JONATHAN GANNON: Just recapping the game, I thought we did a good job in the run game for the most part. Known pass, I thought that we executed the plan for the most part. A couple plays he got out.
I thought that we played pretty violent. Had the one takeaway. You’re always trying to strive to win the takeaway battle, which they won, so our guys have a little chip on their shoulder about that.
Ready to go to Dallas.
Q. What went into the decision to have CB Avonte Maddox split time at safety, and is that all you or is it something he comes to you and it’s sort of collaborative? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: No, I mean, we always have pairs and spares, if this happens, what if this. We have a bunch of different plans to go about, and the head coach [Nick Sirianni] does a really good job. He forces us to talk through those things and be ahead of those things, which is what you want to do.
I thought it was a good job by [Defensive Passing Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs coach Dennard Wilson] D-Will and [Assistant Defensive Backs coach] D.K. [McDonald] to get them caught up. The nickel position, you guys hear me talk about, that’s a thinking position in the defense, as is safety, and those skillsets really in our system kind of match up. They’re very like positions for us.
That’s how we decided to play, and [CB] Avonte [Maddox] did a really good job with that, because any time you’re playing safety and base, there are a lot of mental stuff going on. Then when he’s got to slide inside and sub, there’s a lot of mental stuff going on.
He’s obviously a very smart player for us, he handled it well and he played extremely well for us. I liked where he was at.
Again, it was a good job by the DB coaches, and we’ll keep moving forward with different ways to deploy people versus different people because of what they do.
Happy where that was, though.
Q. How does S Reed Blankenship look? (Merrill Reese)
JONATHAN GANNON: Good. He’s going to get out there today and go. He’s not limited I don’t think, so we’ll get him back into the mix and get him going.
Q. You always talk about slot and safety being somewhat mirrored in your defense. Is that for everybody, or do you have to have sort of that savviness that CB Avonte Maddox has? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, that’s a good question. They are mirrored positions, but it is a little bit different skillset, and typically when you have a guy that can do that, he usually has a unique skillset.
So, the skillset that we’re looking for at nickel, a lot of that can translate to safety, hence [S] Chauncey [Gardner-Johnson]. That’s kind of a good example there. Played slot his whole career and comes and plays safety and plays really well at safety.
Again, it’s kind of player-unique, because I’ve been around certain guys that probably couldn’t slide back and play safety. Certain guys can go inside and kick outside to corner; certain guys can play all three of them; certain guys can go to nickel and then kick back to safety.
We honestly just took advantage of Avonte’s skillset with who we had up and deployed him that way.
Q. You mentioned the run defense. The last three weeks have been very good. What do you attribute that success to? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: The consistency of being in the right spot, playing blocks the correct way, good pad level. It’s always going to come down to technique and winning your one-on-one battles, so I think we have been doing a really good job in the run game.
We have to continue to do that because this team that we are going down to play, they run it extremely well. That’s a big part of the game on first, second down, because if you’re letting them get six or seven a pop and they’re playing the game in second and three all day, it’s a tough way to go on defense.
That has to be at a premium all the time, especially this week with how they’re moving the ball down the field.
Q. They’ll have Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott under center this time. What have you seen from the offense since he’s been back in the lineup, what kind of different challenges from last time? (Tim McManus)
JONATHAN GANNON: They stay on schedule. They can create explosive plays. They stay ahead of the sticks is what I mean by stay ahead of the schedule. Which to me then, that’s what we talked about to our guys is they’re playing on their terms for most of the game. You don’t want to let them play on their terms.
They have a really good O-line, two good backs, quarterback plays at a high level, they have skill guys everywhere. They do a good job on third down to keep the chains moving, and they score points in the red zone, so this is a big-time offense and a big-time challenge for us.
Q. What are some of the keys to be so successful with stunts up front? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: On pass downs? I think a couple things go into that. One, we always look up when we set up the game plan and known pass is matchup first. So, our people versus their people, and you heard me talk about scheme versus people and scheme versus scheme.
I think our front has a pretty good feel for when to use certain tools. We set it up in a way that we say, ‘Hey, here is your tool bucket and you can apply these tools when this happens.’ We have a smart room. Those guys are smart and they’ve played at a high level and they’ve played a lot of ball.
Then using those tools is one thing, but executing those tools is another thing. I think what you’re seeing is our guys — that’s why when you see sacks and things happen like that, [DE Josh Sweat] Sweaty makes the sack. Well, [DT Javon Hargrave] Grave set him up, because he really made that stunt go, what Grave did to the guard and what in turn that does to the tackle when Sweaty is looping around there.
We just have to be smart. You don’t like to do that too much because you can get out of whack at times, but I feel like our guys know when to apply their tools and do a good job executing those tools. The more that they do that and that they’re with each other out there, then they have a good feel for it and know how the timing of those things hit and how to execute them, and they’re doing a really good job with it.
Q. 29 sacks all least year. You almost doubled that this year. How much of a priority coming out of last year was — you got LB Haason Reddick, you got DE Brandon Graham back, but how much of a priority was fixing or helping that position coming into this year? (Reuben Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: It’s always a priority of ours philosophically to affect the quarterback. You can do that a lot of different ways. We came out of last year knowing that we have to do a little bit better in this area, and it’s not a winning stat to me but you do want to affect the quarterback.
I think that being the second year in a system for those guys, I think that adding some pieces, getting [DE Brandon Graham] BG back, adding [LB Haason Reddick] Haas, the players are making a bunch of plays.
I think a little bit people overlook is the back end, because rush and cover, cover and rush, that does make a difference. So, you saw earlier in the year the rush is getting to them and the quarterback is throwing the ball before he really wants to throw the ball, and we’re taking it away.
Well, now he’s holding it a little bit to see stuff come open because he doesn’t want to throw it without being on time or late, and the rush is getting to him. So those things go hand in hand just like run defense, pass defense. It’s all 11 out there.
So as much as we stay connected and play the right way, guys are going to have individual production because their teammates are doing their job.
Q. When you are going up against the scout team in particular, what stands out about QB Gardner Minshew when he is on the field? (Josh Tolentino)
JONATHAN GANNON: What I love about him from the quarterback position being a defensive guy is he plays extremely fast. He makes fast decisions. He gets the ball out of his hands. He knows where to go with the ball. He knows how to checkmate you by what coverage you’re in.
He’s a very smart player and he’s accurate, and he does a good job for us on scout team. If you go out on that grass when we go twos versus ones or twos versus twos or ones versus twos or cards or whatever it is, you have to be on it, or he’ll make you look silly out there.
Q. We saw LB Haason Reddick drop into coverage, and I think he almost had an interception there, just what does it say about him always being around the ball? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: That particular play, that’s a hard play for him. He was in the right spot and understood where he had to get to on that particular play. It was a good job by his coaches, because we actually put that play in walk-through and he did a good job with it.
So, it’s good to always see — you get something, a lot of times it’s hard to match up what you get in the game versus what you’re calling, and the coaches said, ‘Hey, we need this play for Haas to get this in,’ and I wasn’t going to put it in and we put it in, and sure enough he got the play.
He obviously has a very unique skillset, like all our overhang players do, and when we ask him to drop a little bit, because you need to have them drop a little bit, they need to be in the right spot, which he was in the right spot and almost picked it off. That was a good play because it sent them back behind the chains.
Q. Is Dallas Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb as dangerous a deep weapon as you’ll face? (Merrill Reese)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, he’s a good player. It’s one of those receivers I always talk about they can beat you multiple ways. The more and more you watch of him, obviously he’s a very good route runner, he has elite ball skills, he can beat you over the top, he can beat you underneath, but what really impresses me about him the more you watch is, he’s very strong at the catch point and he’s actually pretty hard to tackle.
I don’t think he weighs a ton. He’s probably around 200 pounds or whatever he is, but he’s a very strong player. So, we have to do a good job at the catch point because he wins a lot of 50/50 balls. That’s why his volume is so high.
He creates a lot of yards after catch, yards after contact, because guys don’t wrap him up and bring him down. So that’s part of his skillset, and our guys are prepped for that and we have to do a good job on him.
Q. You use the phrase ‘earn the right to rush the passer’. A, what goes into it, and, B, how much of an emphasis is that in the meetings? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: It’s always an emphasis. You’re always trying to get the offense to known pass. A lot of times how teams play us, even when it is known pass, they don’t pass the ball or give you some different concepts.
So, our guys, really what that means, Zach, is we have to do a good job on first and second down to get the game on our terms on either second down or third down, and that really just comes down to alignment, assignment, key technique, and violence and winning your one-on-ones.
If we can continue to do that, then hopefully we play the game on our terms.
Q. What’s been the reasoning for DT Jordan Davis not playing much at nose tackle? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: He’s getting back into the fold. He is going to continue to play. He’s playing some different spots for us now, so I look forward to what we’re doing with him this week. He’ll be up and playing.
Q. Is it just having DT Linval Joseph or… (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: We’ve got six guys up, so sometimes the snap counts, it’s hard to get everybody a bunch of snaps. But I like that we have six guys up because it keeps that room fresh. We can rotate, get certain matchups that we want to have. He’s ready to go.
Q. LB Haason Reddick always brings up when he talks to you that you want to listen to the players. You’ve told me that before. There are different ways to get things done, different techniques, and you want them to be comfortable. Where is that line where you want to listen to the players, but you want them to get done what you want done? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: When we set up the game plan it’s always with our players in mind. As we sit down with the coaches and [say] hey, here is how we want to defend people and this is what we want to do, and here’s kind of our staples and here’s kind of our bullets so to so speak.
In-game, I like to talk to everybody, because they’re the ones in between the white lines. If I thought that this stunt was going to be good because we saw all week this is how a guy was setting. Well, they could be setting different because of who we have out there.
I can’t really feel that in real time. The players can feel that real time, so we always check in with our players. We decide how we want to do things, and I always listen to the players because they’re the ones playing and they ultimately make it go. It’s not the call that comes out of my mouth, it’s the 11 out there playing.
They’ve been doing a good job with that, and I appreciate their feedback, because it does help me in-game.
Q. You made that offseason decision to switch the rooms, with Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers Coach Jeremiah Washburn having his own room with the edge guys. Have you seen the difference with that over the course of the season now that it’s played out? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, I think — and they meet together a lot, too. That front meets separately at times and meet together, just like the back end does. I think that time on task with specificity, the more that you have of that, typically the better.
I relate it to when I was a DB coach. You’re coaching all five on a certain play, but if you could only coach two, the detail that you can get in is a little bit more when time is a constraint.
So, I like where we did that. That was really the head coach. That was a really good adjustment by the head coach moving into this year. You can see both of those rooms collectively and individually are playing at a high level. Kudos to the head coach and kudos to the coaches.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about complementary football this season. With the offense picking up the defense and vice versa. With the uncertainty at quarterback for Saturday, do you guys feel that you guys have to basically do a little bit more than you normally do? (Chris Franklin)
JONATHAN GANNON: No. That’s a good question. We always try to do enough on our end to put our team in position to win the game. Obviously when we sit down with the head coach and [Offensive Coordinator] Shane [Steichen] and [Special Teams Coordinator Michael] Clay we talk about how the game is going to go.
If it gets a little off script, this is what we’re going to have to do, or whatever the case may be. I’m always concerned about playing good defense no matter who is out there, good, clean physical football, and keeping the score down.