It all started before practice when defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was asked about the skill set of his new $15 million edge rusher, Haason Reddick.
Evidently in the 58 minutes of high-intensity practice Wednesday, Reddick dropped a bit too much into coverage for some.
“That’s what I love about camp. We’re in the process of figuring those things out with not just Haason, but everybody,” Gannon said. “It’s a process that we take that, ‘Hey, let’s see what we like, what we don’t. This is what this guy is good at, what he’s comfortable at, what we need him to do, what looks good, what does, what we want to add, what we want to throw away.’
“It’s just all a process and getting better every day.”
The assumption that the Eagles, who finished No. 31 in sacks last season and signed Reddick because he piled up 23 1/2 by himself over the past two seasons, are going to revert to plying the 2017 first-round pick as some kind of off-ball LB like he was earlier in his career is a doozie but the fact that Gannon didn’t slam the door led to the follow-up.
Gannon again refused to budge.
“He’s a really good cover guy, so sometimes that’s a matchup-driven thing,” the DC said. “He knows that when he would be dropping, like all our overhang players, there is a reason why we do that – flexibility within the defense, depending on what the offense does that’s the kind of spacing we want to play, and it helps his teammates win some one-on-one battles.
“So, that’s a process with all those guys that we are figuring out now.”
You can rest easy with the “overhang” descriptor being the giveaway.
Of course, Reddick will be dropping into coverage on occasion as a potential curveball used to confuse opposing QBs or maybe in a zone-blitz look where the expected pass rusher is replaced by a charging off-ball LB or defensive back.
Reddick himself made it very clear what he’s been told to prepare for after a dominant defensive practice Friday. The Temple product is up to 247 pounds not dropping weight to handle backs in tight ends in coverage.
“Update that [weight] on your media,” Reddick joked. “NFL, update that as well. Stop saying 230 [pounds].”
Reddick found some success with the bull rush in Carolina last season and wants to explore it further. To do so, however, he felt like he needed to add a bit more power to his arsenal.
“I just wanted to open up my game a little bit more,” Reddick said. “Adding on some more weight, adding on some more strength, that way I can utilize moves like my bull rush a little bit more effectively. I started doing it last year toward the end of the season, and I kind of liked the way I was knocking back the tackles.”
Reddick dropped into coverage a little over 70 times with the Panthers last season as a changeup and expects to do so again in his new home.
“I’m a versatile player,” he said. “I do believe I’ll be doing some of that. At the end of the day, I’m just here to help the team get better and do my part. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it because I can do it.”
Gannon, meanwhile, is preparing his players for all contingencies, which is kind of the point of training camp.
“There is value to be able to play different coverages, different fronts, depending on who you’re playing and our matchups,” said Gannon. “You’re going to see a lot out there. That’s by design. … We’re playing football. We’re trying to prepare our guys for what they are going to need to execute to win games come the fall.”
If you’re still worried about Reddick, though, follow the money.
Do you really believe the Eagles are paying him $15M not to rush the passer?