What we learned about Jonathan Gannon in his first presser as Eagles DC

NFL: SEP 27 Bengals at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback Darius Slay (24) interacts with the Bengals bench after a play in the second half during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon met with reporters for the first time since his hiring and went on to give plenty of juicy tidbits about what to expect from his defense this year. Here’s all you need to know.

Jonathan Gannon likes Howie’s vision

If we’ve learned anything this offseason, it’s that the Eagles have placed a real focus on getting the entire staff on the same page. As opposed to what felt like a divide between the coaching staff and front office, we saw Nick Sirianni go into detail about how he wanted to bend his system to fit the players brought in by Howie Roseman and company. Jonathan Gannon opened up about this element of team-building, doubling-down on what we already knew.

The scouting background that I had, it helped me to learn how to evaluate players, and we know that, when you evaluate players, you want to try to have a very specific vision for what they’re going to be doing, and I think we’ve done a good job with that. 

The Sirianni link

As we know, Jonathan Gannon overlapped with Nick Sirianni during his time with the Colts. While Sirianni coordinated the offense, Gannon worked with the DB’s. Both coaches then travelled to Philadelphia to help build a new era of Eagles football. The Eagles defensive coordinator predictably gave a glowing review of the first-year Head Coach.

Super excited to work for Nick. We worked together for three years in Indy. I’ve learned a lot of ball from him, and I always thought he would be a really good head coach just because how he sees the game, how passionate he is, how he gets the players to play at a higher level than typically what they’ve had, that they’ve done. 

What can we expect from his defense?

There has been a lot of speculation over how Gannon’s defense will look this offseason. Many assumed that it would bare similar traces to what we saw Matt Eberflus create with the Colts, but as a former disciple of Mike Zimmer, it was fair to assume there would be some Vikes-like wrinkles too.

That was re-enforced with the free agent signings of S Anthony Harris and LB Eric Wilson. Gannon opened up on his schematic principles on Thursday, hinting at a culmination of everything he’s learned so far.

As far as the man and zone thing, that’s going to be predicated by who we have and who we’re playing. So I believe in playing different styles of defense. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, I think, and we’re going to figure out — and we haven’t done it yet because we’ve only had a week here with the players. But once we get into training camp, we’re really going to evaluate, hey, what can our guys do? That’s the first part of it. And from there, who are we playing, and what do we have to stop? 

Coach Zimmer has a very specific vision of how he wants to play defense, and I agree with a lot of that vision. Not to say that we’re going to be exactly what Mike Zimmer was because I feel like there’s a lot of other good things that I’ve learned throughout the years that complement actually what Zims does. That would be my answer to that. That’s probably part of our package, but we’re not going to box ourselves into one scheme. 


Jonathan Gannon later brought up an interesting acronym that personifies his coaching principles and I, for one, am a huge fan.

The main thing for us is it’s not what we play, it’s how we play. And if you asked our players that, I think they know that from the jump as far as we’re going to run to the ball, we’re going to outhit people, we’re going to take it away, and we’re going to be smart. Those four things — hustle, intensity, take away, smart. The acronym for that is the HITS principle, and that’s what we’re going to hold our hat on. 

Everyone runs the same stuff for the most part. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. I think the players have done a really good job of absorbing that and seeing the standard that we want from them and can’t wait to get on the grass in August and show people. 

Considering the Eagles defense lacked the ‘T’and the ‘S’ last year, it’s encouraging to hear that Gannon has a very clear vision for how he wants his defense to play. Hopefully, we will see some actual interceptions this year!

Rookie opportunities

The Eagles invested heavily into the defensive line during the NFL Draft. With four total players who can play a combination of DT/DE, it’s very clear that there’s a youth infusion going on. However, this isn’t the Jim Schwartz defense and it was possible that the rotation priorities may look a little different. Jonathan Gannon extinguished those concerns with a mantra he learned from his old mentor.

You never wanted three or four guys to be at 65 snaps and then two or three guys at 10 snaps, and I really learned that from Coach Eberflus. He would say, ‘Get the horses fresh.’ He wanted those guys that were up. He wanted them rotated. He wanted them fresh. And depending on certain situations, you’re going to have some certain guys in there because you’re utilizing their strengths, but whoever’s up on game day is going to play. 

Expect plenty of opportunities for the younger guys to strut their stuff!

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire