on the sideline just watching, it’s cool to hear some of the stuff they come back on the sideline and tell you about certain guys. 

"Like, ‘Oh, this holds true about what we said he’d do,’ or, ‘This is something different, he’s trying to do a little something different,’ and I just like the way that we bounce ideas off each other and we get stronger as the game goes.”

The Eagles have nine interior linemen or overhang players — edge rushers — who’ve played between 23 and 63 percent of the defensive snaps. That’s rare balance and rare depth.

And it means somebody is constantly running off the field and joining his teammates on the sideline. 

Which leads to impromptu positional meetings while the offense is on the field.

"Any time you relay information with each other it gives you a little edge,” Jordan Davis said. "We’re all trying to figure out any tendencies, anything to do with the snap call, the way the offensive line is set, anything like that.

"Because it’s football and each week is going to be different and what you see on the field might not be the same thing that you saw on film, so you get those little tips and pointers, and when it’s your turn to go out there you feel a little bit more prepared for what you’re going to see.”

Edge rushers Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick have played the most snaps out of this group – both have played 131 snaps, or 63 percent of the Eagles' defensive plays. Javon Hargrave (57 percent), Fletcher Cox (56 percent), Milton Williams (45 percent), Graham (41 percent), Marlon Tuipulotu (39 percent), Davis (32 percent) and Patrick Johnson (23 percent) are also in the regular rotation. 

Don’t be surprised if Tarron Jackson (7 percent so far) sees his snaps increase as well, now that Derek Barnett is out for the year.

This is a very close-knit group and a very unselfish group. It has to be for everybody to willingly give up snaps to their teammates without complaining.

But they all make the most of it by helping each other out as much as possible.

"We’re out here trying to play for each other and that makes us close as a group and as a whole team,” Tuipulotu said. "It’s been great. Doing what we can for each other. Those guys come off the field and tell us what to look for, and it helps us be ready for what they’re going to give us.”

This is just another glimpse into the culture that Nick Sirianni has built here. It’s a culture that emphasizes the needs of the team above all else.

So if you’re sitting on the bench, how can you help the team? By sharing tips and wisdom with those who are about to take the reps you may think you deserve.

"It’s big,” Hargrave said. "When you go out, the players who haven’t gone in want to know how a guy feels, was his block set, what worked against him? We do that all the time. Communicating all the things you can do to help you win and see things faster. 

"It’s really helpful. Because one guy might see something another guy doesn’t see. Anything you can do to make each other play faster.”

This d-line has young guys, old guys, 1st-round picks, 6th-round picks, guys earning minimum wage and guys earning $15 million a year.

And they’re all in this together, looking for ways to help each other out because it helps the team out.

"You can see everything on video but unless you go out there and do it and see for yourself, you don’t really know it 100 percent,” said Davis, the rookie 1st-round pick.

"Even the tendencies that we call on the sideline that we get from the first drive might not be the same at the end of the game. It’s all about adjusting. It’s a chess match, and every little bit of information you can get really helps.” 


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It's actually a really good point and not something that we'd necessarily think about. But yeah the intel these guys can exchange during the game is really key. 

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