Q. We’ve seen you mix and match a bunch of the linebacker combos here. At what point do you want to figure out what that’s going to look like, and what are you looking for in the right combos? (Dave Zangaro)
JONATHAN GANNON: Really what we’re looking for and why we do that — there are obviously multiple reasons why we mix and match people in practice — one, because guys are playing one or two spots, so we like to kind of see them in one spot and then the other spot.
Sometimes we do that by period, and sometimes we do that by day. You like for guys to play with different guys. Also, another reason for that is you like them to play versus the different offensive players in camp, too, to see what they can do. I think sometimes you get into a little bit of a deal; you start playing against the same offensive players all the time, and you would like to see some different looks.
At some point here as we get going the next couple weeks or so that will start to settle down a little bit, but right now we are going to keep doing what we’re doing.
Q. What has stood out to you so far about LB Nakobe Dean? (Eliot Shorr-Parks)
JONATHAN GANNON: He’s very smart, he’s tough, and he’s very physical. Happy with where he’s at. He’s going to continue to improve, and we’ll get a good look at him here coming up in the next couple weeks.
Q. The head coach is probably not going to play his offensive starters a lot or a little or at all. Do you have your control of whether you play your starters or your main guys for this first pre-season game? If so, what do you think you’re going to do? (Howard Eskin)
JONATHAN GANNON: We’ll sit down with the head coach. We actually talked about it this morning again. That’s a constant communication about how we do that. We kind of evaluate all the way up until the day before the game what we’re going to do with [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and the head coach.
We’ll make that final decision here in the next 48 hours.
Q. Don’t you want to play them at least a little bit to see them against real competition? (Howard Eskin)
JONATHAN GANNON: I want to do whatever we decide is best for the team.
Q. Head Coach Nick Sirianni said you don’t want to be in the bottom quarter in sort of any category. He talked about it with the pre-snap motion. Do you feel the same way about defense? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: In my opinion, you don’t want to be ever in the bottom third of anything. That gives the other side of the ball an upper hand. Not statistically speaking, but what we’re doing, how we’re defending people.
You would like to mix and match it a good amount where teams can’t say, ‘Well, they’re always going to do this,’ or ‘They’re never going to do this.’ You never want to be put into a corner of those things.
You want to be adaptable and multiple enough to be able to do different things where they can’t bank on something.
Q. Regardless of who plays on Friday, what will you be looking for from your players in that game? (Dave Uram)
JONATHAN GANNON: Execution and taking the ball away and tackling. Everybody has a little bit different job obviously, but really just looking for our guys to let it loose. We talked about it with them a day or two ago. You have to know what to do so you can play free, because your body doesn’t work if your brain doesn’t work first.
Just looking for us to run around, have fun, and play how the standard that we’ve set for them.
Q. On another note, there was the news the NFL will be focusing more on the illegal contact penalties this year. How do you feel about that? What’s the coaching point? (Dave Uram)
JONATHAN GANNON: The coaching of it is we have to make our guys aware of what they’re looking for and what they want to uptick in penalties versus the defense. Just coach the techniques the right way and understand what’s legal and what’s not legal within the framework of what we’re asking them to do.
Q. DE Brandon Graham is like the old guy, but does he want to get out there as soon as possible in actual game action? (Pat Gallen)
JONATHAN GANNON: You can ask BG that, but he would want to get out there and play every day, so I’m sure he does.
Q. The cornerbacks behind CB Darius Slay and CB James Bradberry, what have you seen from those guys? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: They’re doing a really good job. [Defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach] Dennard [Wilson] and [Assistant defensive backs coach] D.K. [McDonald] I think are doing an excellent job because you hear me talk about, especially with young guys, it’s okay to make a mistake, but don’t make that mistake again with the same thing that you did.
I’ve really seen improvement from that whole room of doing that. So, taking what we learn on the practice field into the meeting room, into the walk-through, the following practice not making the same mistakes. I think they have really done a good job cutting mistakes down.
What you’ve seen in camp, they are doing a good job of covering and denying the ball, which is the No. 1 job description of a corner. That’s a good room. I like where they are at, and I am excited to see those guys plays versus some other people.
Q. Of all those guys to take a look at at safety, why CB Josiah Scott? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: Just his skillset. That was a good little adjustment that we felt like, hey, let’s take a look at him cause the nickel position is a mirrored position with the safety in some things. He is doing a good job. Happy with how he’s responded to that, and we will see where it goes.
Q. If I can follow up with my question before, with so many guys, young guys in that room, it’s obviously pretty crowded. How big are the pieces in games for those guys especially? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: Just like anybody on our team. Live exposure versus different people is a really good evaluation tool to see where we’re at. I know they’re looking forward to getting out there and playing on Friday night.
Again, those two joint practices with Cleveland and Miami, we’re where our feet are right now, but they know that’s coming down the road and that’ll be really good exposure for them.
Q. We’ve seen DT Marlon Tuipulotu a lot with first and second team defense. What’s different about him from year one to two and what sparked him getting more reps? (EJ Smith)
JONATHAN GANNON: He’s doing a good job. He played some really good snaps last year for us, and I think the things that we said — when we came in the off-season we gave each player two or three things, like you have to get better at this.
And it’s not a general thing. It’s a very specific deal with technique or something in the run or pass game. He’s improved that part of his game.
The other guy that sticks out to me is [DT] Milton [Williams]. He’s doing a really good job with what we asked him to improve as well, so I’m very pleased where that room is, and I like the versatility and flexibility of the different skillsets in there.
Marlon is one of those guys that allows us to play different things when he is in there with different people, which is big time for us.
Q. Talk about how the pass rush compares to where you were last year? And then when a play is blown dead or even extended in practice, how many times do you think it’s a sack versus something QB Jalen Hurts can shake out? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: Really good question. We actually had that discussion yesterday in the night practice because when the head coach reviews the tape with everybody, we put up good, bad, play of the day, this and that.
The play that I put up for good for the defense, there was a lot of question, was that a sack or not? I said, ‘Yeah, that’s going to be a sack,’ because you have to realize too, our guys that are rushing edges or when they’re rushing, half the time they’re pulling off as they’re getting to the top of their rush.
If they feel themselves bending the corner, [DE Josh] Sweat’s starting to pull off so he doesn’t ricochet and bend the corner and hit our quarterback.
I’m very happy where those guys are as far as developing their fast ball and their counter moves. I think they’re rushing as a unit a little bit better than last year.
We just have to keep improving every day with that.
Q. Last season, you had DE Josh Sweat and DE Tarron Jackson and a few others playing inside the four eye technique. How much will DT Jordan Davis allow for you to not put those guys where typically they wouldn’t be lined up? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: Sometimes that’s a personnel package thing. I would think that hopefully when we set up the game plan that we can put our guys in spots that they’re very comfortable in and that we feel they can execute and win their matchups.
We’ll have to see when we set up the game plan how that goes.
Q. Do you still feel like that’s something that they should all do, those edge guys? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: I think they all can do it. I don’t know if I want them doing that all the time.
Q. What have you seen from DT Marvin Wilson? He was a pretty highly ranked prospect at one time. What have you seen from him? (Reuben Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: He’s another one in the defensive line room who has really improved what we asked him to improve. A lot of that was bend and pad level and striking blocks with his hands. He’s doing a good job. I’m really excited to see him go out and play versus the Jets.
Q. From a defensive perspective, what is your top one or two teaching points for trying to stop RPOs from happening? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Disguise and eyes. Disguise would be if they’re reading a certain play, you don’t want the quarterback to know before the ball is snapped who is he reading. That’s one.
And then eyes is, your eye progression as a defender, every defender, he’s putting his eyes as a primary key and then there’s a secondary key. When those type of misdirection pass-run, run-pass plays happen, you have to know, am I with my primary or my secondary when that type of play happens?
The other thing with that, and it’s good we’re seeing it from our offense, because you start to see that’s a little more prevalent in the league right now, is our offense has some really good ones that aren’t the kind of the generic easy RPOs. We have some different RPOs in there.
You’re like, is that a run or is it a pass? Is it a pass, run, read? So, we’re seeing a lot of different looks at that.
It’s making our guys be disciplined with how they’re playing them. Good question.
Q. It’s no secret that you want to limit explosive plays, and offensively Nick wants them. We didn’t see much of the vertical passing game in practice. How much of that is attributed to coverage? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: A little bit of both. I actually challenged our guys the other day. We’ve given up some explosive passes over our head, and you can’t do that to win in today’s NFL game. It doesn’t matter if you’re pressuring, playing coverage. It doesn’t matter. You have to be able to limit explosives in the pass and run game. So that’s every day we touch on that with our defense.
And know within each call, where is the stress and the strength of that call. There are some calls where explosive passes, it’s a strength of the call. Sometimes it’s a stress of the call, and we just have to know that so they play the call correctly.