Browns interview Eagles' top assistant Dennard Wilson for D.C. job

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Jan. 14—The Browns continued their search for a defensive coordinator on Jan. 14 when they interviewed Dennard Wilson, currently the defensive passing game coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles earned a bye in the playoffs by finishing with the best record (14-3) in the NFC, so this was a perfect opportunity to interview Wilson, a former college defensive back who has spent most of his coaching career with the secondary.

If Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is making finding a defensive coordinator that can minimize giving up explosive plays a priority, Wilson could be the man who ends up replacing Joe Woods. Woods was fired on Jan. 8, hours after a season-ending 28-14 loss to the Steelers, after three seasons in Cleveland.

The NFL defines explosive plays as runs of 10 yards or longer and pass plays of 20 yards or longer. The Eagles allowed 39 explosive pass plays in 2022 — the fewest in the league. By comparison, the Browns allowed 45 explosive pass plays.

Wilson has the endorsement of the Eagles' Darius Slay, who finished fifth among cornerbacks on the 2022 Associated Press All-Pro team. Wilson just completed his second season as an Eagles assistant. He was defensive backs coach in 2021 before defensive passing coordinator was added to his title.

"I'm not going to sit here and play around," Slay told NBC Sports at the end of the 2021 season. "Dennard, man, he's been a great coach. He helped me elevate my game to a whole 'nother level.

"He ain't never steered me wrong, not once yet. I'm just surprised he's been in the game 15 years and not had a D.C. job because he's a smart dude. And he played in this league before, so I won't be surprised if sooner or later he has one of them jobs."

Wilson is 40 years old. He was a defensive back on the Washington Redskins practice squad in 2004 but never played in an NFL game. He played in 42 games and made 32 starts as a cornerback and safety at Maryland in his college career.

Wilson did not coach on a college sideline. He broke into coaching as a quality control coach with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 and held that position for three years. Prior to that he was a pro scout for the Bears from 2008-11.

Three years as a quality control coach opened the door for what Wilson is doing now. He coached the Rams defensive backs in 2015-16. Jeff Fisher was fired as head coach after the 2016 season and replaced by Rams current head coach Sean McVay. McVay did not retain Wilson.

Wilson landed with the Jets as their defensive backs coach in 2017-18 when Todd Bowles was the Jets' head coach. Adam Gase took over when Bowles was fired and promoted Wilson to defensive passing game coordinator.

Gase was fired after two disastrous seasons (9-23) and replaced by Robert Saleh. Saleh did not retain Wilson, but Wilson was not unemployed long. The Eagles hired Wilson in 2021 and now he is on a staff with realistic hopes of winning the Super Bowl.

The statistic about the Eagles allowing the fewest explosive passing plays in 2022 isn't a fluke. In Wilson's first season in Philadelphia, the Eagles allowed the fifth-fewest explosive plays in passing and running combined (117), eighth-fewest passing yards per attempt (6.8) and 10th-fewest total yards per game (328.8) in the NFL.