Eagles’ Sirianni: ‘I love this roster; I love our defensive roster’

Things started well for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Las Vegas against the Raiders. Philadelphia went on an eight-play, 67-yard scoring drive on the team’s opening possession, resulting in a 13-yard TD pass from Jalen Hurts to Kenneth Gainwell to take an early 7-0 lead.

Philadelphia committed to the running game on that series, and Miles Sanders rushed for 25 yards on five attempts.

However, it was all downhill from there. The Raiders would score 30 consecutive points and take a 30-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Philadelphia would score two meaningless touchdowns in the fourth and would fall to the Raiders 33-22. 

Philadelphia had a difficult time stopping the Raiders’ offense. Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr was 31/34 for 323 yards and two touchdowns, interception. The Raiders had 442 yards of total offense.

Following the game, Eagles DT Fletcher Cox, who was notably frustrated during the game, appeared to take a shot at Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon after he was asked about a screen play.

“I don’t get paid to play screens,” Cox said after the game. “I get paid to sack the quarterback, play in the backfield, tackle. I don’t get paid to play screens. We get screened all the time. Get out of stack and run to the football.”

On Monday, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni addressed Cox’s comments.

“You know what, frustration, everyone has frustration after you lose,” Sirianni said. “As players, coaches, everybody is going to have frustration. We’ll talk about everything. We’ll talk through it. We’re going to address anything that we need to address as a team. But I’ll keep those conversations private that we’ll have there.

“I understand Fletch’s frustration. I’m frustrated. He’s frustrated. We just got to do everything we can do to get the ship righted.”

Not many expected the Eagles to be very good in 2021. Plus, the early part of their schedule was challenging. After winning their first game on opening day, Philadelphia has lost two straight and five of its last six games, but the next ten games should be manageable for the Eagles starting next week on the road against the Lions. In those ten games, Philadelphia plays three teams who are currently above .500. 

However, none of that matters for the Eagles if they don’t play better on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the question becomes, is it Gannon’s game plan, or is it the players? The linebackers are below average, the secondary is below average, and the defensive line is average. They are not getting after the quarterback with their front four, and they’re not blitzing, so the secondary is getting exposed. Also, they are not stopping the run. Philadelphia is 28th against the run, so teams are doing anything they want against this Eagles’ defense. 

According to Sirianni, he has had conversations with Gannon about making changes to the defensive schemes.

“Well, with our conversations, Jonathan and I’s conversations, it is just mixing up the coverages. He did that a little bit more yesterday. Still, it didn’t, obviously, work in the sense that [Raiders QB Derek] Carr was 31-of-34.

“We just talked a lot – we know we can get home with our four defensive linemen when they’re there. We just talked a lot about tightening it up as far as the way we’re mixing in some man-to-man, the way we’re mixing in some of the zones with the man-to-man. Just different ways to challenge on the perimeter and get our hands on balls and get in the throwing lane. That’s been the main discussion. It’s been more about to be able to mix a little bit more man-to-man in there…

“I love this roster; I love our defensive roster. I got a lot of faith in them. Again, we’re working like crazy to get it fixed.”

In terms of the offense, they have to be more consistent there as well. Hurts is young, so we should expect struggles, but they can run the ball more and just have a little bit more imagination on offense. 

The Eagles are a bad team right now, but it does appear the coaches could do a better job of putting the players in a position to succeed.

Flacco to the Jets

Eagles have acquired a 2022 conditional sixth-round draft pick from the Jets in exchange for QB Joe Flacco, the team announced on Monday. Flacco, who signed with the Eagles in the offseason, played with New York last season.

“Joe(Flacco) is just a great person to be around, great pro to be around,” Sirianni said. “Had a phenomenal preseason and was really good for our room. The opportunity arose for him to go and be able to contribute somewhere else. Then also, obviously, us get a pick for that.

“But our time with Joe Flacco was really good. We really appreciated him and everything that he did. He’s a great pro. You can see why he won so many games when he was in Baltimore and all the other places he’s been.”

Update on Sanders:

Sanders left the game in the first quarter after injuring his ankle. Sirianni gave an update on Sanders:

“Miles will probably be down. Actually, we are week-to-week with him, pardon me. It’s a stretch for him to be up this week, but we’re not ruling anything out yet.”

Eagles DC Gannon: ‘I think we’re all pissed off about the last two games’

The first two weeks of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles defense was playing excellent football. In Week 1 against the Falcons, Philadelphia held Atlanta to six points, and in Week 2 versus the 49ers, the Eagles held San Francisco to 17 points. 

However, the last two weeks have not been very memorable for Philly’s defense. They have given up 77 points in the previous two weeks, including 42 against the Chiefs last Sunday. Additionally, they have had a difficult time stopping the run. In the last two weeks, the Eagles have given up 360 yards on the ground. Currently, Philly is 31st against the run.

When the defense falters, fingers get pointed at the defensive coordinator, which is Jonathan Gannon,

“Yeah, I would think — we always first look at the coaches,” Gannon said at a press conference on Tuesday. “You know, when we come in on Monday, critically, how can we help our players a little bit more to put them in better position to win the game.

“I think we’re all pissed off about the last two games. We haven’t played great on defense. That’s evident. And that starts with me and starts with the coaches.

“So it always comes down to self-evaluation, ‘Hey, what can we do to help our players? What did we say the three things are to win this game? Did we get those three things done?'”

According to Gannon, he’s running out of patience with himself.

“My level of patience, it’s wearing thin on myself,” he said. “‘Hey, Jonathan, let’s get them in better position, so we give our team a chance to win the game.’ It’s not really towards getting irritated at the players. That’s how I’ll always roll; that’s how the coaches roll. So, when we came in here on Monday and sat down, I talked to the head coach on Sunday, on Monday morning, and then we’ll talk to him tonight.

“And the patience for me is wearing thin, ‘Hey, let’s get competitive. Let’s get in a game.’ Because right now, we haven’t been in a game — I know we were in that game, but from a defensive standpoint, like, we got to keep the points down, keep the yards down, get off the field to give our team a chance to win.

So, where I’m most non-cool, calm, and collected right now is not with the players; it’s with myself.”

Gannon is taking the blame, but it’s deeper than him. It’s a talent issue. The linebackers are very average; the secondary is not much better, and the defensive line is missing a big piece in Brandon Graham. The defense is probably not as bad as we’ve seen in the last two weeks, but it’s probably not as good as we’ve seen in Weeks 1 and 2. 

Gannon and company have a lot of work to do to get this defense turned around.

Eagles DC Gannon talks life without Brandon Graham

On Sunday, in the Eagles’ loss to the 49ers, Philadelphia lost the heart and soul of their defense and the team in defensive end Brandon Graham, who is out for the season after he ruptured his Achilles tendon. 

Before this injury, the 33-year-old Graham had missed only one regular-season game in the last five seasons with the Eagles.

Now, it’s next man up for the Eagles, and fortunately for them, Philadelphia has decent depth on the defensive line. They have Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Tarron Jackson, who will have to step up in Graham’s absence. However, replacing a Pro Bowl defensive end is never easy.

On Wednesday, Eagles defense coordinator Jonathan Gannon discussed the loss of Graham.

“Yeah, I talked to our guys yesterday about the void that has taken place with [DE] Brandon [Graham],” Gannon said. 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.”

Tough break for the Eagles, and hopefully for Graham, he can make a full recovery.

Eagles DC Gannon explains how the defense turned things around against Atlanta

After two series, it appeared that the Atlanta Falcons offense was poised to score a lot of points against the Eagles on Sunday. 

Atlanta had drives of 72 and 74 yards, but Philadelphia kept them from scoring touchdowns. The Falcons would not score again after their second scoring drive, and Philadelphia would defeat Atlanta on the road 32-6.

The Eagles allowed 260 yards of total offense(102 total yards in the second half) and sacked Matt Ryan three times. Philadelphia allowed only 114 yards after the Falcons’ first two offensive drives.

On Tuesday, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon discussed the team’s adjustments on defense after the first two drives.

“I think the main two things that changed were we cleaned some technique issues up after the first couple series there,” Gannon said. “I think guys settled in a little bit better and started trusting their keys. We talk about alignment, assignment, key, technique. If you don’t have those, if one of those four things is wrong, it’s hard to play good team defense.

“I think really it’s a credit to our players; they settled down and just started getting back to the basics of that. That’s really pre-snap that we can control everything. The technique part is post-snap. But alignment, assignment, where they put their eyes, that’s all pre-snap. I think we kind of settled down and did a better job of that.

“We got to some different things we had in our back pocket that we knew we were going to run and got to some of those calls. They executed well.”

Give Philly’s defense a lot of credit. They played very well on Sunday and deserve just as much recognition as the offense for the Eagles defeating the Falcons on Sunday.

Let’s see if the defense can keep it going against the 49ers on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.