Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson likes to blitz, but on his terms.
Last season, he blitzed because he had to. Because he had a defensive line that had been decimated by injuries and was incapable of getting pressure on the quarterback without the aid of extra troops.
The end result was 38 sacks, the third lowest total by the Eagles in the last quarter century, and 18 fewer than they had the year before. The defensive end position managed just eight sacks the entire year.
Now that he's got Jevon Kearse and now that his line is relatively healthy again, Johnson has been able to go back to blitzing on his terms. The Eagles are tied for the NFL lead in sacks after three weeks with 14. And they've racked up many of those 14, including three by Kearse in last week's 30-13 win over the Detroit Lions, with a standard four-man rush.
Against the Lions, Johnson blitzed on just 15 of 46 pass plays, or 33 percent of the time. The week before against the Vikings, he blitzed on just 11 of 58 passes plays, or 19 percent of the time.
"Jevon brings a different dimension to our defense," Johnson said of Kearse. "We don't have to blitz all the time. We can get some nice four-man rushes."
It's also helped that Johnson has been able to rotate eight different players up front -- four at end and four at tackle -- to keep players fresh. That's something he wasn't able to do last season. By midseason, fatigue was a major factor with his front four.
"With the rotation we have, it puts us up there with the top front fours in the league," said Kearse, who rotates at left end with second-year man Jerome McDougle, while Derrick Burgess and Hugh Douglas rotate on the right side. "We're able to keep the same speed going no matter who is out there. Hopefully we can keep enough people healthy to keep it going."
Johnson plans to start moving Kearse around a little bit so that offenses can't get a bead on him. He's used him a little bit as the "joker" in his "Okie" defense, which is a three-man line with a free-lancing linebacker who can line up anywhere and has the option of blitzing or dropping back into coverage.
"Jevon knew (the sacks) were going to come," Johnson said. "We're going to put him in position for them to come. We're going to move him around a little bit so people can't always slide to his side and stuff like that."
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