The Solak Show: PFF’s Seth Galina talks Cover 2 and Jonathan Gannon’s defense

The Solak Show has officially launched!

The Solak Show will be weekly in the offseason and always come in two parts. The first will be strictly Eagles-focused, and I’ll be reacting to and analyzing breaking news on the Eagles’ offseason foibles as they look to rebuild their roster. The second will invite a guest and cover a larger, league-oriented issue that may or may not affect the Eagles. For big-time fans who want to learn more about the game and watch football differently — this segment is for you!

Show notes for the Solak Show Episode 003 with PFF’s Seth Galina

Topics covered:

  • Why the NFL is slowly moving towards a 2-high defensive meta
  • What about 2-high defenses creates new advantages
  • How the Colts ran their 2-high defense with new Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon on staff
  • How that 2-high defense compares to other popularized 2-high structures in the league, like ex-Los Angeles’ Rams DC and current Los Angeles Chargers HC Brandon Staley’s system
  • What to expect from the Eagles’ defense in 2021
  • QB potpurri!


Videos and pictures breaking down some of the more esoteric concepts we discussed on the show, with timestamps for reference. As discussed on the intro of the show, this should help clear up any terminology or concepts discussed that may not be known to the average listener. (All timestamps are Spotify, not Apple)

14.20: passing off crossers in 2-high defense

“You can stop [the wide zone, play-action passing offense of Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay] from 1-high defenses; you can stop it from Cover 3 because safeties can nail down and you can exchange routes and stuff like that. It’s just not that easy.

Here’s a clip of a single-high safety “nailing down” on a crosser. Watch as the cornerback abandons the crossing pattern to support the other, incoming route, which he can play with better leverage — while the safety takes over the abandoned route, also with advantageous leverage.

In a 2-high world, now, with two safeties deep, you can pass of those routes easier and nail down on those routes either.”

20:05: where is the nickel aligned?

“When you look at class 2-high — quarters, or even Cover 2 defenses — in the NFL, the big question is: where is the nickel. Because in college, the nickel is not where he is in the NFL often. In the NFL, if there’s two receivers split out — if there’s a wideout and a slot — the nickel is inside of the slot. So [the nickel] is now more or less in the run fit.

“In the run fit” means this player is expected to fill a gap downhill if he gets run-action (i.e. offensive players run blocking downhill)

What Brandon Staley would do last year would be: the nickel would be outside of the slot receiver. He’d have outside leverage. We don’t see that that often, especially in a 2-high world.

Like a 1-high defense, the safety is considered in the run fit when the nickel is playing with outside leverage. But because Staley’s defense aligns in a two-high shell, that safety that’s in the run fit is 10 yards off the ball! Crazy.

You see it a lot in a 1-high world, because that’s your divider rules, you’re gonna be outside leverage in 1-high system. But in a 2-high system, the problem is, you don’t have that safety nestled in the box, so you’re not gonna be gapped out, and [Brandon Staley is] taking the nickel out of the fit.”

24:40: How do you defend the run in 2-high?

“You’re not gonna get [from Brandon Staley] what you’ll get from [the Eagles defense next year]: A 4-down, Over/Under look, where everyone is in a gap…

…and if we have to, we can pirate stunt, we can do this or do that. This is gonna be: ‘Hey, we’re gonna play a 3-down, a 3-4. Oftentimes a Tite [front], sometimes a Bear [front], so that we can cancel interior gaps as a priority.”

As you watch this run from Miles Sanders, watch how the interior gap control from the Rams’ defensive ends (#99 Aaron Donald and #90 Michael Brockers) muddies the read for RB Miles Sanders, who eventually bounces it outside and right into the incoming safety of the Rams’ run support.

Remember: that safety was in the run fit! The Rams wanted to bounce Sanders outside to give the safety time to arrive in the fit.

26:15: How Brandon Staley game-planned against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers

“When the Packers went trips, they moved every single linebacker out of the box. The Packers run a lot of bubble screens to like, Davante Adams. So the Rams would cover down on him. They’d play a 5-down defensive line — that’s to deal with the wide zone stuff — and if it was trips or something, that linebacker would move completely out of the box. So you’re literally looking at a 5-0 look! And they asked the weakside safety that if it was a run, because they’re not going to throw the bubble now, you from 15/12 yards depth, you’re gonna come and be an A-gap fitter.”

Here, Adams isn’t to the three receiver side — he’s to the top of the screen — but as the Packers motion from a splitback look to a potential flare screen to the wide side of the field, you’ll see the linebacker travel with him, leaving the box completely empty of second-level players. There are five down defensive linemen to complete this 5-0 front. The weakside safety (in this case, Nick Scott) has to close in from depth to make the tackle on A.J. Dillon on the inside run.

53:20: Crazy Mahomes Throw v. Buffalo