NFC Former Correspondent
Jonathan Gannon wasn’t exactly likable in Philadelphia, even though he led a top-10 unit in both of his years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. He was heavily criticized by fans and the media, even when things were going well. He had a tough job in a tough town.
No one needs to tell this to Gannon’s replacement Sean Desai.
“Philly is a unique place,” the new defensive coordinator said in his first press conference on Thursday. “And I agree with that mindset. Some people take it and some people don’t.
“You gotta earn it, and you gotta earn it every day. You gotta work. We’re tough guys. We don’t take… You know, I don’t like to abuse. We don’t take ‘stuff’ from other people ‘
No, not Philadelphia. Not even the Eagles. And apparently neither did Desai, 40, who began his coaching career at Temple University in Philadelphia. A rising star in league coaching circles, Desai certainly seemed like he’d hit it off with Philly’s media and its fickle fan base. He said all the right things about toughness and standards and how “we want guys to feel this Philadelphia Eagles defense.”
And he didn’t shy away from the fact that the defense he inherited is loaded. It finished 10th under Gannon in 2021 and second last season, while recording a ridiculous 70 sacks – the third-highest total in league history.
But this is what puts Desai, who was Chicago’s defensive coordinator for one year (2021) before the staff was fired, in a nearly impossible position. He’s a new guy, doesn’t have much experience and he’s a steward of a defense that hasn’t left much room for improvement. He runs a defense that everyone expects to be top five in the NFL this season.
At least, until he messes it up.
“We’re not going to take anything away from his defense because it was historic,” he said. “But having said that, I think the most important thing we need to remind ourselves – and we talk to the players about it – is that every year is a new chapter, and the past predicts the future.” Do not point to the success of this competition.
True, but future success is still expected on a defense that, thanks to some magic from GM Howie Roseman, could be even better than it was a year ago. The Eagles lost five starters last season, but the only really significant loss was defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and safety CJ Gardner-Johnson. Rosman managed to bring back defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darius Slay.
Then GM went out and took defensive tackle Jalen Carter and edge rusher Nolan Smith in the first round of the draft and potential steals in safety Sidney Brown and cornerback Kelly Ringo in the third and fourth.
Philly’s Great Off-Season
Emmanuel Aco, Joey Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Rick Butcher debate whether the Eagles have isolated themselves even further in the NFC with their off-season moves.
It’s probably too much to ask of the Eagles to finish second in the league on defense again and record another 70 sacks. But Desai knows that the reality is the one who is going to ask.
One of the quotes Nick [Sirianni] Used, ‘the standard is the standard,'” Desai said. “We keep that standard. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
How? Well, Desai was certainly light on details in his first public remarks. He’ll be running his schedule this season and making his own defensive moves, so it remains to be seen how players react to Gannon switching defenses, which he seemed to really enjoy. While fans and some media members have often expressed their frustration with the former defensive coordinator – now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals – players grew to love him. And so did Siriani, who in January delivered a mighty defense of Gannon after the Eagles beat the Giants in the playoffs, lambasting his critics and calling him “an incredible coordinator.”
“He’s a stallion,” Siriani said of Gannon at the time. “This guy is a stud.”
Would anyone feel the same way about Desai in Philadelphia? Time and more importantly, results will tell. But on his first day in the public eye, at least he said everything the fans and his players wanted to hear.
Now all he has to do is back up his words.
Desai said, “We have some assertiveness, we have some rigidity, we want to be able to impose our will.” “We’re really not going to take anything from anybody. We want to make people feel like we are. We want to be able to run. We want to be able to hit and we want to play smart. I think That it is clearly a reflection of who we are as the Philadelphia Eagles defense, a true reflection of the history of the Philadelphia Eagles defense and a reflection of this city.
“And that’s what we want to be.”
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He covered the Giants and Jets for New York’s SNY TV for the last six years, and before that covered the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News for 16 years. follow him on twitter @Ralph Vacchiano,
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