After a thorough search for a new defensive coordinator, which included Michigan’s Jesse Minter, Georgia’s Glenn Schumann, and NFL assistants Vance Joseph, Chris Shula, and Vic Fangio, the Philadelphia Eagles landed with Sean Desai, a 39-year-old Fangio disciple.
Desai has strong ties to the Philadelphia area (Temple) and has built a strong reputation over his coaching career — most recently with the Chicago Bears (2021), where he served as defensive coordinator, and the Seattle Seahawks (2022), where he was associate head coach and defensive assistant.
He’ll lead an Eagles defense getting an overhaul after losing nine contributors in free agency while adding three Georgia defenders in the NFL draft.
Philadelphia had one of the NFL’s top defenses in 2022, and we’re looking at five reasons why they’ll have a top 10 unit in 2023.
Howie Roseman let T.J. Edwards (Bears) and Kyzir White (Cardinals) walk in free agency, expecting the former Georgia All-American to take a critical role at the linebacker position under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
Dean recorded just 13 combined tackles and one tackle for loss in 2022, and he’ll enter 2023 as an intelligent player who can both play downhill and not be a mismatch in coverage. Dean could be a three-down playmaking linebacker in 2023 and an upgrade over Edwards and White.
New Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai assisted in Seattle’s transition to a Fangio-style defense, with his primary focus in 2022 on the secondary. The Seahawks ranked 13th in pass defense (211.5 yards per game) and were tied for the third-most takeaways (25), even with two rookies (Tariq Woolen, Coby Bryant) and a first-time starter (Mike Jackson) in the secondary.
Desai will lead a defensive unit with outstanding pass rushers up front and the NFL’s top cornerback duo on the outside.
Darius Slay and James Bradberry played a considerable role in Philadelphia having a top 5 defense in 2022, and they’ll return in 2023 motivated to outdo the competition.
As a rookie, Jordan Davis was already making an imprint as a pass rusher and run stopper at the defensive tackle position.
He’ll enter 2023 more mature, in better shape, and looking to make a statement.
He’ll be joined by Jalen Carter, who could match Javon Hargrave’s pass rush prowess as a dynamic rookie, while Nolan Smith could mimic Haason Reddick off the edge from multiple positions.
You throw in Nakobe Dean’s ability as a blitzer from the second level, and the Georgia boys could impact Desai’s defense.
Desai started his NFL coaching career with the Bears in 2013, serving as the defensive quality control coach. From 2015 -18 he studied under Vic Fangio, the Bears defensive coordinator, and adopted many of his principles.
Fangio is known for two-high safety looks and pre and post-snap disguises that can confuse opposing quarterbacks, a system designed to limit explosive plays.
The confusion can be disputed, as Jonathan Gannon had several opposing quarterbacks complete over 80% of their passes against the Eagles’ defense during his two years at the helm.
Philadelphia has Terrell Edmunds, Reed Blankenship, and rookie Sydney Brown at safety, and that unit could be more efficient with the former Steeler adding his disciplined approach to the position.
Fangio tied for the fewest blitzes called in the NFL during his stint in Chicago, while Desai’s defense with the Bears had the sixth-fewest blitzes in 2021.
Philadelphia will rank high in total pass defense and rely on a versatile, deep pass rush to limit opposing passing attacks.
Haason Reddick led the Eagles in sacks (16), while three other players had 11 sacks each (Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat).
Philadelphia led the NFL with 70 sacks, and there’s no reason why they can’t duplicate that mark or post even better numbers.
Jalen Hurts leads one of the NFL’s top offensive units, and the Birds should have plenty of big leads, thus enabling the defense to tee off.
Derek Barnett returns, while the Eagles drafted Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith in the first round.
With a talented secondary and the NFL’s top cornerback duo, Philadelphia will continue to pressure the opposing quarterback.