Inside Eagles pushed for player-led scouting reports ahead of the matchup with the Seahawks

At the end of their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, as coaches and players dispersed at the NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia Eagles safety Kevin Byard approached Sean Desai privately and offered the defensive coordinator a new plan.

“Hey, let’s do the scouting report this week,” Byard said.

By “we,” Byard meant the defensive back. By “scouting report” he meant a position-by-position breakdown of the Seattle Seahawks, their next opponent.

It’s a task normally handled by the Eagles’ coaching staff. From Nick Sirianni to Desai and even an unknown assistant, the staff spends the early parts of their weeks of the season building comprehensive game plans, which they begin implementing in the first days of training.

The scouting report is only a percentage of what rookie linebacker Nolan Smith described as “days worth of work.” Some days are allocated to one or two stages. A round of meetings on the first and second positions, followed by practice. A round of meetings on third positions, followed by practice. A round of red zone meetings, followed by training. At each meeting, coaches hand players “theses about everything,” Smith says.

Notes. Inclinations. Expectations.

“We do a really good job of detailing everything,” Smith said. “To the outside world, it may not seem that way.”

This last observation prompted Bayard’s proposal. The Eagles have been blatantly disastrous on defense, and Desai, the team’s first-year coordinator, has received the brunt of the blame. However, even after the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys scored 10 straight possessions (omitting the kneeling at the end of the game) and Philadelphia’s 30th-ranked defense fell to the worst in the NFL, Sirianni said he didn’t change anyone’s play-calling duties. – He remained confident that his employees would find solutions.

“I feel good about the people we have in this building,” Sirianni said. “We are 10-3. We control our destiny, and we will continue to search for answers with the people we have.”

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Sirianni made a slight change this week. Since the Eagles now play the Seahawks in the NFL’s first-ever “Monday Night Football” flex game, they were given an extra day on their schedule. So Sirianni opted to hold a full practice on Thursday, a day that was supposed to be a trial run, because he felt the Eagles needed to “work on our fundamentals.” Bad tackling exacerbated the 49ers’ home blowout, and the Eagles lost three passes to the Cowboys.

But Byard and a few veteran advocates believe players, at least those in the secondary, also need to take more accountability. There were too many breakdowns in coverage, and too many players getting beaten in critical scenarios. In the last three games against the Buffalo Bills, 49ers and Cowboys, Josh Allen, Brock Purdy and Dak Prescott combined for a perfect passer rating (158.3) in third and middle situations (4-7 yards) while completing 12 of 13 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns.

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Desai and his staff do not lack creativity. They formed the secondary in three separate ways. They put cornerback Darius Slay on the opponent’s No. 1 receiver. They used Bradley Roby at slot corner on short third downs and Eli Ricks on longer situations. They debuted rookie Kelee Ringo at outside cornerback in the Dime Packs.

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However, the leaks continued. While Desai told reporters on Tuesday that scrutiny of improvements “always starts with a play call,” it’s important to note how he added, “at least for me.” By convincing Desai to let the defensive backs handle the scouting report, Byard made sure the young secondary, which includes three rookies, also did his part in finding solutions.

“There is ownership in all of this,” Byard said. The athlete. “We all take ownership. When coaches do their interviews (with the media), that’s the first thing they say: ‘Hey, I’ve got to do better.’ It’s the same for us (as players). We all have our hands in the same pot. “At the end of the day, we can all do more. We’re in the solutions business. It’s not a complaining business. We’re not doing any complaining here. We’re all sticking together. We’re going to fix it together. We’ll play better.”

Desai agreed to the arrangement. Byard relayed the message to the rest of the defensive backs, and they split their scouting duties.

“Everybody kind of picked a player,” Byard said.

Byard took over quarterback Geno Smith. Safety Reed Blankenship took Seattle tight ends. Another defensive back The athlete TALK TO THIS WEEK — Veteran cornerback James Bradberry, rookie corners Rex and Ringo, and rookie safety Sidney Brown — took on designated wide receivers and running backs. Slay was absent from practices and locker room sessions while suffering from a knee injury.

They spent Wednesday (a designated day off for players this week) diving into their film studies. Bayard noticed Geno Smith’s tendencies. (“Obviously I’m not going to give you everything,” he said.) Bradberry watched his receiver’s past three games and took detailed notes. Was the receiver lined up inside? the outside? Where did his goals come from? What moves revealed technical strengths and weaknesses in the broad range? Blankenship said he sat at home, turned on some music, and wrote pages of notes on his iPad. Rex completed a breakdown that included the player’s 40-yard dash time, size and weight, as well as the routes they liked to run and those they didn’t.

The defensive backs arrived Thursday and presented their findings during the position group meeting, a secondary-only meeting that included defensive backs coach DK McDonald, assistant defensive backs coach Taffer Johnson and Nickels coach Ronnell Williams. Byard said the coaches “clearly presented their scouting report” during the team meeting, but “also gave us the floor” once they broke into separate sessions for the position groups.

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“The guys had some really good ones,” Byard said. “You can tell the guys have really watched a bunch of film, really studied these guys. I would just say hopefully it helps us be able to play faster. But I also understand how these guys want to play. That’s what this league is about.” It’s a players’ league, and you have to know the people you’re going up against.

“Just listening to other people, guys like Sidney and Kelly, it was cool to see what they got from watching the film based on the players they saw,” Bradberry added. They had a meltdown. …It was great to hear them talk, because they don’t talk a lot.

Ringo, who tallied a career-high 22 defensive snaps against the Cowboys, said he understood the depth the veterans bring to their approaches.

“Little things like landings and distances, the types of players you’re going against, splits, things like that,” said Ringo, a fourth-round pick. “Certain routes can be triggered at certain points across routes. The more frequent that is, just like guarding someone, it can definitely make just covering them a lot easier.”

Rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo had an increased role in the Eagles’ Week 14 loss to the Cowboys. (Tim Hittman/USA Today)

These are habits that Byard and Bradbury have already acquired. Byard, who was acquired by the Eagles from the Tennessee Titans in a trade on Oct. 23, developed a process over eight seasons that earned him two first-team All-Pro selections. Bradberry, a second-round pick of the Panthers in 2016, admitted he “didn’t really watch film my first two years.” But he eventually noticed seven-time All-Pro Luke Kuechly’s routine while in Carolina, immersed himself in the work and began to understand the bigger picture when he was on the court.

When Bradberry signed with the New York Giants after his rookie contract expired, the cornerback said then-head coach Joe Judge asked players to prepare their own scouting reports. They will be assigned a specific player, conduct research, create a report, and then give a presentation at the facility during team meetings. Bradberry earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2020, and in 2021, his four interceptions with the Giants are tied for 12th-most in the NFL.

The judge made mandatory what Bradbury believed players should do themselves.

“Of course, you get so much information here that you feel like once you’ve got your information here, you’ve got everything you need,” Bradbury said. “But you actually apply that information that you get, and you apply it as you watch the movie. ‘Oh, this is the trend.’ Or ‘Oh, this is the way he’s going to do it.’ You have to imagine it.”

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These are the anecdotes that add needed perspective in game plan meetings, Byard says. Bradbury, Blankenship, Ricks, and Brown all expressed their firm belief that the NFL is a “players’ league,” and that they enjoy the “mutual” relationship that players build with their coaches. Brown says he’s learning how players can provide the key information that makes a scheme find its best fit. But they have to look for that information, and they have to speak up when they find it.

“It really breeds confidence in everyone, doesn’t it?” said Brown, a third-round pick who started three games and played 25.8 percent of the defense’s total snaps. “Because if someone doesn’t do their job, I mean everyone in the room will know. I think it’s harder in the film room than on the field. On the field, you just move on to the next play. When you’re in the film room, you’re on set until you find out The command.

Therefore, such meetings are sometimes at risk of provoking distress, especially during losing streaks. The Eagles’ defensive backs agreed that “we have to approach it a different way,” Brown said.

“I felt like it brought us closer together, just to be able to hear everyone’s voices,” said Blankenship, who is in his first year as a starter after signing with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2022. As if it would be good for young people too, who might not have seen a lot of movies. Hold everyone accountable. This is the biggest part. This is the leadership role. In times of stress, you want to hear everyone’s voice to make sure they are confident in what they see and what they do.

There is a sense of optimism among defensive backs that they are more prepared for the Seahawks, who enter the weekend with the 15th-best passing attack in the NFL (232.9 yards per game). Several said they will continue preparing scouting reports assigned to players for the remainder of the season.

“We’re just trying to find more ways to prepare better, prepare stronger — especially as we go through the stage we’re at,” Byard said. “That’s very important. So, that’s the only thing I’m really concerned about is our preparation, our process, how we handle things. So, it’s just trying to do more. Obviously I’ve been here for a while. I’m just trying to do more, as much as we can.” “As players, to make sure we are ready there. We hope that will be evident in the matches.”

(Top photo by Reed Blankenship and Kevin Byard: Mitchell Leaf/Getty Images)

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