May 6, 2021   6 MIN READ

Inside the Birds: “The Wide Nine is Gone”


With the NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start evaluating the Eagles’ roster.

On the latest Inside the Birds podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan discuss first-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme and give some reasons to be optimistic about head coach Nick Sirianni.

The Eagles drafted young defensive linemen to eventually replace Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.

Sirianni’s Offense

Adam Caplan: “I’m fascinated to see this offense. I’m very optimistic. I know [Sirianni] has never called a play, and this guy’s got to prove himself as a play-caller. But based on what I’ve heard, he’s going to get to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and they’re going to be coached. Player development and the attributes that this guy brings together are super important to him, one of the coaches who worked with him told me. I’m expecting players to develop here. If they’re not good enough, then they will wind up being cut. But if there’s something to get out of these guys instead of them being buried on the depth chart and the coaches don’t want to coach them like what happened to the other staff. Certain coaches just wouldn’t coach them or they just wouldn’t be on the field; they would just bury them. These guys are going to be developed. If they have something to offer, they’re going to get it out of them.”

DL Scheme

Geoff Mosher: “Defensive coordinator John Gannon is looking for somebody who can be a nose. Now [Javon] Hargrave, when he was in Pittsburgh, wasn’t a pure nose, he actually was a one-gapper in their nickel, but when they had some injuries he had to go in there and play more of a nose, run-stopping role. So he can do that, too. But when you just talk about those starting two, Hargrave and [Fletcher] Cox, the big concern is, can they figure out a way to get Fletcher not double-teamed as much as he’s been for the last two years? And you’d have to think that Hargrave is a big answer to that. He has to stay healthy.”

Caplan: “For Hargrave, this is another defense he’s got to learn. With Pittsburgh, the Eagles for one and now the Eagles’ second defense he’s gonna have to learn. All nose techniques are different, how they’re shaded, where you’re lining over. Not every nose tackle is the same. It’s not only that but as I learned very many years ago, I remember sitting in watching tape with a coach that is no longer in the NFL, but he was explaining to me how depending on what kind of nose you want, it depends on how many how much weight you want that guy to have. Remember, Tracy Rocker is the new D-line coach, so the techniques are going to be different, and the scheme, the front is going to be different. The wide nine is gone.”

Defensive End Outlook

Mosher: “No surprises here, it’ll be obviously Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, we have Josh Sweat, we just mentioned him. Joe Ostman will come back to compete. Tarron Johnson is one of the three sixth-rounders that they drafted. He is from Coastal Carolina but he’s got some work to put in though, I believe he’s only 6-foot-2.”


Caplan: “The fronts will depend on what down and distance it is. [T.J.] Edwards is only a base player, we know that the Eagles are generally going to be a 4-2-5 team. If they go with a bear front, which is five linemen, they could go 5-2-4, you have an option, depending on who you’re playing. They’re gonna do things that [Jim] Schwartz was not going to do. Schwartz runs a specific scheme, he’s been successful with it no matter what people say about him and criticize around the league. This is what he does. This guy [Gannon] is a first-time coordinator in Gannon, and he’ll have his version again of the [Mike] Zimmer defense and we’ll see what that was looking like. The question is how much of this same is it going to have. [Eric] Wilson’s here because of it, the linebackers coach is here because of it. We’ll see.”

CB Depth

Caplan: “They’re like the Phillies’ pitching staff, they’re a bunch of No. 6 and 7 pitchers. I understand that they didn’t have money in free agency to spend, but my goodness gracious, this is what they’re going to do? I know it’s May and not August, that’s true but, man, please get a veteran No. 2 corner. They missed out on [T.J.] Carrie, they didn’t want to spend the money, he only got $2 million. They weren’t in on Casey Hayward who signed with the Raiders earlier this week. I’ve never seen the Eagles cap-strapped like this, it’s so rare, even in May. But look, opportunity folks. Someone is going to be the fourth and fifth corner of this group and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Safety Outlook

Mosher: “So if [Rodney] McLeod’s healthy and [Anthony] Harris is healthy, this to me is a dependable set of safeties. I wouldn’t call it an explosive, play-making set of safeties, it’s not your modern safeties. It’s not what they have in Minnesota, where you have Harrison Smith, who’s good at everything and at one point it was him and [Andrew] Sendejo and Sendejo would knock your head off and Harrison Smith could cover you or blitz, but it’s dependable. You just hope that this group doesn’t get beat over the top of a lot and they shouldn’t, they should be pretty good at tackling.”

Caplan: “This is another thing, McLeod over 30, ACL reconstruction, Harris is 30 years old. So you’d like to know at the end of training camp could K’von Wallace be that featured safety, a starter and kind of get an idea.”

– Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff contributor to

Listen to the latest “Inside The Birds” podcast from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here:

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