Originally created 01/25/02

Blitz-happy Eagles are coming after Warner



PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles will blitz and they'll send just about anybody - any down, any situation, any place on the field.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson relies heavily on the blitz to generate pressure on quarterbacks and force turnovers. The St. Louis Rams know they have to be ready for it when they play the Eagles in the NFC championship game on Sunday.

"We've been very good against the blitz," Rams quarterback Kurt Warner said. "With the guys that we've got, we always welcome the opportunity to try to attack it and try to get big plays off of it."

But Philadelphia's blitz isn't typical. Johnson has numerous blitz packages, and he sends linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties. He drops defensive tackles into coverage and his ends better be as fast as linebackers because they have to cover so often.

Marshall Faulk compared Johnson's innovative schemes to those of Rams coach Mike Martz on offense.

"Jim Johnson is a guy who can think up some things that you have never seen," Faulk said. "He can do things out of a regular scheme that you have just never seen before. He gets just about as creative on defense as Mike does on offense, so we have seen a lot of things, but I am sure we haven't seen it all yet."

The Eagles finished No. 2 against the pass, had 45 sacks and forced 33 turnovers. Linebackers had 7 1/2 sacks, safeties had 3 1/2 and cornerbacks had 2 1/2 .

In last week's 33-19 victory over Chicago, backup safety Rashard Cook set the tone for the defense with a sack on Bears quarterback Jim Miller in the first quarter.

"I've never seen anything as complicated as this," Cook said. "It's not like he's blitzing random people. He has in mind what he's trying to accomplish and he usually does it. That's the biggest thing. A lot of people blitz and they have two guys running into each other and they have two guys in the same gap. Our blitz is so structured that somebody is going to be free."

Cornerbacks Troy Vincent, a three-time Pro Bowler, Bobby Taylor and Al Harris allow Johnson to utilize the blitz often because they are solid in man-to-man coverage.

Still, the objective is to get to the quarterback quickly to prevent the cornerbacks from having to maintain their coverage too long.

"You have to want to get there," Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins said. "You can't just want to and be afraid of contact because every once in a while you are going to get jacked-up. You have to want to get there and you have to do whatever it takes to get there. I know if I don't get there, then I'm hanging my two corners out to dry."

In a 20-17 season-opening overtime loss to the Rams, Johnson surprised Warner with a few of his blitz calls. The Eagles sacked Warner four times in the first half, but didn't get him the rest of the game.

"They caught us with a couple unique blitzes that they put in that we hadn't practiced against," Warner said.

Johnson said the Rams should know what to expect this time around.

"They anticipate what we're going to do and we anticipate what they're going to do and they're going to have a few wrinkles and we're going to have a few wrinkles," Johnson said. "But we're not going to change at all from what we've done all year. That's just our philosophy."