Gannon explains why Eagles don't tackle at practice


Since the summer of 1933, when the inaugural Eagles team spent the summer practicing at Bader Field in Atlantic City, tackling has been a big part of training camp.

Linemen tackling running backs. Linebackers tackling tight ends. Defensive backs tackling wide receivers.

Keep doing it until you get it right. And if guys get hurt? That’s the cost of doing business.

For 88 years, under every Eagles coach from Lud Wray to Doug Pederson, the Eagles tackled at training camp. Because conventional NFL wisdom said that’s what you do.

Then Nick Sirianni came along and said stop.

“You hear all the time, ‘Well, we’ve always done it like this,’” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “But that’s probably not the right way in 2022.”

The Eagles don’t believe you need to actually tackle to become proficient at tackling, and on Thursday morning Gannon explained why.

Gannon, appearing on the WIP Morning Show, explained the philosophy he and head coach Nick Sirianni share about teaching tackling in training camp and why you don’t see defensive players finishing tackles at practice.

“You’re not tackling, that’s correct,” Gannon said. “But here’s how you practice tackling in a safe way to keep us healthy. Tackling is nothing but want-to — and I know all our guys want to tackle — and positioning and technique. 

“You can work that in practice without bringing Boston Scott down to the ground, so that will keep us healthier.”

The Eagles went against NFL tradition last year in Sirianni’s first season as head coach by eliminating all live drills. It’s not that practice isn’t physical. It is. The Eagles practice hard and guys hit. They just don’t bring the offensive player down to the ground.

“We have a tackling circuit every day, so people don’t see that because we’re not tackling live, but they are working the aspects of space, technique, pad level, what you do when you hit a guy,” Gannon said. “They’re working that in practice. I have no questions or issues (whether) we’ll be ready in Week 1.”

Last year’s training camp was the same. The practices are up-tempo, they’re intense, they’re fast paced, they’re even physical at times. 

But players generally don’t wind up on the ground.

And what happened during the season? The Eagles were one of the NFL’s healthiest teams, they went 6-1 down the stretch to reach the playoffs, and their tackling was fine.

The Eagles have come under fire not just for the lack of tackling to the ground but the length of their practices.

But this is the wave of the future in the NFL. And the Eagles are on the cutting edge when it comes to using sports science and analytical data to help make smart decisions.

Even if they lead to unorthodox methods.

“When you look at training camp as a whole and not day by day, when you look at the broad scope, the global load that they get and everything they’re getting live and walkthroughs and meetings, it’s a really good setup for our guys because No. 1, it gets them ready for Week 1, and 2 it keeps them healthy,” Gannon said. 

“(Sirianni) leans on science and people that really know how the body’s responding and what the players’ stresses are. … If you’re trying to say, ‘Hey, what’s our No. 1 goal in training camp?’ Evaluate, get our team ready for Week 1 and stay healthy. So you have to balance a lot of different factors that go into it.

“From my standpoint as a defensive coordinator, are we getting to evaluate our guys, improve our guys and be ready for Week 1. And with this setup, I know we’ll be ready for Week 1.” 

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