Thursday, November 30, 2006

Problem #2: Jim Johnson/Defensive Coaches

jim johnson has had a nice run as the eagles d-coordinator. his defenses have consistently finished among the best in the league in pass defense and scoring defense, and they have been exciting and aggressive. however, for me, there has always been one critical factor about JJ defenses that i don't like -- they cannot beat good quarterbacks. JJ sells out to put pressure on the QB, and in general, he has had good success with it because there aren't that many good QBs in the league (at least ones that can handle pressure anyway)... but good QBs carve his defense up. badly.

the problem i see is that JJ plays defense like one of those super aggressive internet poker players, always going all-in and putting pressure on the other guy. the problem with that strategy is that it works really well against players who aren't as good as you but it gets you in trouble against players who are better than you. when you're facing an opponent who doesn't lose his head every time you put the pressure on them, they have a good chance of getting you in the long run. similarly, JJ's defenses do great against bad QBs, but tend to struggle against QBs who aren't flustered by the blitz.

this isn't a new problem, but i've always given him the benefit of the doubt because the defense was generally successful. he probably deserves some time to fix the problems based on historical performance, but i'm actually not that optimistic that he'll get it done. i recall reading something that bill belichick said one time about how gimmick defenses and offenses can have short term success, but over the long haul they are not good because they are not fundamentally sound and other people will eventually break them down. i've never heard him comment on JJ's scheme, but i often wonder if he thinks JJ's is fundamentally sound. i kind of doubt it. if it was, i doubt good QBs would carve it up as easy as they do.

before people start killing me about how good QBs carve up everybody else's defense too, let me state that i think the eagles do worse against good QBs than the average NFL defense. while i don't have much in the way of stats to back me up, i do have a specific example to use -- peyton manning. peyton manning absolutely owns jim johnson, and this past week's performance by the defense is not unprecedented against the colts. in fact, the eagles under JJ have never held the colts under 35 points. they've faced the colts three times under JJ and have given up 44, 35, 45 points. two of those games were with troy and bobby at corner. the first game was during a season when the eagles went 5-11, but the defense wasn't why that team went 5-11, doug pederson and the offense was. the defense was the strong point of that team and manning was only in his second year in the nfl. JJ should have been able to contain a second year QB.

sure, the eagles got run into the ground in this last game, so you can't directly attribute that to manning, but if you look deeper i think you can make a connection there. why? because manning is so in JJ's head, that JJ was willing to stay in nickel defense the whole game to keep the ball out of manning's hands. no adjustments, no changes. just a slow, painful, mashing.

this is not to say that the players are not at fault, they are, but if you are someone who thinks the defense lacks talent (i don't but i guess that's another story), then you have to look at JJ for that as well. why not heckert and reid? heckert and reid get JJ the kinds of players that JJ asks for. this defense is built in JJ's image. each player on the defense is the type of player that JJ asked for. want to complain about why the birds don't have a running back over 215 lbs? blame big red. want to complain about why the birds don't have a d-tackle over 295 lbs? blame JJ. want to complain about why the birds draft players like matt mccoy and trade for guys like mark simoneau? ask JJ. reid plays no part in the defensive scheming or roster. that's all JJ's call. this defense is built with the exact type of players that JJ has asked for and designed his defense around.

lastly, JJ's game planning has grown a little stale and predictable. it definitely seems that the league has caught up with JJ and JJ is struggling to adjust back. heck, if i can sit in the stands and see some tendencies, then JJ has a big problem. first play after the opponent crosses the 50? next play is way more often than not a blitz. first play after the opponent crosses the 20? same thing.

we've been hoping that JJ would re-adjust for a couple of seasons now since it was becoming obvious last season that some people had figured JJ out, but it hasn't happened yet.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

My problem with Andy and JJ's systems is that they heavy up so much on the pass, teams don't respect the run. When Pros can make a team go one dimensional, that's a big advantage, but the Eagles' choose to be one dimensional. I don't mind if they want to heavy up on the pass, but they must force teams to respect their ability to run and their run defense.

Part of the problem with the run defense has been how personnel has shaped up. Not playing Bunkley and getting rid of Hollis has left them without any heavy d-tackles. I don't know that Hollis is JJ's decision, I think that was more about his contract problems. They thought Bunkley could fill the role of a bigger DT, but they won't play him. I wouldn't have a problem with them playing some lighter d-tackles most of the time, but on some first downs and in run situations you have to have a guy to eat up blockers, especially when the linebackers can't get off a block.

JJ's predictability has become too big a liability on a team that can't count on a consistent offense to get the leads this small defense needs. I wouldn't be suprised to see them drop bowtie man and go after a SAM, even they can see this linebacking situation is out of control. They'd be better off moving Jones to the WIL and using McCoy as a nickel LB, but they won't do that because McCoy is cheaper. Even if they bring in another coordinator, the flaws will be too much unless they get a situational run stuffer and at least one OLB.


2:59 PM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

oh man, lots of true statements...not to say that this situation is dire, but it's dire. tonight is a must win, and the good thing is, we can cuss and discuss in the parking lot prior to the game....I can cart out my cry for a new coach and you guys can shoot me down...if this team pulls out another embarrassing prime time display, what is the next recourse?

9:10 AM EST  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

Just read that Omar Gaither is getting the start ahead of McCoy, it only took them over half a season to see that McCoy can't play.

9:30 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'm almost rooting for a loss tonight. Not really but kinda. A win and we're all sucked back in again (they're almost in a woldcard position now). A win gets them closer to thinking they can get by with a tweak instead of wholesale changes. I'm begining to loathe football again.

12:40 PM EST  
Blogger Matador said...

Thank goodness Lito can catch better than the rest of the Eagles' receivers. I'm totally sucked back in now.

2:11 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Pete!

Need your review of the game!!! Didn't see the game last night and I need to hear your insight.


10:49 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:36 AM EDT  

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