The Eagles had their first padded practice on Tuesday, and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson spoke to reporters about the development of the QB group, how they plan to utilize running backs this season, and why he’s so comfortable with play calling.
Here’s what the OC had to say:
On the QB group
“[Jalen Hurts] just continues to improve. He has a great demeanor about himself. He comes out here eager to learn, eager to get better, and I think just having that experience and understanding, seeing things and hearing things for the third year now, I think that just speeds up the process.”
Johnson said that Hurts has been on a journey of daily improvement since the day he got to Philly, and that’s a testament to who he is as a person and how important the game of football is to him. Add to that all the football he’s seen these past two years in the league, those reps have really helped his development.
Hurts had a really good play in practice on Monday, and Johnson was asked about the QB’s ability to scramble.
“Scramble is something we talk about a lot, is the ability to make these off-schedule type plays. If you look around the league and you see some of the most explosive offenses, a lot of those plays happen in second-reaction football.
You have to have a plan for when the play breaks down and how you scramble and the spots that guys are getting to and how we’re managing that.”
“Marcus [Mariota] has been great to be around. I think he has a very unique experience in this league, as well, and anytime that — you spend so much time in the building with these guys and they spend so much time together in the quarterback meetings, I think just being able to share that information, share knowledge is really important to the development of the position.”
Johnson talked about the rookie QB and how the biggest challenge for incoming quarterbacks is translating the concepts they did for the past several years into a new language. But, he said McKee is doing a good job and QB coach Alex Tanney is doing a good job of getting the rookie ready for camp. There’s still a lot of work to do with getting things installed, and ironing out the communication, but it’s a challenge everyone is embracing.
On the RB position
It was pointed out that the Eagles were at the bottom of the league for throwing to running backs, and Johnson said that it’s all about utilizing all five positional players in a way that puts the most stress on the defense. Throughout the week, they’ll look to see different ways they can deploy matchups, whether that’s with a wide receiver, tight end, or running back.
“I think you always want to try to get your best players the ball in space with favorable match-ups. As many times as you can do that, I think the more productive you’ll be.
Fortunately, here we have a lot of really, really good players that can do special things with the ball in their hand, and we’ve just got to find ways to get it to them uniquely.”
On the offensive line
Earlier in camp, Jason Kelce spoke about how he thought Johnson was doing a good job as offensive coordinator and pointed to him attending some of the OL meetings as one example of that. Johnson said that he feels like to be successful, he needs to have an overall view of the offense, and to not just see the big picture, but to also see the puzzle and how everything fits together. The OC also noted that he likes watching Jeff Stoutland coach.
“I just like going in that room and listening to Stout teach. I think he’s one of the best teachers in the world. That room has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. I just try to soak some of that up.”
Johnson further explained that being in that room, and all the rooms, really gives him a better idea of the strength and stress of each player and position on each call. Understanding that balance is “vital.”
The OC was later asked about Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson having more reps and experience playing next to each other as they enter the 2023 season.
“I think it provides just a ton of confidence when you play next to a guy for — and get as many reps next to a guy for as long as they have, just the intricacies of understanding exactly how they want to mate block things and how they pass off games and things of that nature that show up throughout the course of a game and throughout the course of a season. I think that continuity usually bodes well.”
On play-calling duties
Johnson is stepping into a new role, and talked about the team always looking for ways to evolve. So, the offense is working on adding some new adjustments, and little wrinkles, in order to utilize the talent they have.
The OC talked about how head coach Nick Sirianni sets up practice in a way that allows the coaches to get some play calling experience, as well. Sirianni will call out a situation and they’re forced to react quickly. It’s something they do not only on the practice field, but in the meeting room and in team meetings. Johnson said the organization is set up in a way that get them ready to go on game day.
“I’m extremely comfortable calling plays, but ultimately we’re executing the vision that we have for the offense throughout the course of the week. Being here the last two years and understanding exactly how things are operated, understanding exactly how Coach Sirianni wants things done I think has been vital for me for sure.”
Johnson also talked about calling plays at the college level and how that’s helped be comfortable with the role, and with seeing the game and different things that come up.
“I think it just goes to what people may not often realize is a lot of that work is done during the week, and it’s always really, really collective with most staffs that I’ve been on in terms of breaking down the film and understanding all being on the same page of what we want to call in a particular situation.
For me, I’m excited for that challenge, excited for that opportunity.”
On Quez Watkins
“Yeah, Quez has done a great job. He had a terrific catch the other day in the first team period. He’s highly, highly motivated. He’s obviously very, very talented, and that group in general, as with a lot of groups, this being the third year of the offense, there’s a level of confidence that comes with knowing exactly what to do, knowing the adjustments that need to happen before they even happen. Quez has been no different.”