American Football

Nick Sirianni talks Eagles’ free agency moves at the NFL Annual Meeting


The head coach explains why they signed Marcus Mariota, what he’s seen from his new defensive staff, and more.

The Eagles contingent is at the NFL Annual Meeting this week and head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters on Tuesday about some of the team’s free agency moves, including how he feels about the RB room and why they signed Marcus Mariota. He also talked about new DC Sean Desai, the secondary players coming back, and also about how Jason Kelce’s return might affect Cam Jurgens’ second season.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:

On free agency moves

Sirianni said that they’re always looking at character and personality traits in the guys they want to add to the roster. The head coach emphasized the traits he’s highlighted the past few seasons, including football IQ, character, love for football, tough, and competitive, in addition to being talented.

The head coach later talked about Miles Sanders moving on with the Panthers, and said he wishes the RB a lot of success, but the Eagles are really happy with the room they have right now. Sirianni said that he’s really excited about adding Rashad Penny, who is someone that he’s wanted to coach for a long time. Plus, he pointed out that we all saw what Kenny Gainwell was able to do in the playoffs, and every time the RB is on the field, he affects the game. Finally, Sirianni said he was really glad they were able to bring back Boston Scott, as well, with the veteran adding great depth and a newly found niche as a kick returner.

On Marcus Mariota:

“I’ve been wanting to coach him for a long time. Frank [Reich] and I went and worked him out in 2014 at Oregon at a private workout and we just thought the world of him as a person — obviously his play spoke for itself, but you know he’s very talented in a lot of different things that he can do. He’s played good football in the NFL.

I’m not a guy that say you always have to have the same type of quarterback, and you just want the best quarterback available to be able to go out there and win games. Now, with that being said, there’s a lot of things that we can recapture with Marcus being the backup that Jalen [Hurts] brings too.”

On Sean Desai and the defense

Sirianni said that the new Eagles’ DC is super organized and has a process for everything, which is something the head coach appreciates about his new hire. Desai and the defensive staff have been grinding and working hard, and they are just now starting to get on the same page as far as what Sirianni’s vision is for the defense.

“Obviously, I hired him to do a job, but I still have to give him the visions that I have for certain situations, different things that I want to see out of the defense. So, getting on the same page there. It’s been fun doing that, and you know, he’s done a great job so far.”

He went on to explain that the player profile that the team is looking for in terms of free agency and through the draft doesn’t really change much with Desai at DC. Sirianni said that what they’re planning to do as a base defense will stay similar, despite doing some different things here and there.

As far as building connections with the new coaches, Sirianni said that he had some guys over for the opening night of March Madness, and he’s enjoying that aspect of bringing in new people. He talked about trying to coordinate different events to bring everyone together, like wanting to call Doc Rivers about shooting around (well, well) before a Sixers game.

Sirianni talked briefly about former DB coach Dennard Wilson who was up for the Eagles’ DC job, with the head coach explaining that nothing really happened, and that they just mutually agreed to part ways. Wilson had a great opportunity waiting for him, and he is a coach that Sirianni and the players really appreciated. Sirianni didn’t want to get into specifics about whether they offered Wilson the chance to stay in Philly, but he did say that they always want to keep good coaches on staff.

He later talked about the cornerbacks and said it was huge to have both Darius Slay and James Bradberry back this season, citing their talent level and existing relationship as two really important pieces, as well as their two different leadership styles. Sirianni also said that the Eagles have a lot of confidence in Reed Blankenship, who showed his ability when he got the opportunity to play and then start later in the season. Blankenship was someone who shined in training camp when the pads came on, so they were happy to see that translate on game day.

On Jason Kelce returning and Cam Jurgens

Sirianni was asked about Cam Jurgens, and whether he would move over to guard with Kelce’s decision to return for another season. The head coach said they don’t have to make that final decision yet, and they will be focused on putting the five best players out on the field, but Jurgens has had a year of studying under one of the best players in franchise history.

“We’re obviously ecstatic to have Jason back. He does so much for this team on the field and off the field, and leadership roles with his play. Cam will just continue to learn from him, and sure, we’ll see what’s the best situation for Cam and for the team. But, we have a lot of confidence in Cam and we’re excited that he can play multiple positions.”

The head coach went on to say that OL coach Jeff Stoutland does a really good and thorough job of cross-training, especially with guys who play a backup role. So, Jurgens did get a lot of work last season at guard, as well as center.

Other notables

  • The head coach talked a little bit about his success at hiring coaches and coordinators from the college ranks, and how that worked out for him with Brian Johnson, and in Indy with Kevin Patullo. Looking at college coaches is how they found Johnson for the QB coach position two seasons ago, and they promoted him because he’s been on a two-year interview and he shines every day.
  • He was asked about Quez Watkins saying he took a step back last season, but Sirianni explained that the WR had fewer opportunities in 2022 compared to 2021, and gave Watkins credit for affecting the game in ways that don’t show up in the stats. Sirianni pointed to Watkins stretching the field, crossing over the middle to draw a safety away from A.J. Brown, and affecting the game in those ways. Still, he said Watkins taking accountability embodies the team’s messaging and focus.
  • Sirianni talked about having a shortened offseason thanks to their Super Bowl run, so they’ve structured things like self-scouting and draft prep a little differently this year. Still, he said that they had a really special journey leading up to the Super Bowl, and not winning it just makes them hungrier to get back there. But, as they’ve always done, the team will continue to focus on every day rather than the end goal.

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