The Eagles Were “Not Really” a Dime Team in October… Are they a Dime Team Now?

On October 5th, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon famously said the Eagles were “not really a dime team right now. It resonated among fans and media because it seemed goofy at the time. How can you flat out say you’re not going to show a six DB look? You might not be stocked with Pro Bowlers, but Gannon also didn’t have amazing linebackers either, so wouldn’t you just roll the dice with the talent you have and try to show some versatility in defensive looks?

Thing is, Gannon didn’t shut down the thought entirely. The key words in that quote were “right now,” and he noted that he preferred to play “out of four down (linemen) and two linebackers.” Fast forward about seven weeks, and Eric Wilson is out of the picture. They’ve settled on T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, and Alex Singleton as the linebackers while showing more confidence in their defensive backs.

When the Birds brought pressure on 3rd down early in the New Orleans win, they were working out of dime packages that looked like this:

They sent two blitzers on this play and let the other four DBs man up behind them in a Cover 0 look.

We weren’t seeing any of this early on, at least not that I recall. But Gannon has adjusted nicely and is showing some different looks now. Nickel packages with Avonte Maddox joining Edwards and Taylor on the field. Singleton as the lone LB in the dime package. They’ve moved Genard Avery down to the line and walked Anthony Harris up to the box in some single-high safety looks. It’s much more diverse in Week 11.

Gannon was asked about this on Tuesday:

Q. You had your third-down dime pressure package in this game. Was the ‘We’re not a dime team’ just slow playing us with this in mind? Or did something change? (Bo Wulf)

JONATHAN GANNON: At that point in the season, you remember we didn’t have OTA’s and you want to get good at certain things and you want to be able to put guys in the right spots to function and play.

But that’s something that we have had when we got here. And when we decided to deploy it, we felt good about the guys in the game.

And then we have stuff that’s built off of the coverages and pressures from that group. And the players ­– it’s really about the players. The players executed the calls.

And the coaches did a really good job of us planning those calls out. But, at the end of the day, the players make plays. And that’s what you saw and that’s why some of those calls worked.

Gannon was asked a couple of related questions throughout the press conference and seemed to suggest that he wanted to make sure guys were 100% drilled down on their roles and responsibilities in specific packages. He explained that coaches “always got to be aware of who is playing in those spots, what’s your backup to that.” It’s a personnel thing. It would seem as though they’re more comfortable with Marcus Epps as the roving 6th DB, with Singleton as the only linebacker. When the Birds won the Super Bowl a few years ago, Nigel Bradham was the dime linebacker with Mychal Kendricks coming off for Corey Graham.

If you wanted to draw a comparison between teams, the dime packages would look like this:

  • (LB) Singleton –> Bradham
  • CB1 Darius Slay –> Ronald Darby
  • CB2 Steven Nelson –> Jalen Mills
  • slot corner Avonte Maddox –> Patrick Robinson
  • free safety Rodney McLeod (the only holdover)
  • SS/hybrid Anthony Harris –> Malcolm Jenkins
  • dime DB Marcus Epps –> Graham

Credit to Jonathan Gannon over these past couple of weeks. He’s doing what Nick Sirianni is doing, and showing an ability to evolve as a coach and bring flexibility to the table.

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