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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Eagles Defensive Coordinator speaks at a press conference on May 24, 2022. Photo by Al Thompson

A few days before Memorial Day weekend, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon held court at the NovaCare complex auditorium with about a dozen and a half regulars who cover the Birds.

It was a terrific session with parts on and off the record (be assured any quotes you read in this story are from the actual press conference).

You really learned where he was coming from with regards to how the 2021 season went and what he was looking forward to in 2022.

He made no excuses for some of the games where his defense had quarterbacks looking like they should start getting fitted for a gold jacket.

He also made it clear that going forward, now that he had many new upgraded pieces to work with that include key draft picks such as DT Jordan Davis and LB Dean Nakobe out of Georgia and LB Kyron Johnson out of Kansas. Plus free agent LBs Kyzir White, Haason Reddick and defensive backs James Bradberry.

That’s six potential starters or key rotation players added to his roster.

The Birds also added six undrafted rookie free agents to bring into training camp.

If you talk to Gannon and ask him what he is looking to do strategy wise, you’ll get the same answer…he won’t let this defense get pigeonholed into a category.

Gannon let you know they are not going to be a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense. The Eagles, under his watch, will not have a nickname.

Stats? Meaningless to him unless it is a turnover or a low number of big plays completed against the Eagles.

One word you will notice always seems to be part of the description of a player he likes. Versatile...that's the ticket.

Forner Temple standout could be a key player for Jonathan Gannon's 2022 defense. Photo by Al Thompson

James Bradberry?

“He is a very versatile player,” the second-year coordinator said. “He’s smart, tough, physical, can get the ball, can cover. Anytime you have that type of skill set with your outside corners, it's a good asset to have. “He allows us to play certain things predicated on what we're trying to stop that week, as Slay does, as all those guys do. That's why you look for complete players. Can they play off? Can they press? Can they play with vision? Can they play with man eyes?

"He does all that, and really with that type of player, it gives you flexibility with some of the coverages that you can play, which I like flexibility with coverages."

Gannon was asked about the players the Eagles added from the draft as well as free agency and how important was that versatility ties in with his plans this fall,

“We're always looking to add really good football players that are versatile,” Gannon said. “There are a lot of reasons behind that, one being the scheme. One being it's a match-up driven league, so we're looking to accentuate some of our matchups. It's always on game day, there are so many jerseys, and you like guys to be able to do a couple different things on game day.

“Then it's our job to kind of piece it together over this next four or five weeks, six weeks, and then we get into training camp, hit the ground running, and put them in the right position to be successful.”

Gannon was asked if fans will see more of what he wanted to do last but couldn’t because he didn’t have the horses to implement the schemes he wanted to run?

He wouldn’t go there.

“No, I wouldn't say that,” Gannon said. “I mean, we did what we wanted to do last year. I think hopefully what the fans see is us executing at a little higher level when we need to. That's what I'm always concerned about. My number one concern or goal is to make sure that we're playing good enough on defense to keep us in games and play good football to help our team win.

“You guys know I'm not big on stats, but got to the playoffs, lost in the first round. I don't have a great taste in my mouth because we want to do more than that. That's one of the things in the back of my mind, is to take the next step. So how we do that is consistency.”

Brandon Graham takes on Philadelphia native Mike McGlinchey during last year's game against the San Francisco 49ers. MInutes later, Graham would suffer his season ending injury. Photo by Andy Lewis

Gannon was asked to talk about Brandon Graham and how he will fit into his defense in 2022.

In Week two of the 2021 season, Graham suffered a torn Achilles. The 34-yard-old was placed on season-ending injured reserve on September 21, 2021.

He was seen often at NovaCare a few months later, hanging around the media tent, always with a smile on his face, vowing he was coming back. How does the Eagles defensive coordinator feel about Graham and his chances?

“Awesome,” Gannon said. “I was talking about BG the other day. It's like, what's your ideal Eagle? He's in that conversation. Just from a production and leadership standpoint and the person that he is and sustained positive enthusiasm, that's really who he is at his core. And he's a really good player.

“Obviously, it's good to have a bunch of really good players, so excited about BG. He looks good out there right now, and I kind of had to tell him actually, ‘Hey, we don't play for a couple months here, you don't have to go full tilt,’ because he's full tilt all the time. Excited to see where he goes this year.”

One new player that could help Gannon accomplish his goals this season is former Temple standout linebacker Haason Reddick. One of his biggest assets is his versatility.

He can play multiple positions on defense and really get after the quarterback. Over the last two seasons (Arizona and Carolina) he has registered 23.5 sacks.

At a recent press gathering, Reddick described himself as a “weapon.”

“A weapon…that's a good quote by him, I think,” Gannon said. “As our overhang players they're going to rush the passer to affect the quarterback, and they're going to be violent in the run game and set edges and then they're going to have to drop a little bit in coverage.

“He's obviously very, very smart, very intelligent, high football character, very good skill set, versatile player, and it's our job to deploy him and to affect the game, to accentuate his skill set.”

Versatile, remember that. In less than three months, we will all get to see how this shakes out. *

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