Q. Some of the pressures you got didn’t involve an extra man. There was four men, but you were giving different pre-snap looks to kind of throw off the protection. How effective were they, and how effective do you think they can be against the better quarterbacks in this league? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: Good. That goes into the quarterback and the protection scheme that you’re going against, but we’ve had some looks throughout the year that we’ve built some different things off of, and we were able to deploy a different package a couple third downs there and had some success.
So, we always look at things that work or don’t work and why something works or doesn’t work, and try to build off it or throw it away or add to, and we’ll continue to do that.
But the players did a good job with some of those calls and executed and helped us get some stops.
Q. So what happened first half versus second half? And then wanted to ask you about DE Josh Sweat. You talk about guys train wrecking games. Was that a train wrecking game from Josh? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, it was. I’ll talk about Sweaty [DE Josh Sweat] first. He did a really good job. You look at the first two plays he made two tackles, just very active, violent plays. And playing the things that we ask him to do, playing at a high level. He effected the game in the run game and pass game. He was hard to block. They had to pay certain attention to him as the game got going. You saw they chipped him a couple times, doubled him a few times.
He’s one of our premier players and he stepped up. He doesn’t know this, but he’s going to be the player of the game. He did, I feel like helped us, one of the main reasons we won that game.
Then guys, you know how it goes. First half, second half, gave up a couple plays early and just for — we get cut out one time or we have bad eyes one time, that’s kind of how it goes.
We’re always striving to shut people out and be perfect, but we know that’s not how the game typically goes. That’s not how any sport goes. There is a human element into it and a lot of things going on during the game.
But credit to our players. We settled in. The coaches did a good job fixing what we needed to fix on the sideline, and then at halftime got to a couple different calls. Ultimately, again, you guys, the players make the calls come alive, not the other way around.
Our guys felt good about what we were doing after we got hit in the mouth a little bit. We showed some emotional stability and settled in and played good football.
So, you never want to start the game down 10-nothing or whatever it was, but it is what it is. You got to go from there, and just like we always talk about, play the next play.
So, credit to the players and the coaches where we got the course corrected.
Q. Seemed like the dichotomy was so pronounced yesterday. Four straight possessions with scores for them in the first half; no points for them in the second half. People watching on TV are thinking you’re going in at halftime and waving a magic wand or something. How did you get this turned around so completely? Was there something you went into the game not expecting, or was it just a matter of getting people to correct minor errors? (Les Bowen)
JONATHAN GANNON: There is definitely no magic wand. If somebody has it, I’ll pay them for it.
Again, it’s just the players, you know, got to coach and play better, execute a little bit better, and understand as the game goes how they’re attacking you and what we have to do to combat that.
Ultimately though I just always go back to — even when there have been some games that we started extremely fast, three and out, three and out, three and out, and then they go all the way down the field and score and then go down the field and kick a field goal, that kind of gets lost in a game where, oh, well, you gave up ten points in the first half, but it’s how you gave up those ten points.
I think what people are seeing is, oh, man, they went right down the field and scored and then they scored again and scored again. It’s like, man, we’re not playing real great.
But we did some great things in those drives to minimize some of the points that were put on the board in the first half, and then in the second half we got in at halftime and talked to the players about how we’re going to call it and the corrections that need to be made, and ultimately, we executed.
So just I think that in a football game there are highs and lows every quarter, every series. Just got to keep playing. Keep playing. Play the next play. Keep playing and just try to execute at a high level.
Q. Wanted to ask about the mechanics of the defensive line rotation. Is it Eagles Defensive Line Coach Tracy Rocker’s autonomy to decide who is in? How much back and forth is there between you in terms of asking who you want on the field during the game? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, good question. We normally set that up with the head coach throughout the week. Tracy, myself, and the head coach. I think we’ve talked about this before – in your mind, you kind of set the game up a certain way and knowing where we kind of want everyone to be around, how many plays, and sometimes a game doesn’t go like that.
So, you just got to be able to adapt and adjust. That’s a constant conversation in between series. How many plays did those guys just play? Where we are in the game? Up top, I’m asking [Eagles Defensive Quality Control Coach] Joe Kasper, where are we at? How many plays are we? We just weren’t three and out here. Okay, we’re fine.
Then you start looking at the clock and you’re like, ‘Okay, well, want to keep these guys fresh for this situation here, but we also got this package going on, we need this guy in.’ Sometimes that gets a little out of balance.
You heard me say we had nine guys up and they all played yesterday, and we are trying to keep the horses fresh and put guys in position where they can be successful. That changes. We set that plan up throughout the week, and sometimes it holds exactly true how we said, and sometimes it gets a little bit out of balance or what we didn’t say or kind of played out a certain way. That’s okay, because our players understand that sometimes a game goes a little bit differently, and they got to be ready to play less or more when called upon.
Q. There is a chance you could play Tampa again for a second time in the playoffs. Any advantage to having played them already this year, or it’s just so long ago it’s two different teams at this point? (Ed Kracz)
JONATHAN GANNON: Be where your feet are, Ed. Dallas, man, Dallas.
Q. Let me ask you about Dallas then if I could. Playing them a second time again; played them at the end the September; how different are these two teams at this point in the season? (Ed Kracz)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, good question. Every team is different week to week, especially they played — we played them so long ago, which was different from the Giants and the Washington Football Team.
So, we will use that game and look at it and see what we didn’t do well and what we did do well and how we have to play better to get ourselves in a chance to do our part to get ourselves to be able to be competitive and win that game.
They did some things that were good I thought, and we have some answers for. I think we’re a better football team and they’re probably a better football team, too. It’s going to be a big-time challenge because they’re loaded.
Q. With all due respect to the quarterbacks you’ve faced over the last month and a half, they’re not Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Buccaneers QB Tom Brady and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and Raiders QB Derek Carr. To the outside eye, it looks like you improved. Stats say you improved tremendously as far as coverage and pressure. But the schedule is what it is. How much do you feel like you guys have improved as a defense, and where do you see the improvement since the first half and how do you measure it considering the opponent or the opposing quarterbacks specifically? (Reuben Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: I really don’t measure it by the quarterback. I measure it from an execution standpoint. I always look at the pass defense, that’s just not — that’s rush and cover, cover and rush. All 11 guys have to be doing a good job when you’re talking about run or pass defense. So, I think that we’ve improved in when we’re calling certain coverages, where people are at, our spatial awareness, how we get on people. We are winning our leverage side a little bit better I thought right now in the last better half of the season than we were early.
Some of those things take time. You need reps. You need time on task. There is unscouted looks those guys are getting in certain coverages that I think we’ve improved our ability to play the coverages the right way.
And then when we pressure, I think we’ve improved that the ball is coming out a little bit quicker and we’re winning some more one-on-ones I feel, and the coverage is where it needs to be behind it.
So ultimately when you look at are you improving or not, what is our record now, I think we are improving. Are we great right now? No. We got a lot of work to do. There is no doubt, and our guys know that.
But I do think our understanding is better and our execution is better.
Q. Following up on the question from before, two questions about the D-line rotation. First, why did DE Ryan Kerrigan start and then DE Derek Barnett get most of the snaps among the edge rushers? And then on the final drive of the game, it looked like you had a few snaps in a row, I believe it was four, with most your reserve lineman out there and neither of your starting edge rushers. Was that the way it was designed to go? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: Kerrigan starting was a little bit because DB was on COVID, so we didn’t know if we were going to get DB back or not. So, Kerrigan was going to be the starter there and then we were going to see — you know, how as the week progressed see how DB went.
I think he worked out before the game and he ended up being fine, so that’s why his play count is where it was.
At the end of the game there I think we had — what you just said is true, but you want to keep fresh. If they do keep going you want some of our starters in the game.
So that was spelled out how we wanted it spelled out, and I’m glad they did a pretty good job executing. I thought they were fresh at the end of the game and rushed pretty well.
Q. What have you seen from CB Zech McPhearson behind the scenes? Obviously, we’ve only seen him in spot duty. How has he grown over the past four or five months? (Mike Kaye)
JONATHAN GANNON: I think from a preparation standpoint, a lot. I know D-Will [Eagles Defensive Backs Coach Dennard Wilson] and DK [Eagles Assistant Defensive Backs Coach D.K. McDonald], they hold those guys to a very, very high standard with how they prepare for a game, and you got to be on it, or you will get exposed in that room.
He’s done a good job to improve that part of his game when he does get his chance in practice, and right now as the season goes on, the rep counts kind of go down. But the reps that he does get in practice he’s doing a good job playing the coverages the right way.
I think his eye discipline has been through the roof from where he started. It’s a different game playing on the highway in the NFL than in college just with the coverages and how the offenses try to attack you, and it can be a hard transition.
He’s done a good job with the snaps that he’s had in practice and in games where I think he’s improved his game. You saw he made some plays two games ago. He’s like all our rookies, that’s why I’m so excited about our rookie class, their football character is high, and they want to be out there and they want to play and they want to improve their game and help the team win, and they take that to heart. And he’s one of those guys that does that.
Q. Following up on S Rodney McLeod. You spoke about him last week in terms of the dependability. On that final play, what specifically from a football perspective did he do well to get the interception? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: For the pre-snap alignment, took the quarterback off their best player because we’re in man-to-man, so he was in the right spot with that. Had the right alignment. Had the right depth. Read the quarterback the right way. Cleared through the three step, saw the concept coming to him, which was a high-low over concept. Started to meld with the quarterback’s eyes. Held the dig window off long enough to where that wasn’t going to be the second level dig, and then reacted to the quarterback. Took a great angle. Ball was slightly underthrown. [S] Anthony Harris did a great job undercutting that. When you’re playing post-closed defense and you’re in man-to-man, when the ball gets to you on some of those over-routes, we’re always talking to our guys about being ball, you, man, because that’s how you use the post defender, where you’re making that quarterback throw it over you and in between the post defender. Sometimes that ball on that route, that’s a hard throw, that can sail, and he was in the right spot at the right time. Made a play. It was good to see that.
But, I mean, honestly, I see Rodney do that in practice. I expect him to do it in the game. Kudos to him. Well executed walk off for us there.