One of the things defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon talked about during training camp was the idea that he wasn’t deploying any kind of “scheme.” He didn’t want to label his unit as anything in particular, and reiterated that a couple of times to reporters.
Through four weeks, we’ve seen the Eagles play some heavy Cover 2 zone defense, which has resulted in them not giving up a lot of big passing plays at the expense of looking like moldy Swiss cheese in run stopping. They are the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL but the seventh-best pass D in the league.
At Tuesday’s presser, Gannon doubled down on the idea that he simply does not have a “scheme” –
Q. Do you have a certain level of patience with your team learning an entirely new scheme than what they’ve played before as opposed to if this were year three or four what you are trying to do with the defense? (Geoff Mosher)
JONATHAN GANNON: No, I don’t really look at that. Because, from the jump — you guys, I don’t have a scheme. Like, we have to — our scheme should be put our 11 guys on the field in the best position possible to succeed.
So, I have to do a better job of that because right now, it’s not showing up where, ‘Hey, are we doing that, with what I’m calling and how we’re playing right now, how can we be a little more successful?’
And just because I like something or the coaches like something, if the players can’t execute it or it’s not the best thing for them, throw it away.
And that’s a kind of — you know, the first month of the season, we’ve — the last two games, we’re continuing to figure that out as we go. And we need to figure it out fast. Because we can’t keep looking like that. I know that.
It seems like semantics here. Gannon can say whatever he wants to say, but the defense has to line up in some sort of formation, so based on what personnel he does have at his disposal, that more of less dictates the scheme… right? It’s weird, this whole thing. It seems like he’s resistant to the idea of being placed in some specific box.
He was also asked why the Eagles aren’t showing any dime coverage, which is a look where one linebacker joins six DBs out there:
Q. So have you done much dime this year? And if not, why? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: We’re not really a dime team right now. We like to play out of four down and two linebackers. I’m not really going to get into the schematics of that, but I’d like that one back (the third down where Eric Wilson ended up on Tyreek Hill).
That particular formation forced us to check a call. And they got us in a mismatch. It was a good design by [Chiefs head coach] Andy [Reid].
Q. Can you tell us why you’re not a dime team? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: I just don’t believe in it right now with who we are. 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.
During the Super Bowl season, the Eagles’ dime looks would see Nigel Bradham deployed with Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Patrick Robinson, and Corey Graham. They threw Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in there, too.
Here’s a graphic I whipped up four years ago that illustrates this:
Six defensive backs and one linebacker. Rodney McLeod is off the screen there playing as a high safety.
In this case, if the Eagles went to dime, you’d probably have Alex Singleton anchoring a group of Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, McLeod, Anthony Harris, and then one of K’Von Wallace or Marcus Epps. Zech McPhearson could go in there as well.
This all could be Gannon telling us that his defensive backs stink, but the linebackers also stink, so I guess sitting in nickel coverage is the best way to straddle the line. Who knows?
Need more talent on the defensive side of the ball, though. That’s something we can all agree on.