For the majority of the 2021 season, Eagles fans were quick to jump on the ‘fire Jonathan Gannon’ bandwagon. His defense did struggle throughout the first half of the season, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete over 70% of their passes and presenting little resistance against the run.
But after the midway point, something clicked. Much like Nick Sirianni and the Eagles offense, Gannon’s defense started to put the pieces to defensive success together. And now they’re one of the better units in all of football.
Following their dominant performance against the New York Giants, here’s where Gannon’s defense ranks:
- Yards per game: 320.2 (5th)
- Yards per play: 5.0 (3rd)
- Rush yards per game: 104.6 (9th)
- Yards per rush: 3.9 (4th)
- Pass yards per game: 215.6 (9th)
- Yards per pass attempt: 6.2 (6th)
- Three-and-out percentage: 35.0% (4th)
- Defensive touchdowns: 5 (2nd)
The Eagles are winning the old fashioned way, by running the football and playing stout defense.
Gannon’s philosophy isn’t new to the NFL. Cover 2/cover 3 match concepts are pretty standard around the league, his personnel just needed to time to adjust to this new system. And now they’re flourishing.
For years, the Eagles struggled to find suitable corners to play in Jim Schwartz’s single high, man coverage scheme. Now under Gannon, the Eagles corners are playing some of the best football of their careers. Darius Slay just earned his fourth Pro Bowl bid and is currently ranked as the third best corner in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Avonte Maddox, who was consistently playing out of position on the outside under Schwartz, is now one of the best nickel corners in the league. His 76.2 coverage grade ranks 17th among 119 qualifying corners.
The same can be said for the Eagles linebackers. What seemed like a massive hole at the beginning of the year has arguably turned into a strength. T.J. Edwards has been the catalyst for the positional turnaround, posting a PFF grade of 75.2, seventh-best among 81 qualifying linebackers.
Gannon has mixed and matched his personnel throughout the year, and now it seems he’s found the perfect recipe.
It’s important to note that the Eagles front office has neglected to spend big money on the defensive side of the ball in recent years. The only big name acquisition or draft pick they’ve made on that side of the ball over the last two years was acquiring Darius Slay. Gannon is coordinating a top-10 defense without top-10 talent. That’s the mark of great coaching.
There’s a reason his name has been floated around as a possible head coaching candidate this offseason.
If you aren’t a fan of Gannon’s defense because he doesn’t blitz enough or because you believe he’s too passive, the numbers speak for themselves. The Eagles have a real defensive coordinator on their hands. One that doesn’t need top-end talent to put forth a top-end defensive effort.
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