Eagles Coach Says He Doesn’t ‘Believe In’ Important Package

Jonathan Gannon

Getty Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is in his first year leading the Philly defense.

Exchanging dimes for nickels has been a recent trend employed by defensive coordinators around the NFL. Teams would rather have an extra linebacker on the field than defensive back in an effort to guard against the run.

Third-and-long situations fuzzy the thinking since that extra coverage guy is needed. A dime package features six defensive backs, including a balanced mix of safeties and cornerbacks. For example, the Philadelphia Eagles trotted out a lineup of Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Will Parks at times in 2020.

This year? Well, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon doesn’t employ a dime package right now. He doesn’t “believe in it” and prefers to keep an extra linebacker out there, even if his linebackers are a bit suspect.

“I just don’t believe in it right now with who we are. I like to play out of four down and two linebackers,” Gannon told reporters. “We feel like that’s kind of the best way with second down and drop back and defending who we’ve defended up until this point. On third down, as well, to play with two linebackers in a game.”

Gannon probably knows he doesn’t have the necessary personnel to play an effective dime defense, although he would never call out any roster holes. Starting linebackers Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, Genard Avery aren’t elite. Neither are the backups.

Meanwhile, the cornerback room is bare outside of starters Darius Slay and Steven Nelson. Avonte Maddox plays the slot, with no other cornerbacks seeing defensive snaps in Week 4. Zech McPhearson saw 20 special-team snaps. Ditto for Andre Chachere. Josiah Scott got 13 special-teams snaps in his first game back from injury.

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What’s Wrong with Fletcher Cox?

Fletcher Cox will turn 31 years old on Dec. 13 and there is talk of him starting to slow down. Maybe the three-time All-Pro defensive tackle is finally showing his age. People scoffed at the notion of the Eagles trading him in the offseason when it was suggested.

Cox has yet to record a sack in 2021 and he’s gone five straight games without a sack dating back to last season. The last time the 310-pounder got to the quarterback was Dec. 13, 2020. That’s a problem, one Gannon pinned on situational football and things that don’t show up on tape.

“I would say Fletch is doing a good job right now,” Gannon told reporters. “Again, he – people know that we play with Fletcher Cox, so they do certain things that you typically don’t see on tape. What we get, certain teams do not get because of our personnel.”

Cox is often the victim of fierce double teams, too. That extra attention can free up his defensive linemates, guys like Javon Hargrave and Hassan Ridgeway. They have combined for seven sacks, including six out of Hargrave who is 1.5 sacks shy of his career high.

“So it’s always a constant, ‘Hey, let’s try to find ways to, free up Fletch or get Fletch going.’ But I thought – he’s playing good,” Gannon said. “And, again, the production – guys, we’re four weeks through, the production will come. I’m not worried about the production from Fletch.”

Eagles Place Sua Opeta on COVID-19 List

The Eagles placed veteran swing guard Sua Opeta on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday (Oct. 5). It wasn’t disclosed whether he tested positive or had been in close contact with someone who did.

Opeta was called up from the practice squad prior to Week 3 and promoted to the 53-man roster. He played seven special-teams snap versus Kansas City in Week 4. The move gives the Eagles an extra roster spot.

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