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Eagles Defensive Coordinator Set to Unleash ‘HITS Principle’

Getty Brandon Graham and the Philadelphia Eagles are learning the HITS Principle under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon wanted to clear a few minor things up in his first Zoom call. Number one, Gannon doesn’t employ a specific scheme. He told head coach Nick Sirianni that during the job interview.

No, Gannon prefers to adapt his play-calling to his personnel. And number two, don’t ever call him Jon. His wife might chastise you for that error. Please refer to the 38-year-old coach as JG.

“Just call me JG, man,” Gannon said. “Guys come in, they say, ‘Coach Gannon, Coach Gannon.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop calling me Coach. Just call me JG.’”

It was fun to watch JG interact with the Philly media on Thursday. His voice sounds eerily similar to TV announcer Joe Buck and it goes up a few octaves when he starts dissecting his defensive philosophy. Again, no scheme but there is a reason behind everything he does. Gannon calls it the HITS principle.

“The main thing for us is it’s not what we play, it’s how we play,” Gannon said. “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.”

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Eric Wilson Getting Looks at MIKE and WILL

Eric Wilson was expected to be the starting middle linebacker for the Eagles and it is very much trending in that direction. Gannon told reporters that he intends to start him at the MIKE (middle) and WILL (weakside) spots to start, adding that 26-year-old tackling machine can play all three linebacker positions.

“We think he’s a great complement to people we already have on the roster,” Gannon said.

Wilson and Gannon crossed paths during the 2017 season when they were both in Minnesota. He also coached former Viking Anthony Harris who is slated to be the new starting free safety in Philly. Both guys were huge free-agent additions.

“Both of those guys, like Ryan [Kerrigan], are super high character guys, and they’re both very intelligent,” Gannon said. “So that was appealing to me when those guys became available, to add those guys to the groups that we had.”

Looking for ‘Motor and Mean’ Guys

Gannon threw the perfectly succinct phrase “motor and mean” on third-round pick Milton Williams. The 284-pound defensive tackle out of Louisiana Tech seemed to be high on the new defensive coordinator’s wish list on draft night after he fist-bumped Howie Roseman in the war room. Yes, Gannon admitted he was a little amped up over that selection.

“I get really fired up when we add people to that room,” Gannon said. “Milton, I was super fired up because, A, his football character is through the roof. B, he plays with a very high motor.”

Back to “motor and mean.” Can you explain it for the kids in the front row?

“For the D-line position, you guys will hear me talk throughout the year, motor and mean,” Gannon said. “We want guys that play really, really hard — and they’re really, really mean, and he fit that description, and he’s very smart.”


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Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon doesn't abide by a specific scheme but he believes strongly in the HITS Principle.