It’s only been two full practices but it’s clear that Sean Desai is going to be very different than his Eagles predecessor.
After having been hired to replace Jonathan Gannon after a tumultuous final weeks, Desai joins a loaded Eagles defense, and is in charge of maintaining their solid in-game numbers, while also improving against top quarterbacks.
As training camp continues in their first week though, Desai has clearly focused on setting a standard for his players to follow.
“We want to embody the brand of this city and be gritty and be tough, and we’re not going to take anything from anybody… We want people to be able to feel us, physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever it takes, we want people to know that we’re on the field, too, and we’re going to dictate how we play the game on defense,” Desai said after Friday’s practice.
Desai’s first season in Philadelphia certainly doesn’t come without challenges. The Eagles lost five defensive starters in free agency, and are replacing them with a plethora of rookie and young standouts.
With so much to go over, and so little time to do so, it means there is a hyper-focus in the building and within the defensive staff.
“There is a hyperfocus and it’s awesome. I think the players embrace it. I know we do as a staff, and it keeps us on our toes,” Desai added. “I think what [Head] Coach [Nick Sirianni] is really good at is trying to create game-like situations, whether we’re in the meeting room or on the practice field constantly. To be honest with you, that’s real football. You’ve got to practice real football if you want to be a real good football team.”
Among the names to watch under Desai’s first year is former first-round pick Jordan Davis. The massive defensive tackle did not play much at all due to injuries and ineffectiveness in his rookie season, but his importance to the 2023 team is significantly more than last year.
With the loss of Javon Hargrave to free agency, the Eagles have already been impressed with what they’ve seen from last year’s first-round pick.
“There are not many people built like that. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s powerful. It’s about putting it all together and then us helping him put it all together and getting the right combination of guys in there and being impactful,” Desai said. “But we just need guys to be really great right now with the techniques that they’re learning and the fundamentals. That’s really the primary focus of this.”
It certainly helps when Davis has former college teammates like ninth-overall selection Jalen Carter and fellow first-round pick Nolan Smith working with him on the defense. For Carter, his ability has already stood out to the coaching staff.
“He knows what it is in terms of the preparation for your mind and your body, off the field, in the weight room, in the training room, all that stuff. He’s embracing it and learning it, and he’s doing a great job.”
Philadelphia’s defense may have become Georgia-north thanks to their recent draft selections, but there’s still plenty of pressure on Desai and the unit as the team tries to repeat as NFC Champions. Being able to stop elite quarterbacks will be among the chief questions the defense will need to answer.
But through two days, it’s clear that the new defensive coordinator has immersed himself well within the entire Novacare Complex.
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