Q. I, obviously, know that DE Brandon Graham is a tough guy to replace from a leadership perspective. But specifically on the field, what’s the plan to replace his production and usage? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, I talked to our guys yesterday about the void that has taken place with [DE] Brandon [Graham] and, obviously, not being able to play with us the rest of this year.
You know, from a leadership and a character, and an attitude standpoint, I think collectively we have to – everyone has to, you know, try to fill that void collectively because not one guy is going to be able to do that. We do feel good with the leaders that we still have within the defense, really good about the leaders that we have.
And from the standpoint of him, the roles that he was playing, you know, other guys are going to have to step in and fill where he was playing at, and we feel good about the guys that are going to do that.
Q. If I could follow up real quick. We hear so much about offensive tackles when they flip sides of the line, how difficult it can be. When you have edge players, do they just have to be able to play both sides or do you notice some guys are more comfortable on one side than another? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, that’s a little case by case. How our guys are trained right now, since we’ve been here with [Eagles Defensive Line] Coach [Tracy] Rocker and [Eagles Director of Player Personnel/Senior Defensive Assistant] Coach [Jeremiah] Washburn, they feel pretty good playing multiple spots and multiple sides, both sides. So, I still feel good about being able to move people around to get the best matchup, whatever dictates for that week.
Q. You’ve been pretty successful through two games from a bottom-line standpoint, yardage, points on the board. What do you tell the guys? Do you focus on those couple of long drives, lack of turnovers? I think you’re second in points allowed, fourth in yardage. So, what are your kind of teaching points to get better moving forward? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, it’s our daily routine, honestly, John. We’ve done some good things and, like everybody, myself included, you’d like to have a couple plays back from both of those games.
And I think that you saw some hands on the ball last week and those will come. We just got to keep doubling – it’s like what the head coach talks about, ‘What we know is to be true, you keep doubling down on that process. And how we practice, how we prepare, how we talk about taking the ball away. They will come.’ So, I’m not real concerned about that.
And then, you know, the things that we can improve on, all of us, is just the couple, you know, plays here and there of alignment, assignment, and key technique. And, you know, just executing at a little bit of a higher level throughout the game consistently.
And like I said, that goes for myself, as well as continuing to put our guys in the best position possible every play. And so I know I can improve on that.
Q. I wanted to ask you about DE Josh Sweat. I mean, well, first of all, it seemed he only played 40 percent of the snaps on defense. Kind of what was going on there? And then just your thoughts about how he’s been playing overall going back to the summer and so far into the season? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, this week, as I’ve talked to you guys about certain packages and that we have and what we play, we’re trying to accentuate guys’ skill sets.
And how the game unfolds – we always have a certain way how we, in our mind, ‘Here’s how we’re starting the game, the adjustments we’re making, here’s who’s in on certain packages.’ And how the game kind of unfolded, that’s why you saw his play-count a little bit down.
With saying that, when he was in the game, he affected the game in a positive way and played winning football. And you will continue to see [DE] Josh Sweat do that.
From a standpoint of what he’s been since we’ve been here, I mean, he plays the run extremely well and he can rush and he’s a great dude.
So, just like as he’s been doing, he’s going to continue to play winning football for us, which we need him to.
Q. We’ve seen DT Milton Williams almost exclusively inside after a lot of time at defensive end in camp. You know, what has been the reason for that and is it possible that we’ll see some of him, obviously, outside with no BG? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, you know, the reason he played multiple spots in camp and then in certain — the preseason games, just from a numbers standpoint, we wanted to see him play inside and he played a little bit outside, too.
But, he will be a piece that we continue to use and move him around within the package and the call. We’re going to try to put him in the best spot that we can, as with all of our pieces to play winning football.
So, you’ll see [DT] Milton [Williams] continue to – his playtime will continue to be where it’s at and possibly even go up a little bit. And look forward to him each week getting a little bit better just like all of our guys.
Q. It seemed like you guys from the jump kind of had LB Genard Avery locked into that SAM linebacker role. What do you like about him in that position? Why do you think he’s been able to, you know, earn his spot in that group after years of kind of playing rotational edge? (Mike Kaye)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, I mean, what [LB] Genard [Avery] does is what we ask of the SAM linebacker. How he plays is what we’re looking for. He’s a good run defender, he can set a violent edge, he plays extremely hard and he’s capable of doing other things, as well, within the scheme of the defense, whether that be to rush the passer or drop in coverage.
So, I thought that he improved from week one to week two. And we’re looking to continue to find ways to get him in good spots to make a bunch of plays for us because we need him to.
Q. I asked Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni this question but I’m curious of your perspective because it’s your side of the ball. You guys had those back-to-back personal foul penalties, DE Derek Barnett’s penalty cost you a third and long and it was away from the ball. What’s your level of tolerance for those types of penalties and what’s your method for holding players accountable for those types of penalties? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, some of those penalties, unfortunate. You know, our guys have a very clear picture of what we’re looking for as a defense and that goes into the being smart.
And we addressed that with our entire defense. We don’t want to make those mistakes over and over in the heat of the battle. We do understand at times that does happen.
But we just got to continue to learn from that and get better. Then there’s penalties that happen on the defensive side of the ball that are ‘Bang-bang,’ so to speak.
We don’t really talk about, ‘Is this a bad call, is this a good call?’ You move on and you play.
I think that – especially for myself, that one play that happened with [S] K’von [Wallace]. ‘Okay, what’s the down and distance, what’s the personnel in the game?’
I’m really not worried about that because it’s in the past. So, I think if you just focus on that and our guys –you know, we talked to our guys about that bang-bang penalties happen.
And it’s really not the – what, are we concerned about what the official called? No, we’re not. We’re concerned about the next snap.
So, we do want to be a smart defense and clean up some of the penalties that we can clean up. But also knowing that, some of those bang-bang penalties, those are going to sometimes go your way, sometimes they’re not. But, the most important thing is to play the next play.
Q. You guys have only allowed one pass play of 20-plus yards so far through two games. I’m sure that’s every team’s objective to keep the explosive plays off you. But what do you emphasize in your scheme and your teachings to stress that and to make it happen? (Tim McManus)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, Tim, that’s a good question. The one that happened over 20, I wish I had that call back because I think I could do a better job of putting our guys in a better call to not allow that.
But, we’ve talked about it since we’ve gotten here, is explosive plays is a winning stat, winning or losing stat, as takeaways are. And our head coach, we continue to preach that every day with our guys.
I think that why you see that right now – and we can get better at that, as well – but I think these last two games, what you’re seeing is guys being in the correct spot and playing the coverages the correct way.
And, it really comes down to execution in the call and we’re executing those calls not to allow explosive passes.
You know, we show our guys on tape all the time, a lot of people get frustrated with a six or eight-yard pass play. And it’s important for our guys to understand that’s a win for us on certain plays. Certain plays it’s not. But certain plays in the course of a game, if we make them check it down and get eight, that’s a win for us. And our guys are – our coaches and players have a very clear understanding within certain coverages where we want the ball to go and what is acceptable.
So, I think it really – that stat right there comes down to our guys that are executing the game plan the proper way.
Q. As far as the potential return of S Rodney McLeod, does that change anything schematically or personnel-wise? I know S Anthony Harris has played every snap of these first two games. I mean, is that something that Rodney McLeod will change at some point and give you more of a rotation? And then just the benefit of having Rodney return from that standpoint and a leadership standpoint. (Ed Kracz)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, we’ll see. When [S] Rodney [McLeod]’s ready to go, we’ll sit down as a staff and talk about how we’re going to – you know, what’s the best 11 we can put out within certain packages, like we always do.
Rodney is doing an excellent job. He’s completely locked in. He’s one of the leaders in that entire room – the defensive – the entire unit and the DB room. And we’re excited to get him back and get him going when he’s ready to go.
But the guys that are playing right now, we feel real comfortable with and they’re doing a good job.
Q. I don’t want you to, you know, give away the game plan or anything like that, but the way that you guys have played through the first two games, it seems like you have sort of an identity. You know, heavy zone and not a lot of blitzes so far, at least compared to the rest of the league. Is that what we’ll see all year or is that based on who you saw and you got some new tricks of your sleeve? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: I don’t know, Bo. We’ll see. I think – it really does, you guys, like, this is 100 percent true – everything I say is 100 percent true. But, like, it depends on the game. It depends on the game plan. So, you know, that’s – whether you want to pressure or you don’t want to pressure, or how you want to play, set up the game plan, that’s very specific to who we’re playing.
And if you look, these last two weeks, some of the concepts are similar and then some of the concepts were drastically different.
And the reason behind that is those offenses that we were defending were different. And just like Dallas is a completely different offense than Atlanta and San Francisco.
And that’s how it will be typically every week. So, it’s, ‘Okay, well, here’s what we have in our bucket and let’s try to get our players in the best position possible to play winning football for our team.’ So, that won’t really change.
So if we decide to pressure a little bit more whatever week, that’s probably because we think that this is good versus that team.
If we don’t – we don’t pressure once, that’s how we decide we want to – that’s how we want to play that week.
So, our guys – I do believe it’s really cool to see our guys, when we do give them the game plan, and say, ‘Hey, if we do these three things, we’ll have a chance to win the game.’
And I thought that we’ve done that for the first two weeks. So, hopefully we can continue to do that and continue to grow and get a little bit better as we get going.
Q. Along the lines that you were just talking about, when you look back at those two longer drives by the 49ers and you self scout, do you feel there was an opportunity more so in retrospect to make 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo a little more uncomfortable on some of those third downs with some kind of scheme pressure? (Geoff Mosher)
JONATHAN GANNON: I thought that with [49ers QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] and that offense, the ball comes out extremely fast, so that played into — knowing that, that’s how they play offense on third down.
With us knowing that, that’s why we decided to play how we kind of played them. I thought that our four-man rush made him uncomfortable at times and forced a couple throws that – you know that you could, give or take, might have been complete if he felt perfectly comfortable back there.
We feel good about our rush and cover, cover and rush, and we just got to keep – continue to evaluate, ‘Hey, you know, whatever spots that it fits us where we can, you know, possibly pressure or possibly not.’
But I think our guys from the backend to the front and the other way around are doing a good job of being in sync and understanding the calls and executing the calls.