As soon as he was hired, new Eagles linebackers coach D.J. Eliot called up each of his linebackers to introduce himself and get to know them a little bit.
Nakobe Dean wasn’t having any of it.
“I talked to Nakobe for about five minutes," Eliot said, "and I was really trying to get to know him, but he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s great, coach. Hey, can you get me the playbook?’”
This is exactly what Eliot is looking for.
Young guys who want to be coached. Young guys who want to be taught. Young guys who want to take the next step as football players.
That’s why he’s here.
“Player development is critical,” Eliot said. “The role of a coach is to take a player somewhere they can’t go on his own. That’s what the role of a coach is. So you have to make sure that with every skill that that player has you’re developing a drill that fits that skill and then you’re finding the time to work those drills.
“When you become a football coach, you love football, it’s the main part of what you do all day long, so you study the game and what you’re looking for is every little type of technique or skill development that may make that player better, and then how are you coaching it and how are you drilling it and when are you drilling it, and that’s what player development is.”
And what’s at the top of that list for Eliot?
“The No. 1 thing is tackling,” he said. “To be a great linebacker you have to be a great tackler. So we’re really working hard to make sure we’re working drills that put those guys in position to make plays and to make plays to be great tacklers.”
This is a very young group of off-ball linebackers. Nick Morrow is the elder statesman at 27, Shaun Bradley is 26, Davion Taylor and Christian Ellis are 24, Ben VanSumeren is 23 and Dean is 22.
Eliot coached at Temple last year after stops at Wyoming, Houston and Miami as a grad assistant and then Texas State, Tulsa, Rice, Florida State, Kentucky, Colorado and Kansas.
He said he wanted to stay in Philly and wasn’t looking for an NFL job, but when one opened at the other end of Broad Street he jumped at the chance.
“I’m probably one of the few people that when you take a new job you don’t have to move,” he said. “Took the job and one day I went down Broad Street and I went right and the next day I went down Broad Street and I went left.”
Asked about his defensive philosophy, he echoed new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
“The more physical team 9 times out of 10 is going to win,” he said. “The element of our identity and what we’re working toward especially at linebacker play has to start with physicality.
“So we have a strong emphasis on that in our meetings, a strong emphasis on that at practice, and that comes from the top.”
You wonder about the transition for a life-long college coach coming to the NFL for the first time at 46 years old.
But Nick Sirianni and Desai certainly weren’t concerned about Eliot’s lack of NFL coaching experience, and Eliot isn’t either.
After all, his predecessor, Nick Rallis, was only 27 when Sirianni hired him two years ago, and that went well. Rallis is now 29 and Jonathan Gannon’s defensive coordinator in Arizona.
“Football’s football,” Eliot said. “There’s so many things that apply at every level. Once you get between the white lines, football’s football.
“But there are things that make the NFL different than high school. The first thing that was new to me was the draft. I’m used to begging guys to come. I’m not used to picking them. I’m used to going into their living room and telling them why they should come.
"So that was a new experience for me. But it was a good one and I learned a lot and I really liked it.”