Jonathan Gannon’s patience is running out, just not with his players.
After seeing his Eagles defense surrender 40-plus points in back-to-back games, the defensive coordinator said his frustration lies solely on himself during a Tuesday news conference.
“My level of patience, it’s wearing thin on myself,” Gannon 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 toward getting irritated at the players. That’s how I’ll always roll, that’s how the coaches roll.”
During the Eagles’ 42-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Gannon’s group was thoroughly outplayed. On the Chiefs’ seven meaningful drives, they scored six touchdowns and had one interception. Patrick Mahomes completed 24 of his 30 passing attempts for 278 yards, and Kansas City’s running attack averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
The Chiefs offense presents problems for just about any defense, but there were a few occasions where the Eagles had dubious matchups, including one where Eric Wilson ended up in space with Kansas City’s star receiver Tyreek Hill in the end zone. Hill gained separation from Wilson, who may have been expecting help, with an out-breaking route and caught a touchdown pass from Mahomes.
Late in the fourth quarter, Gannon called a coverage that left Anthony Harris as the lone deep safety as Hill ran a corner-post route that beat the veteran safety for a 44-yard score.
On Tuesday, Gannon said those two play calls were the ones he regretted most when reviewing the film.
“I put the guys in a tough spot,” Gannon said. “The guy that was on Tyreek [on the 44-yarder], not a very good matchup there. So probably those two I’d like to have back.”
Gannon’s defensive scheme is a significant departure from his predecessor Jim Schwartz. Neither coach blitzes very much; Gannon’s called the second-fewest blitzes in the league so far compared to Schwartz calling the fifth-fewest last season. Aside from that, Gannon’s base defense uses two high safeties instead of the single-high looks Schwartz favored, and as a result, Gannon relies more on Cover 2 and Cover 4. The Eagles haven’t used man coverage very much so far this season, either.
Even on specific passing downs, Gannon has used nickel packages (two linebackers and five defensive backs) instead of six defensive backs in a dime package.
Especially with how poorly the Eagles’ linebackers have fared both in coverage and against the run, why hasn’t Gannon tried using an extra defensive back?
“We’re not really a dime team right now,” Gannon said. “We like to play out of four down and two linebackers. I’m not really going to get into the schematics of that. ... I just don’t believe in it right now with who we are. I like to play out of four down and two linebackers. We feel like that’s kind of the best way.”
It’s fair to note there are a handful of quality defenses that have moved away from dime packages, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals. The Indianapolis Colts, where Gannon last coached, also aren’t heavy users of the personnel package. But most of the teams listed have linebackers who can cover, while the Eagles’ group has struggled.
Wilson and Alex Singleton, typically the two linebackers in the Eagles’ nickel formations, have been targeted 35 times and allowed 30 completions for 272 yards and four touchdowns through four games, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gannon’s defensive scheme got off to a solid start after two games this season. The Eagles held the Falcons to six points and a solid 49ers offense to 23 all while limiting the explosive plays Gannon builds his scheme around to contain.
The last two games, though, the group has struggled against the run while also getting gashed by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Mahomes in consecutive weeks.
Gannon said the defense has three objectives each week that will determine success or failure, but wouldn’t say what specifically those points of emphasis were, just that they might not align with public opinion.
“So, there are certain things that go on that I am OK with that to the eye of the public, might be irritated at certain things,” Gannon said. " ... I’m not really concerned with that. I don’t really care about the statistics other than winning and losing. So, what we develop as a coaching staff and with the players, this is what we need to get done to win the game, that’s what I’m concerned with. And my level of patience is going down because we haven’t done that for two weeks.”
Opeta placed on COVID-19/reserve list
Eagles guard Sua Opeta was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list Tuesday, further depleting the team’s offensive line depth.
Opeta was promoted off the practice squad to the active roster last week to bolster the reserves along the O-line after injuries wiped out multiple starters. Veteran right guard Brandon Brooks is expected to miss several weeks with a pectoral strain, and left guard Isaac Seumalo is out for the season with a Lisfranc foot injury.
After Lane Johnson was ruled out of last Sunday’s game because of an undisclosed personal matter, the Eagles had four backups in the lineup against the Chiefs.