Coaches’ critique: Defensive backs coach Wilson’s group shuts down Jefferson and Vikings

Posted on September 23, 2022

You might not know this name: Dennard Wilson. Hard-core Eagles fans do, of course.

Wilson is the Eagles’ defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs. He originally joined the Eagles in 2021 as defensive backs coach.

In this week’s coaches’ critique — where we look at the performance of the Eagles’ coaches, good and bad — we sing well-earned praises for Wilson and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.

Gannon took a beating in Week One when the Eagles squeezed out a 38-35 victory in Detroit. The defense bounced back this week, with a snarl, as the Eagles defeated the Vikings, 24-7.

  • “If you listen to outside noise and you let it affect you, good and bad, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Gannon said.
  • “We preach to our players and we wear it on our sleeves as well. So honestly, I don’t feel any more pressure from anyone outside of this building.
  • “The most pressure I put on myself is because of myself. And that’s how I’ve been since I was a kid.
  • “The pressure that I have on myself, is the same that was last year, Week One, Week Two, training camp. It really doesn’t matter to me.”


Minnesota’s great wide receiver Justin Jefferson was all but shut down by Wilson and Gannon’s group. A week after he burned the Packers for 184 yards on nine catches and two touchdowns, Jefferson ran into Eagles cornerback Darius Slay … and others.

Jefferson had six ho-hum catches for 48 yards. Slay had two catches himself — interceptions in the red zone of passes intended for Jefferson.

Truth is, Slay had excellent interception opportunities on two other errant passes. The Eagles’ secondary was aggressive tracking Jefferson and Adam Thielen, who was invisible until garbage time in the game’s final few minutes.

“Probably just a little bit of some of those calls are, they allow for certain things to happen within the call,” Gannon said about the defense’s aggression.

“Then when we, the DB coaches [Wilson; assistant defensive backs coach D.K. McDonald], linebacker coach [Nick Rallis] did a good job of, ‘Hey, these certain calls we want to get tighter at times because of A, B and C.’

“And that’s not always like that throughout a week. I think our guys saw that the best way to play that team was how we played them. And they went out and executed. So, it’s kudos really to the players.”


Coach Nick Sirianni talked about playing in a tough city and how Gannon deals with the pressure.

  • “He [Gannon] didn’t allow anything to affect him on that,” Sirianni said. “That’s a great quality to have.
  • “Not everybody has it and not everybody is built to coach, I get it, not everybody is built to coach in this city or play in this city … 
  • “It’s dawg mentality to say: I am here right now. I don’t care what I did in the past. I don’t care if it was this good or that bad.
  • “I’m right here right now and working on how I’m getting better today because if I continue that trend, I’ll get better. 
  • “That’s Gannon, too. Obviously, what I like about the game plan, he didn’t let their best player beat us. He did that in multiple ways, it wasn’t just all … Slay.
  • “Sometimes it was Slay and sometimes it was Slay and a different coverage guy in it and sometimes it was a pressure and Slay was the only guy on it. That’s good coaching to me.”


The Eagles made life miserable for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. In a victory over the Packers, Cousins was 23-of-32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns.

Against the Eagles, Cousins’ numbers slid — 27-of-46 for 221 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Cousins was sacked three times and harassed many other times from the Eagles’ blitz. When the Eagles blitzed, that left the secondary on a single-coverage island — which they handled quite well.

Coming into the offseason, the Eagles cornerbacks were considered a weak spot, not on par with other position groups. When the Eagles signed free agent James Bradberry, they had a talented running mate for Slay.

Their nickel back, Avonte Maddox, is a rising player, a force in the secondary.

The secondary will have another challenge Sunday with Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz and talented receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, rookie Jahan Dotson and tight end Logan Thomas.


Wilson has been around. He started his NFL front office career in 2008 as a pro scout with the Bears. He was there three years.

From 2012-14, he was the defensive quality control coach for the Rams. In 2015-16, he was the Rams’ defensive backs coach.

From 2017-18, he was the Jets’ defensive backs coach. In 2019-20, he was the Jets’ passing game coordinator along with coaching the defensive backs.

There isn’t much Wilson hasn’t seen.

After Monday night’s game, Justin Jefferson has seen all he wants of Darius Slay and his mates — and Dennard Wilson.

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Chuck Bausman

Chuck Bausman is an Eagles writer for Chuck formerly was the Executive Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Executive Sports Editor of the Courier-Post in South Jersey. He learned how to cuss by watching Philly sports.

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