The Eagles have just a few days left before their season opener against the Patriots and OC Brian Johnson spoke to reporters on Thursday about preparing for playcalling duties, how Week 1 offers some unique wrinkles, and what he’s seen from Jalen Hurts’ development over the years.
Here’s what the offensive coordinator had to say:
On playcalling duties
Johnson said that he’s excited to be preparing for an opponent this week, and noted how important the first few games are in terms of putting everything together.
Head coach Nick Sirianni has always emphasized that the passing game goes through A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, and the OC acknowledged that target counts are something he needs to be aware of in-game, but will also need to have a feel for how teams are playing them.
“I think adaptability is important, and just how quickly we can find out how we’re being attacked defensively, and what we can do to counterpunch and be ready to make our adjustments as needed. But, fortunately, we have some really good players that can all do really, really special things with the ball in their hands, and we just gotta find ways to get it to them with a chance to do that.”
Sirianni has talked in the past about how their game plan includes a set of 10-15 scripted plays to start games, and Johnson said that doesn’t really change much even though there are more defensive unknowns in a Week 1 matchup. The OC noted that it’s about how quickly you can identify what’s going on, but for them, it’s just about trusting their roles and assignments and execute at a high level.
“I always go back to it being kind of part science in terms of there are certain things that you want to get looked at early. At the end of the day, I think it’s always going to come down to how fast you can adapt and adjust and diagnose what’s going on in terms of calling the game.
We put in a lot of work in terms of trying to get the players in the best position possible to execute what they do well. That opening script is definitely part of that.”
Johnson agreed with comments Sirianni made earlier in the week about how having guys like Jalen Hurts and Jason Kelce on the field make pre-snap adjustments easier.
“Jason Kelce has played so much football, and he’s seen so much defense, so that definitely is a luxury in terms of being able to handle unscouted looks, and you’re gonna get a bunch of unscouted looks in Week 1.”
On playing the Patriots
“We’re playing, arguably the greatest coach of all time and they have a fantastic roster with great pieces. So, it’ll definitely be a challenge and we’re looking forward to that challenge, and I know our guys are excited to go out there and be ready to play.”
Regardless of their high level of respect for Belichick, Johnson said that their goal is to be competitive against whoever they’re playing.
The OC admitted that these first few games are tricky because there isn’t a lot of tape to go off of, and teams are different year-to-year. Johnson noted that a lot of teams will use this first week of games to really figure out their identity, and what they have in terms of matchups. So, the Eagles just need to be ready to adapt.
On Jalen Hurts’ development
“Obviously, it’s a very exciting time for him. I’m sure he’s ready to get into a routine of playing games and get into his weekly routine throughout the course of the season. But, it is nice that he’s been able to consistently perform, consistently get better at his craft, and his mindset has not changed in terms of how he attacks every single day. The purpose that he has, the passion that he plays with, and his desire for becoming the best player that he can possibly be.”
Johnson went on to say that they are fortunate to have so many great leaders on the team, and Hurts is definitely one of those. Whenever the best players set that kind of example with how they carry themselves and prepare, that permeates throughout the organization.
“To me, it’s been no surprise to see him kind of evolve into this, because you see the daily deposits that he puts in every single day to be the best that he can be.”
- As far as the running back group, Johnson credited coach Jemal Singleton with getting all the guys ready and the reps that they need to perform. But, that’s a position group that relies a little more on feel, and they’ll have to adapt based on matchups. The OC also said that both D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny have done a fantastic job coming in and getting acclimated to the system.
- Johnson said that the new hand-off rule — requiring hand offs to be parallel or behind the QB — doesn’t really change anything for their offense at all.