Every Philadelphia Eagles practice where media members are allowed access tends to work in a similar fashion. Coaches meet with the press beforehand. Players are made available afterward. As we settle into August and prepare for the preseason training camp has followed a similar blueprint.
We have heard from Nick Sirianni a few times and have been allowed to hang out with both of the new coordinators. It's safe to say, as we move through the 2023 NFL season, it appears we'll spend time getting to know a couple of new faces and continue getting to know a few others.
Enter one of the newer fan favorites, safety Reed Blankenship. The second-year former undrafted rookie found his way in front of a microphone following the first practice of August, As you might expect, he was asked about something we have all been wondering.
Reed Blankenship shares his thoughts on the differences between Jonathan Gannon and Sean Desai's defense.
If you're like the rest of us, you have asked the question a few times. On Tuesday, it was Reed's turn to give us an answer.
“What were the biggest differences between [Jonathan Gannon’s] scheme and Sean [Desai] coming in?” It’s a straightforward question that probably won't be answered until we see Philly play games that count. No one holds their cards closer to the vest than Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff.
We expect that there will be some similarities to Vic Fangio's scheme, but in all honesty, again, no one will know if that proves to be true until we see Desai's guys take the field versus the New England Patriots on Tom Brady Day in Week 1 of the regular season.
Is Sean Desai going to pull a Gannon and fart around and only care about limiting the 'big play'? Will he put his players in positions to play at their best and be successful, or will we see more of what Gannon gave us in the Super Bowl?
Blankenship provided some clarity. “(Desai's scheme) was easy to pick up. Like I said, going through… my rookie season and kinda learning how to play, you piece stuff together. And, some of the stuff kind of falls in the same concepts, so it helped me learn a little bit better this year.”
Let’s blindly dive headfirst into that response…
What’s great about Blankenship is that he’s raw. We’re not talking about a guy that had some of the greatest college football minds mold his playstyle to fit their specific scheme. We’re talking about a guy who was an undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State University.
When we hear him talk, we're listening to a guy who is more relatable to us normies. No offense to you specifically, but it’s probably safe to say that you’re closer to an MTSU football player than a University of Georgia football player, both physically and in terms of football IQ.
Here’s a non-perfect metaphor: If you learn multiplication before addition, then learning addition is going to be a cakewalk. Gannon’s defense was multiplication in this metaphor. He was saying ‘Grab a calculator, do 24x1000, then add 24, divide that by six, and then multiply that by two. What do you get? Pew pew pew.’ It sounds like Sean Desai is saying ‘Just type 8008.’
Gannon's concept was technically working, but Desai is making things easier for the guys. That’s what we want when we’re talking about a new defensive coordinator installing new schemes. Start slow and build it up; don’t get too big for your boots right off the bat.
The other thing that should make you feel good about Blankenship’s response is that Desai is a safeties coach by trade. From 2019 to 2020, he held that title with the Chicago Bears. In Philly this season, there are two new starting safeties and a new defensive backs coach, it’s good to know that the defensive coordinator has experience leading that specific group,
Desai is helping his guys “learn a little bit better.” You can amplify that sentiment if you also take into account all of the youth this team houses on the defense. It's rational to think of Blankenship as a mouthpiece for the younger guys. They will develop under the tutelage of both the NFL veterans on the roster and a D.C. that's able to flatten the learning curve.
No, we don’t know much about what Desai’s defense and what it will look like. He said he wants it to be violent (which is great to hear). We have seen a three-safety formation. Other than that, we don't know much.
Maybe a defense that's less complicated allows the best players to perform at peak level... Or, maybe we overanalyzed what Blankenship said, and none of this is correct because he was just giving a canned answer. We won't know until we know. It should be interesting to watch everything unfold.