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Jonathan Gannon ready to put his new-look defense on display

The Eagles are busy gameplanning for their season opener at Ford Field against the Lions on Sunday, and the coaching staff is naturally keeping their strategies under wraps.

The team's coordinators Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon, and Michael Clay spoke, though cautiously, about their Week 1 expectations and the most significant takeaway was this: They're confident in their plans, but those plans will remain "in-house" until the clock strikes 1 PM on September 11th.

Sunday marks the start of Gannon's sophomore campaign as defensive coordinator – but this time, he's well-equipped with a more versatile depth chart to carry out his desired systems.

The defense was a focal point throughout the offseason; their effort toward improvement kicked off in March when the team lured Camden native Haason Reddick home. It culminated with the recent addition of C.J. Gardner-Johnson less than two weeks before the defense plays its first snap in Detroit.

Between those moves – a long list of additions and extensions:

• Agreed to a new one-year contract with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox

• Re-signed defensive end Derek Barnett to a two-year contract

• Signed linebacker Kyzir White to a one-year deal during free agency

• Traded up to select defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft

• Selected linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft

• Added veteran cornerback James Bradberry during free agency

His fortified defense doesn't just add freedom to his schemes; Gannon says it allows him to "let them play."

"We've got to problem solve, and you guys have to think on your feet and get me out of trouble when a call is not ideal. That's what I think that our defense, the guys that we have right now, have shown through camp," said Gannon.

"I honestly just trust the whole room a little bit better."

The list of personnel improvements made is long, but Gannon's list of play-specific improvements is concise: "Take the ball away a little bit more, affect the quarterback a little bit more, and be consistent."

The addition of Gardner-Johnson creates the opportunity for more productivity in the nickel formation – though transitioning from cornerback, Gannon believes his qualities are exemplary of that of a successful safety in today's NFL.

"Just looking at his tape, the skill set that he brings, he basically played a lot in the slot, but he has played safety before," Gannon said.

"We've talked about how a modern-day safety is doing it all, coverage ability, being able to play in the box, having range, playing post closed, post open, covering, tackling, communicating, being smart. I feel like he's going to integrate well into the defense."

This weekend will be the defense's first test after a busy seven months of changes when they line up against the Lions' Jared Goff-led offense.

"I feel like the last half of the year they kind of came into their own with their identity and how they wanted to play offense, and (it's going to be a) big-time challenge for us. They have a really good O-line, quarterback is a good player, and they have some skill guys," Gannon said.

"We have it cut out for us. We have to play good football to give our team a chance to win."

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