The Future of the Eagles Defense

Who is Jonathan Gannon?

The Eagles hired the ex-Colts assistant Jonathan Gannon (JG) as their new defensive coordinator on January 24th, and Gannon is bringing a new era of football to South Philly. Gannon was a highly sought-after assistant in Indianapolis, and he had numerous defensive coordinator offers, but he chose Philly. In Gannon's first press conference a few days ago, he was asked why he came to Philly, and he gave an answer that has exited the Eagles fan base. In the video below, you can see Jonathan Gannon tell the media why he chose Philadelphia.

Gannon was with Mike Zimmer in 2017 when the Vikings reached the NFC Championship game, only to get obliterated by the Eagles 38-7. Gannon played an integral role in the Vikings’ success in 2017, developing Xavier Rhodes into a First Team All-Pro, and he also helped Rhodes reach the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017. Gannon left for Indianapolis for an expanded role in 2018, and he immediately developed the Colts secondary into one of the best in the league. In Gannon's three-year tenure in Indianapolis, the Colts were top ten in defensive interceptions all three years. Gannon had success in developing young versatile defensive backs like Kenny Moore II and Malik Hooker into very good starters. Adding to JG's resume, in 2019 it seemed like Xavier Rhodes’s career was coming to an end after a disastrous season, but he followed Gannon to Indianapolis, and he revived his career by having a sensational season. Rhodes said JG was to thank for turning his career around.

What Will Gannon's Defense Look Like?

In Gannon's opening press conference, he said that he is not a coach that makes players adjust to his scheme, rather he is a coach that adjusts to his players' strengths. JG also added that he will change between zone and man depending on the matchup, whereas former Eagles’ DC Jim Schwartz put his players in less-than-ideal situations. Based on how the Eagles roster is constructed, fans should expect JG to run a deep, versatile front that can change between a 4-3 and a 3-4. In the 2021 NFL Draft, six of the Eagles’ final seven picks were on the defensive side of the ball, and that includes two defensive linemen that fit a 3-4, along with two defensive linemen that fit a 4-3 scheme. With these selections, the Eagles are adding a lot of versatility to a defensive line that ranked third in sacks in 2020. Philly is also expected two play a lot of cover-2 with safeties Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris, who are both outstanding in coverage. A cover-2 look would best fit this Eagles team with a glaring weakness at the second corner position because it allows the younger defensive backs to play less conservative knowing they won't be burned on the long ball.

Final Thoughts

The Eagles’ defense has the ability to be a top defense in 2021, but it all depends on the outcome of the second cornerback position. In the Eagles’ first six games, all six of their opponents have at least two receivers that can take over games, so JG and company will know just how good this secondary is very soon. One strength of playing cover-2 is that the linebackers and corners have the ability to play aggressively and shoot passing lanes, resulting in more interceptions. If the Eagles can get constant pressure with the front four, and drop seven into coverage, defenses will have a tough time driving the ball downfield. Overall, the Eagles have an exciting defense that should be much improved from last season.

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