Tag Archives: Jim Johnson

10 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into Training Camp

If you followed on Twitter earlier this morning, I shared ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

While this isn’t considered part of our 44-day series, stuff like this is fun to do on occasion and will surface every now and then. Be it predictions or random thoughts, a post is a good way to expand on 140-character tidbits.

Below is our first edition of 2015:

  1. Cody Parkey is really good. It’s theoretically hard for a rookie to only miss four kicks and be even better in Year 2. He’s capable of it. Note: There isn’t much else to add here. It was clear that Parkey’s leg was tired toward the end of last year, never having been through a 16-game season before. Still, Parkey was 8-for-10 on field goals beyond 40 yards out while also consistently putting kickoffs in the end zone and should again set the bar high in Year 2.
  2. Marcus Smith is not. Odds may be against me, but I’ll stick to my prediction that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Note: Most roster projections will have Smith on the team, but it’s less of a slam dunk than people think. Smith doesn’t play special teams, and while part of that can be chalked up to the unit being so good last year that they didn’t need the services of a rookie, there’s no room for the first-round disappointment if he doesn’t show major strides from a pass-rushing standpoint in camp.
  3. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford will both have good seasons, but I am much more confident in Foles having one than I am Bradford. Note: Foles, in what was perceived to be a ‘poor’ season last year before getting hurt in early November, was still more productive than Bradford has been in some of his better seasons. A lot of excuses have been made for Bradford, and some of them, including a lack of skill position talent around him and a poor offensive line, hold water, but many assumptions have also been made about a career year in a quarterback friendly system that are less than a guarantee.
  4. Re-signing Brandon Graham was probably the correct decision, but I am concerned about how he holds up in a full-time starter role. Note: Graham, to his credit, has shed the ‘bust’ label that was stuck on him early in his career but has still never played more than 43% of a team’s total snaps during the season. The goal of free agency and player personnel decisions is ultimately to pay more for what you think you can get in the future and less so what you got in the past, and that’s what the Eagles did here. Let’s hope it was a wise investment.
  5. If Graham can play, this is the best Eagles front-7 since early Jim Johnson days, and it has the potential to be even better than that. Note: Kiko Alonso has a chance to be the best Eagles linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here. Consistency is a question, but this unit should be a major strength.
  6. Vinny Curry will be extra hungry this season, and if he puts his napkin on his lap, Billy Davis might even let him have a second dessert. Note: After playing sparingly as a rookie during the 2012 season, Curry has improved year-by-year, first with four sacks in 2013 and then reaching nine last year to go with four forced fumbles in an increased role on the defensive line. Bet your friend that he gets double digits this year and thank me in mid-December.
  7. There’s two NFL coaches I would take over Chip Kelly, and both coached in the Super Bowl last year. Could make a case for Harbaugh/Tomlin too. Note: Considering 15 other coaches have won playoff games and Kelly hasn’t, folks could certainly have a bone to pick with this one. Still, I think there are some who if starting a team right now would take Kelly as their coach in a heartbeat. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, by the way, won a combined 29 games in their first two seasons as NFL coaches. Kelly, by himself, has won 20 after taking over a 4-12 squad.
  8. The Eagles opener scares the shit out of me. They have really struggled against Dallas at home. Lose to Atlanta, and you’re looking at 0-2.  Note: The Eagles are 2-0 in season openers under Kelly, although last year’s was certainly far from perfect with the 17-0 halftime deficit to the Jaguars. Hopefully the record stays unblemished as playing a division opponent on short rest who you can’t beat at home recently would be a scary task.
  9. Nelson Agholor will have a better rookie season than Jordan Matthews did last year, and concern about wide receiver depth is overblown. Note: We’ll get more into this during our series. Coop Dawgy is not good and ideally will lose playing time rather quickly, but the rookie from USC should ease the pain of Jeremy Maclin’s departure.
  10. I don’t know if the Eagles are better than last season, but I’m semi-confident they’re not worse, and for the time being, that’s alright. Note: Part of me is worried that Kelly reshuffled chairs on the Titanic as opposed to ultimately strengthening a roster that needed strengthening, but I don’t believe he made them worse. That, all things considered, is not an awful situation in early August.
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The Eagles are Playing Chicago (?) to Open the Preseason; That’s Weird and Awesome

Football is kinda back, and the Eagles are in the windy city to begin preseason play against the Chicago Bears at 8 p.m. tonight.

If the location and opponent catches anyone off guard, I feel you. When the game kicks off at Soldier Field, it will mark the first time the Eagles have played an exhibition game against an NFC opponent other than the Panthers in quite some time.

All three of the contests against the Panthers were at home, so it’s a bit weird to see the Eagles travel this far, but to be honest I like it.

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Patriots Steelers Raiders Ravens Steelers Patriots Jaguars Ravens Steelers Patriots
Ravens Ravens Browns Panthers Panthers Colts Bengals Steelers Patriots Panthers
Steelers Bengals Ravens Steelers Patriots Jaguars Chiefs Browns Browns Jaguars
Jets Jets Steelers Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets
Jets

The birds won’t see the Bears this season unless the two squads meet in the playoffs, and this is a nice change of pace instead of seeing the Browns or Jaguars.

The Bears were one of only three teams to outscore the Eagles last season and the only team in the NFC to accomplish the feat. I have no idea how long Marc Trestman plans on playing his starters, but seeing Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, and co. should be a nice test for Billy Davis’ defense.

The final record from last season may read 8-8, but Chicago was seconds away from an NFC North division title and home playoff game. Then, Aaron Rodgers escaped a sack, everyone completely lost track of Randall Cobb, and the Bears, like the Cowboys would be a few hours later at the hands of the Eagles, watched their season conclude in heartbreaking fashion in their house with no playoffs.

Of course, the Bears could have made that finale against the Packers irrelevant had they simply defeated an Eagles team the week before with little to truly play for that night.

That may be my favorite part about seeing the Bears again in a meaningless game as it allows me to reminisce back to that magical late December night last winter.

That night was supposed to be relatively ‘meaningless’ for the Eagles. Win or lose, they would have to wait a week to punch their ticket to the Promised Land. A funny thing happened though — The Eagles made the game anything but meaningless for themselves and the folks in attendance — myself included, who had never before been able to experience the atmosphere of a Sunday Night NFL game.

Eagles Ticket

It was a complete ass-kicking from start to finish with an overmatched Bears team never standing a chance. Trent Cole sacked Jay Cutler on the game’s third play. Nick Foles found Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone seven plays later. Devin Hester then fumbled the kickoff, and before you could blink, it was 14-0, and then 21-0, and then 24-0.

The rout was on, and it was only just beginning. There was a safety, and then Cutler got pummeled some more, and a Brandon Boykin pick six.

With eight minutes remaining in the Bears’ misery and the Eagles leading 47-11 after Boykin took a Cutler pass 54 yards the other way, the young cornerback and Chip Kelly were displayed on the Lincoln Financial Field video boards mid-hug. New era indeed.

“Rock and Roll all Night” by Kiss blasted through the stadium, and fans who earlier that afternoon were bummed they would have to wait another week to win the division, went wild. Absorbing, the moment, it was hard to believe that less than two months ago the Eagles had been caught in an ugly stretch that saw their winless streak at home reach 10.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to act at football games, but as the performance of the team slipped in 2011 and 2012, the place seemed to take on too much of a country club atmosphere.

Not on that night. For the first time in over three years, the Linc was happy again, and as Kiss faded out and anti-Cowboys chants reverberated around the stadium on a glorious December evening past 11 p.m. there wasn’t a person there who didn’t believe the division was ours and that there would be a playoff game back here two weeks later.

Even though we had to wait another week for the ultimate prize, that electric night brought us “We’re from Philadelphia and we fight,” and “We want Dallas.”

Even if this one is truly meaningless and in your house, it’s good to see you again so soon, Bears.

Chip GIF

Editor’s Note: I would like to produce some more serious and analytical #content when time permits. I realize there has been a mix of trolly, tongue-and-cheek, repetitive, and sentimental so far, but I promise you that when something an important topic is explored thoroughly, it will be done well. Here is a post I did on Nick Foles with a ton of data that you can check out (because you can never have too many Nick Foles think pieces)

The Eagles are Still Planning for the 2104 Season According to their Training Camp Program

Six days ago, we brought you some news that the Eagles training camp program featured an interesting line in the “Offseason Recap” section.

You can read more details about it here, but to catch people up quickly, we explored whether the number “2104” was simply a typo by some intern or a genius Freudian slip to show off the innovative nature of Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, perhaps an ode to Kelly’s line last December that Nick Foles was the “starting quarterback for the next 1000 years.”

Earlier this afternoon, the birds were back at Lincoln Financial Field for their second open practice and the line once again reads:

In the truest sense, the building of the 2104 Philadelphia Eagles roster began just days after the 2013 season ended. 

In the picture atop the post, the program from last Monday is on the left while today’s is on the right.

Multiple attempts to reach the Eagles seeking comment have to this point been unsuccessful.  A few tweets to the best social media team in the city pointing out the line have not yet received a reply.

Your Philadelphia Eagles, folks. Always ahead of the game, always innovating.

#MakesYouThink

Related Eagles coverage you might enjoy:

Mike Freeman sucks

Nick Foles is for real

Jim Johnson was awesome

Chip Kelly is so Damn Innovative that the Eagles are Planning for the Year 2014 According to Their Training Camp Program 

Chip Kelly is so Damn Innovative that the Eagles are Planning for the Year 2104 According to Their Training Camp Program

Earlier this afternoon the Eagles held their first open training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field.

For many fans, it was their first time back in the stadium since the Saints ended the Eagles season shortly before midnight back on January 4.

Like most teams do, the Eagles distributed training camp programs as people made their way through the gates of the Linc. The program is pretty cut and dry with your season schedule, a roster, some player features, and a few advertisements.

The opening sentence of the “Offseason Recap” section sticks out though.

In the truest sense, the building of the 2104 Philadelphia Eagles roster began just days after the 2013 season ended. 

The logical conclusion is to simply believe someone made a typo. But could there be more to this?

Remember last November when Chip Kelly got tired of answering questions about his quarterback situation and named Nick Foles the Eagles “starting quarterback for the next 1000 years.”

Well, maybe Chip decided a millennium is a long time to commit to a guy, but there’s nothing wrong with nine decades.

I will gladly take Kelly and Howie Roseman planning 90 years in advance over Jerry Jones still believing it is 1994 down in Dallas, completely puzzled when it comes to managing a salary cap.

So, mistake by some intern who inverted the numbers or a fantastic Freudian slip?

#MakesYouThink

Related Eagles coverage you might enjoy:

Mike Freeman sucks

Nick Foles is for real

Jim Johnson was awesome 

Jim Johnson Died Five Years Ago Today and I Cried a Lot

Truth be told, I cannot explain exactly why I’m writing this post.

Even after it was finished and ready to go, I had a couple second thoughts before hitting publish. I didn’t want it to seem like I was using the anniversary of someone’s death as a way to generate clicks on a blog.

I don’t have any type of cool anecdote about Jim Johnson. There is a hat of mine autographed by some players and coaches during a few trips to Lehigh for training camp back in the day.

Eagles Hat Blog Post

The Eagles former defensive coordinator unfortunately isn’t one of the signatures. Never once met the man.

I think, however, I’m doing this because despite never crossing paths with the guy, I loved Jim Johnson and never properly said goodbye.

Everyone knew Johnson’s battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse, but it felt like the end came so quickly.

On the day Johnson passed away, I had been off the grid for about 12 hours from early in the morning until around 8 p.m. I was working as a camp counselor the summer before heading off to college, and it coincidentally happened to be the one day of the entire camp season that I had to work late, unable to check my phone or access the Internet.

Anyone who knows me now would wonder how I was able to do that, but it was the case back then. As I was walking to my car, a lifeguard stopped me and delivered the news. I can’t recall exactly what I said in response, but I got in the car and immediately turned on sports radio hoping it somehow wasn’t true.

But sadly it was. The defending World Series champion Phillies were 24 hours away from pulling off a blockbuster trade with rumors about Roy Halladay running rampant, and sure enough, WIP was discussing Johnson’s life and Eagles tenure, hosts and callers as distraught as I was about to become.

Before I could pull out of the parking lot, tears had already begun dripping down my face. They got heavier as the drive continued. At one point, I had to slam on my breaks to avoid running through a red light that I barely noticed.

Loved by players and fans, respected universally by colleagues,  and deeply feared by opponents — Legend. For 10 years, he would appear on your television screen on Sundays, and you knew everything would be relatively okay. No longer seeing that gray hair tucked under an Eagles hat and headset on the sidelines wasn’t going to be the same.

I was supposed to see my then-girlfriend upon getting home from work but still trying to compose myself, I told her that I needed a little while. ‘Jim Johnson died,’ I texted (or something very similar along those lines)

I don’t think she knew who Jim Johnson was, but rather than completely blowing it off, she kinda pretended to care, so that was cool.

Still home and wiping my eyes after delivering the news to my dad, I logged onto Facebook and posted a pretty generic RIP status. One of my best friends who I always texted during Eagles games sent me a message that said something along the lines of ‘For someone who loved him so much, I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t come up with anything deeper.’

I tried again, but still shaken, this was the best I could do, unable to really put into words what it meant to me.

Jim Johnson Facebook

I was sad and mad — Sad that cancer had stopped the 68-year old from doing what he loved and what he was best at too soon, sad that in what turned out to be his final game six months earlier, his ‘bend but don’t break defense’ had broken late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles clinging to a 25-24 lead and 10 minutes to go, Arizona marched 72 yards while eating up 7:52 of game time.

The drive ended in a touchdown. The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Johnson never got to coach another game, and the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since.

Most of all, I was sad that for all his hard work and all of the terrific defenses he oversaw, Johnson never got to hoist a Lombardi trophy.

Even in a lot of the Eagles playoff losses during Johnson’s reign, a collapse like that was so rare. A week earlier, his unit held the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to three field goals in an upset victory.

In a span of three years, he twice stifled Michael Vick during the prime of his Atlanta Falcons career, limiting him to a 53.2 completion percentage and a combined 406 passing yards, 56 rushing yards, yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions over two playoff games.

I don’t watch the Steelers on a week-to-week basis to fully appreciate Dick LeBeau, but I’ve never seen a defensive coordinator call a game and confuse opponents the way Johnson consistently did.

Going back to that Facebook status though, perhaps it wasn’t so bad. I’ve always said that coordinators need players to make their schemes truly go, but as guys came and went through the years, Johnson never lost a step.

According to an ESPN article published a week after his passing, Johnson’s defenses between 2000 and 2008 ranked second in sacks, third down efficiency, and red zone percentage.

Here’s a chart that further shows how good he was and the significant drop-off after he was gone.

Year Points Allowed Average Per Game League Rank Made Playoffs Playoff Victory
1999 357 22.3 22nd No No
2000 245 15.3 4th Yes Yes
2001 208 13 2nd Yes Yes
2002 241 15.1 2nd Yes Yes
2003 287 17.9 7th Yes Yes
2004 260 16.3 2nd Yes Yes
2005 388 24.3 27th No No
2006 328 20.5 15th Yes Yes
2007 300 18.8 9th No No
2008 289 18.1 4th Yes Yes
2009 337 21.1 19th Yes No
2010 377 23.6 21st Yes No
2011 328 20.5 10th No No
2012 444 27.8 29th No No
2013 382 23.9 17th Yes No

Sean McDermott initially had the challenge of being the guy to replace “the guy,” and he was decent but deemed not good enough at the time. So thinking he was closer to a Super Bowl than he actually was, Andy Reid fired him after two years.

Then, Andy Reid Andy Reid’d harder than he had ever Andy Reid’d before, replacing McDermott with Juan Castillo. A passionate worker and teacher but never having coached defense in the NFL before, it was an unmitigated disaster,

The missed tackles, the blown coverage assignments, the lack of effort, all of it would have had Johnson rolling in his grave had he saw what had become of his once proud defense.

Despite the still somewhat ugly numbers in that chart, things stabilized in 2013 when Chip Kelly brought in Billy Davis to run the show.

Davis took a group of scheme misfits and castoffs from other places and made a defense out of it. For the first time in a long time, things are looking kinda up on that side of the ball.

When someone like Johnson no longer has his job, the typical attitude is that the team looking to fill his role has to find an exact replica, “The Next  Jim Johnson” if you will. But that’s impossible. The reason he was so good is the exact same reason he is so irreplaceable.

Since Johnson has been gone, the game has changed a decent amount. Offenses are faster and more innovative with spread formations and wide open schemes. Still, it’s unlikely the final couple years of the Reid era would have gotten as ugly as they did had Johnson still been by his side.

The Eagles current head coach is one of the leaders of that innovation charge, but for as much as I love him, for as much as any intelligent Eagles fan loves him, part of the city has always identified with a dominant defense, and that’s a big reason Johnson was so beloved.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any special anecdote, but I thought this one from Reuben Frank of CSN Philly was pretty good. A few days before the 2005 Super Bowl, Frank casually asks Johnson if he’s enjoying Jacksonville and he responds bluntly with “I’ve got Tom Brady on Sunday.”

The man just ate, slept, and breathed football.

He died at the same time my situation was beginning to change and looking back, I think that’s maybe what contributed to the initial sadness. I was a month away from going to college and preparing to leave a good amount of my life behind.

It sucks because you know things will never be exactly the same, but you try to solider on because what else are you going to do?

The Eagles in time have begun picking up the pieces and appear primed to make another Super Bowl run behind rising star Nick Foles over the next few seasons.

Crying over Johnson five years later won’t bring him back or make the defense as dominant as it once was, but it will help preserve memories of a great run under a brilliant coordinator. Certain people are worth occasionally crying over. Certain people worth crying over who you’ve never met? Now that’s a bit more complex, but he was one of those folks for me.

I’ll watch the Eagles practice at Lincoln Financial Field today and at some point look skyward and tear up for a split second thinking about the legend who provided so many childhood memories.

I attempted to express some of this five years ago tonight and came up pretty empty, so now, I’m trying again.

I miss you so much, Jim Johnson, and I hope you’re having fun designing blitz packages in heaven right now.