Eagles' Defensive Coordinator Talks Cardinals

Can the Eagles stop Larry Fitzgerald?

The Eagles' secondary is biting at the chomps ready to take on the league's best receivers. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are guaranteed to bring a show. It's the Eagles' Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson's job to make sure Arizona fans ask for their money back. He talks about Arizona's high-octane air attack, Kurt Warner's changing scouting report and more.

On whether he thought this defense had the ability to play this well at the half-way point of the season:

"I said a long time ago, ‘We just have to get more consistent.' That was the difference. I think we're more consistent in the last six or seven weeks. We're not giving up big plays and we're being better in the red zone. I thought, before, we were good one game and we were kind of so-so the next game. At least, the last six or seven weeks, we've been very consistent on takeaways and pressure in the red zone."

On whether this defense is "there":

"We're going to find out Sunday. This is a big game, this is going to be a tough game and we've got to play one of our better games this Sunday. I don't think people realize how good [Arizona QB] Kurt Warner is and how much better this team is right now. This is going to be a tough game for us."

On whether he even watched the film of the Thanksgiving game vs. Arizona in preparation for this Sunday:

"We turned it on to study certain things, but we know it's a different ballclub because we were up 21-nothing. Now, they're kind of running the ball because they're ahead. When they get ahead now, they're running the ball and they do a pretty good job of running the ball. It's a different offense right now. When they were playing us, it was strictly passing because they got so far behind."

On the defense being so solid in the running game, despite not having a Pro Bowler in the front seven:

"Every Sunday, it seems like we've got some different guys stepping up. They kind of spread the wealth a little bit. You're going to have defensive teams like that, that don't have a lot of Pro Bowlers. We've got a lot of good, solid football players and they're playing at a pretty good level right now."

On who he considers an impact-player in the front seven:


Anquan Boldin
(Getty)

"I think [DE] Trent Cole is still an impact player. You always have to pay attention to Trent. We have a lot of good players, but you still have to pay attention to Trent."

On Arizona WR Anquan Boldin practicing and what he brings to the offense:

"We played against him last time. He's an excellent receiver. He doesn't have that speed like the other guys do, but he's a great receiver after the catch. Again, it just gives them their four good wideouts; that's the difference. But, we went against them last time and we expect them to play. He's a good competitor and he's a good receiver."

On whether he plans to coach from the sideline or press box on Sunday:

"Game-time decision."

On DTs Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson not getting a lot of playing time in the first game vs. Arizona because Arizona passed the ball so much:

"I think you'll see them a lot more, because I think they'll be more of a running team this week. It just depends on how the game goes. When they got behind so fast, we jumped on them, and, all of the sudden, we were playing a lot of nickel and dime. I anticipate us playing more of our base defense this game. They've committed more to the run, also. They've changed their philosophy, the defense is playing well, they're getting turnovers, and they're hanging in there. They're not behind, they're ahead, and they say, ‘Hey, we're going to run the football.' I think their philosophy has changed."

On whether he still feels that the defense needs to stop the pass first against Arizona:

"I think you still have to look at their two main guys, and that's [WR Larry] Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner. I think they're two of the better players in the NFL. They've become more balanced with [RB] Edgerrin James playing, and stuff like that. Of course, they've got some other good receivers, but Fitzgerald is a special guy and Kurt Warner's a special quarterback."

On whether he sees more from the press box:

"Yeah, there's plus and minus. I've been up there and the concentration, sometimes, might be better up there. You see some things. Sometimes, the hardest thing is just wanting to get at them right away; adjustments or stuff like that. There's the good and the bad, but it was fine last Sunday. It really was."


Larry Fitzgerald
(Getty)

On what makes Fitzgerald so special:

"The leaping ability. When you throw the ball up, he comes down with it. You could put a highlight film of all the double coverage where Kurt Warner just lays it up there and, for some ungodly reason, he comes down with it all the time. He's as good as I've seen on the long ball."

On Arizona CB and former Eagle Rod Hood and whether he thought Hood would have success in the NFL:

"Yeah. If we didn't have our corners, he would have been a starter here, no question about it. Rod's a very physical player; a great bump-and-run player. You like his toughness and he would have been a starter for us if we would have had an injury or two."

On whether it's not enough to play good defense on Fitzgerald, you have to play great defense and get lucky too:

"Yeah, you've got to fight for every ball when the ball's in the air because he'll come down with it if you don't. He's a special guy that way."

On whether the defensive backs are looking forward to playing Fitzgerald:

"I think they are. I think Dawk [FS Brian Dawkins]—the safeties are the ones who are going to have to make plays on a lot of those balls."

On SS Quintin Mikell and when he thought that Mikell could be a starter:

"I think two years ago. I think he struggled a little bit, just knowing the system. The safety really has to know a lot of the system more than the other players, besides the linebackers. All the sudden, you just saw this confidence, about two years ago. Once he got that, he was making plays. He's a tough guy. He really is a tough guy, has good speed and good quickness. We knew we were going to play him, we just didn't know if he was ever going to be a starter. All of the sudden, he started and he showed us he could handle everything and, of course, he's become a very good player right now."

On whether Mikell is one of those players that's always studying and watching film:

"Yeah, he's a pro. He's a pro, he's there a lot, he takes notes. He's one of those guys that just wants to get better all the time. He wants to be a Pro Bowl player."


Brian Dawkins
(Getty)

On how he quantifies what a player like Dawkins brings to a locker room:

"His leadership, this year, has just been outstanding. He has really taken over, as far as being the leader of this team. He was a leader before, but he was kind of a quiet leader. He's become more of a vocal leader and he's playing very well. He's playing at a good level and, also, his leadership has just been outstanding this year."

On how he feels the rush defense is playing after the last two games against good running teams like Minnesota and New York:

"I think we're a good rush defense. I think our tackles have done a great job and I think our linebackers have done a good job. I feel confident in that. I think, when we went against the Giants, and again, that's just a very good running team, they got some yardage on us on a couple blitzes and that, but I think we can hold our own against most people."

On whether he thinks it's necessary keep the schemes fresh:

"I think you have to, first of all, to keep the players thinking all the time. Plus, you want to put that pressure on the offense. We come up with little things here and there. Sometimes it's stuff we haven't used in maybe three or four years too; just like a library. We're always trying to have the offense think about something else, plus having our players not just go to meetings to go to meetings. They have to pick up new stuff and it keeps them sharp too."

On whether it keeps the coaches sharp as well:

"Yeah, I think so."

On how hard it is to synch up having a good offense and defense in the same year:

"I don't know if it happens a lot or not. I think, going into this season, we all felt good about this team, offensively and defensively. We were staying healthy. I think, realistically, we thought we had a good, balanced team; plus the addition of special teams, with their two young guys. We thought we had a good balance. We hit a couple bumps in the road, we didn't play as well, but we brought it around. When [QB] Donovan's [McNabb] on, he's as good as there is, and he's been on."


Kurt Warner
(Getty)

On how the scouting report on Kurt Warner has changed over the years:

"Right now, Kurt Warner is one of the best in the league, as far as blitzes. His percentage, as far as blitzes against him, is one of the tops in the league. I think that's better than it was years ago. I think, with experience, he's still got a nice arm and has a quick delivery. With experience, he sees things so much better, he's getting rid of that ball and not taking sacks. Even last time, we didn't sack him. We pressured him, made him throw off rhythm, but we didn't sack him. He doesn't take a lot of sacks. I think that's what's changed a little bit. He still shows toughness, staying in that pocket. At 37 years old, getting banged around, he stays in that pocket. I think he's playing as well as he ever has."

On how Warner's ability to handle blitzes affects how the Eagles will try to pressure him:

"It's not going to change our philosophy. We're going to do what we've been doing, we just know that he does a great job with the blitz."

On what his first impression of Brian Dawkins was, when they first met:

"Ten years ago? A young kid that could fly around, had great quickness and great toughness. I knew that he was going to be a good blitzer for us, and he has been over the years. But also, I knew that he had cover ability. He was very quiet back then; very, very quiet. He didn't say much, but I think he had some success and he liked the scheme, and stuff like that. I knew that he was going to be a special player for us."

On how tough it is for banged-up players at this point in the season:

"The thing about it is we've got young linebackers and that makes a difference. We've got a rotation on our defensive line, where Bunkley and Patterson don't have to play all the time and [DE Darren] Howard doesn't have to play all the time. Trent plays a lot, but we've got a good rotation in, like [DE] Chris Clemons coming in for JP [DE Juqua Parker], so that makes a difference too. I think our linebackers, like I said, they're young guys and they can run all day. The secondary, we always worry about Dawk getting banged up once in a while, but we've got a couple backups who are getting pretty good."

On whether Clemons has developed into what he expected when he was signed: "Yeah. I didn't think he would be as fast; he's faster than I thought. He's got a great second-gear, when he turns it on. I knew he was going to be a good pass-rusher, as he was a good pass-rusher with the Raiders, but he really has shown something with his speed and how bright he is. He's very smart."

On whether Clemons picked the defense up well:

"Yeah. He started off kind of slow, because he was injured and wasn't getting the reps and stuff like that, but, eventually, he picked it up and he's pretty sharp."

On whether it's important in the playoffs to stick to your gameplan and not simply react to what the offense does:

"Yeah, I don't think you change much when you go into the playoffs. You have to watch yourself. It's another game and you go with a basic gameplan. If you try to get too much into stuff like that, pretty soon, you're not playing with your defense. Our philosophy is this, ‘Don't put too much in. What got us here, let's go with that.' We might add a wrinkle here or there. In your mind, we all know it's a big game, but it's another game."

CardinalFootballTalk.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


Forums


0 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets