Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LIKE YOU'RE GOING AGAINST FIFTEEN GUYS OUT THERE ON DEFENSE: Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has succumbed in his battle with cancer. He was 68.

Whatever problems Eagles fans have had during the Reid-Lurie years, no one has ever questioned how tremendous Jim Johnson's defense was. "Exotic blitz" barely scratches the surface of how confounding his strategies became. Any player, any play, any angle was vulnerable. And the results speak for themselves -- seven playoff appearances and five conference championship games in ten years with the Eagles, winning every first round playoff game he coached and only once (against Arizona last season) giving up 30+ points in a playoff game. A 2001 season (and overall 34 game streak) in which his defense never yielded more than 21 points or 300 yards passing. Twenty-six defensive Pro Bowl appearances for his Eagles players. As SalPal noted:
Under Johnson, the Eagles have ranked near the top in almost every important defensive category in the last decade. Since 2000, the Eagles have been second in sacks (390), tied for second in tackles for a loss (457), second in forced fumbles (159), second in red zone efficiency (43.9 percent), and second in third down efficiency (34 percent). During the Johnson era, the Eagles have finished fourth in the NFL in points allowed -- just 17.7 per game.

I'm trying to think of another coach in Philadelphia during my lifetime who was as respected as Johnson, who was never criticized by the fans even when losing. Billy Cunningham, maybe. But that's it. Johnson will be dearly missed.

added: One way to appreciate Johnson is to just look at the play-by-play of the Super Bowl champion Steelers offense when they visited Philadelphia last September. Nine sacks, three turnovers, a safety, 2/13 on third down, just 180 net yards allowed.

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