Eagles Placing ‘Strong Emphasis’ on Unpredictable New Style

Josh Sweat

Getty Eagles DE Josh Sweat is tied for the team lead in sacks with 7.5 for the 2021 campaign.

Projected starter Reed Blankenship caused a stir when he revealed the Philadelphia Eagles’ rebuilt defense was going to play a violent brand of football. That has been the top goal being preached by new coordinator Sean Desai throughout the offseason.

Tangible and violent were his exact words. Well, it seems the memo has made it onto the desk of every position coach in the building. First-year linebackers coach D.J. Eliot jumped at the opportunity to back up Blankenship’s words when asked at OTAs on June 6. Eliot, who was defensive coordinator at Temple in 2022, echoed a renewed commitment to being physical.

“The more physical team, 9 out of 10 times, is going to win,” Eliot told reporters. “The element of our identity and what we’re working towards, especially at linebacker play, has to start with physicality. And so we have a strong emphasis on that in our meetings, a strong emphasis on that in practice, and that comes from the top. Not only from Sean [Desai] but from [Nick] Sirianni — strong physical play.”

The raspy-throated Eliot enters the fray as an NFL newbie following 23 years of experience coaching in the college ranks. One of the first calls he made when taking the Eagles job was to Nakobe Dean. Their conversation was a smooth one, although the man slotted to be the starting middle linebacker wasn’t interested in formalities.

“I talked to Nakobe for about five minutes and I was really trying to get to know him and he was like, ‘yea, yea, that’s great, Coach, can you get me the playbook?’ He is very, very serious about it,” Eliot said. “You know what I mean? He’s a student of the game. And that was my first impression of him. He was here to learn. And he wanted to get started right away.”

Eliot Endured 3-Hour Interview, Lunch with Sirianni

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked earlier this offseason about the “relentless” process that Nick Sirianni goes through when filling out his staff. From replacement coaches to new hires, no stone gets left unturned.

Eliot peeled back the curtain a bit, telling reporters he went straight from the airport — a nearly 4-hour flight from Denver to Philadelphia — into a three-hour interview with Sean Desai. Then, Eliot was asked to meet Sirianni for lunch the next day before touring the facility and meeting Howie Roseman. The whirlwind tour ended up with him being hired, right after he explained a detailed plan for how he was going to coach the linebackers. His main selling point?

“Player development is critical,” Eliot said. “The role of a coach is to take a player somewhere where he can’t go on his own. That’s what the role of a coach is. So, you have to make sure with every skill that the player has, that you’re developing a drill that fits that player’s skill, and then that you’re finding the time to work those drills.

“You’re looking for every type of skill or skill development that might make that player better, right? And then how are you coaching it? And how are you drilling it? And when are you drilling it? And that’s the plan. And that’s what player development is.”

Davion Taylor Reunited with College Coach

Here’s an interesting side note: Eliot served as Davion Taylor’s college coach at the University of Colorado. He was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach there in 2018.

Taylor played in 10 games (12 starts) during their lone season together when he racked up 75 tackles (12 for a loss), along with 1 sack and 6 tackles for no gain. His 11 third-down stops and 11 quarterback pressures were second on the team.

The Eagles are banking on Eliot’s familiarity with Taylor to draw out his talent. The fourth-year linebacker — a third-round pick in 2020 (103rd overall) — is firmly on the roster bubble entering training camp.

“I know what type of person he is. I know what type of player he is,” Eliot said. “I know some of his strengths and some of his weaknesses, so it’s definitely helped.”

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