Four games into this 2021 Eagles season, what do the coaches know about their players? How will they adapt the schemes in all three phases moving forward to help the players succeed? We're going to find out as the Eagles prepare for Week 5 on the road at the 3-1 Panthers. On Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, the three coordinators met reporters to discuss their groups and the state of the offense, defense, and special teams with the attention now on Carolina.
Michael Clay, special teams coordinator
Michael Clay always keeps his return men ready and that paid off on Sunday when Jalen Reagor stepped in for Quez Watkins and delivered a 44-yard kickoff return to set up the offense for a drive on which the Eagles scored a touchdown. Clay appreciated the scenario, the teamwork and camaraderie, and, of course, the result.
"The thought process was just how the game was going. You saw Quez kind of went down late in the first half. And it was actually a cool experience between those two receivers," Clay said. "I mean, like I've been telling you guys, we keep all the returners ready for whatever happens. He got banged up and Jalen came up to me and said, 'Hey, I see Quez is kind of banged up, I'll take this. Just take a load off his plate.' And, you know, when you have guys like that that want to help each other out for the betterment of the team, it's awesome. Jalen saw his moment and 44 yards later, he took it. So, it was a cool moment to see two young guys, not a veteran, two young guys having each other's back for the betterment of the team. And it helped us get closer in that game.
"We set up a nice little scoring drive. Easy for an offense that's kind of jelling, to go 56 yards with a big return like that. Hopefully, we can keep that thing going for the rest of the year. And now, opposing teams have to wonder who's back there, which is great for us. But they both have been doing phenomenal jobs for us. And once again, it takes – in that instance, it took all 10 for Jalen to get that big return. There were great blocks on the front side by two young guys, Patrick (Johnson) and Zech (McPhearson). The back side with veteran guys. They communicated, 'Hey, I'm going to take this guy, you take that guy,' with T.J. (Edwards) and Alex (Singleton) and Andre (Chachere). It was just a lane that hit, and he hit it, and 44 yards later, it was really good for us."
Carolina's special teams on Sunday will be a test – the Panthers have a unit that has been productive and one that the Eagles know is going to be ready for battle.
"They're a physical bunch. They got some guys – they got (DE) Darryl Johnson from Buffalo, who I remember playing against last year. He's a big 6-6 that can run. (LB) Julian Stanford, (LB) Frankie Luvu, there's some skilled players that can run and they're physical. And I think they kind of take after (Special Teams Coordinator) Chase (Blackburn). I mean, Chase was a very good special teams player in his career with the Giants and everything," Clay said. "And so, they've been doing a really good job in terms of creating mismatches with their physicality and their speed. So, it's another test. I mean, week in and week out, it is going to be a test because all these special teams are good. They provide different things to work on. But I think our guys are going to be willing to go down there, stand up to the test, and hopefully help our team out again with the field position and bring a spark for this team."
Jonathan Gannon, defensive coordinator
Jonathan Gannon is just being honest.
"I think we're all pissed off about the last two games. We haven't played great on defense. That's evident. And that starts with me and starts with the coaches," he said. "So it always comes down to self-evaluation, 'Hey, what can we do to help our players? What did we say the three things are to win this game? Did we get those three things done?' And the last two weeks, we have not done that. So, you look at – if we get these three things done, are we putting ourselves in a position to win the game? You look at those first. The three things we said, are they the right things? Then from there, you look at execution and what we're asking our players to do and how can we help them and serve them better to put them in better spots. And that starts with me, to the coaches, right down to the players."
The Eagles were dominating on defense in the first two games of the season against Atlanta and San Francisco. The last two games – not so much. It's more on the coaches, specifically himself, Gannon said.
"We don't really have a lot of guys making the same mistake over and over again. I think we continue to improve," Gannon said. "My level of patience, it's wearing thin on myself. 'Hey, Jonathan, let's get them in better position so we give our team a chance to win the game.' It's not really towards getting irritated at the players. That's how I'll always roll, that's how the coaches roll. So, when we came in here on Monday and sat down, I talked to the head coach on Sunday, on Monday morning, and then we'll talk to him tonight. And the patience for me is wearing thin, 'Hey, let's get competitive. Let's get in a game.' Because right now, we haven't been in a game – I know we were in that game, but from a defensive standpoint, like, we got to keep the points down, keep the yards down, get off the field to give our team a chance to win.
"So, where I'm most non-cool, calm, and collected right now is not with the players, it's with myself."
Shane Steichen, offensive coordinator
"Continuing to grow." That's how Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen describes the state of quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is coming off a 387-yard, two-touchdown passing day against Kansas City. Hurts didn't turn the ball over, made good decisions, and had excellent timeliness in the losing effort.
"I think, more than anything, he's continuing to grow," Steichen said. "And the consistency is the biggest thing right now with him, and he's continuing. You know, we've got to keep stacking those games on top of each other, just the consistency. Obviously, the completions he's getting, the big plays he's creating, we got to continue to do that."
Now, Hurts is going to have the deal with the Panthers' defense, which until Sunday's loss to Dallas led the NFL in fewest rushing yards per game and in quarterback sacks per game. Speed is going to be the issue on Sunday.
"They're really fast," Steichen said. "These guys can fly around the football. They've got speed off the edge. I know (linebacker) Shaq Thompson is out, but he's a really good football player and (defensive end Brian) Burns is a really good football player. They've got really good players. They've got speed, like I said, and they can fly around and tackle."