Jim Johnson's influence lives on with Eagles


Jim Johnson's influence lives on with Eagles

Three years later, theres only seven of them left. Seven guys who played football for Jim Johnson. Seven guys who remember one of the greatest coaches in franchise history.

Trent Cole, Asante Samuel, Trevor Laws, Joselio Hanson, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson and Juqua Parker.

On Sunday, the Eagles will give Johnson the highest honor the franchise bestows, formally inducting him into the teams Honor Roll. Johnson will become the first assistant coach and only the third former coach inducted into the Honor Roll, which was started in 1987.

Hall of Famer Greasy Neale, coach of the 1948 and 1949 NFL champions, and Dick Vermeil, who led the Eagles to the 1980 Super Bowl, are the only other coaches in the Honor Roll.

Johnson, an NFL tight end with the Bills in the mid-1960s before a 42-year coaching career, spent 1999 through 2008 as the Eagles defensive coordinator under Andy Reid. He died on July 28, 2009, just before the 2009 season, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 68.

He treated defense like artwork, and you dont like nobody messing up your artwork, said Jordan, a part-time starting linebacker under Johnson in 2007 and 2008. So if you did something that wasnt quite right, that wasnt how he drew it up, man, he was hard on you.

He took it personal if you messed up, because it was his defense. It was like you just spit in his face. So you definitely didnt want to mess up because youd hear about it. He just had it in his mind, Were going to go out there and do this and do that, and then we just went out and did it.

During Johnsons 10 years at the helm of the Eagles defense, the Eagles went 97-62-1, the best record of any NFC team, reaching the playoffs seven times and the NFC Championship Game five times.

The Eagles allowed only 18.1 points per game in 10 years under Johnson, fifth-best in the NFL during that span. They recorded 427 sacks (second to the Steelers 432), forced 306 turnovers (sixth-most), gave up just 173 passing TDs (fewest in the league) and allowed 103 rushing TDs (fifth-best).

Even more impressively, in 17 playoff games under Johnson, the defense gave up just 27 touchdowns and just 15.8 points per game. In the second half of those 17 postseason games, Johnsons defenses gave up only 10 touchdowns and 6.5 points per game.

He was good at getting the most out of his players and finding the best way to put them in position to make plays, said Hanson, whos been with the Eagles since 2006. He always knew how to attack and put pressure on.

The biggest thing I learned from Jim was to be accountable on every play. Youve got people depending on you to do your job and make sure youre accountable or hed let you know about it. Which was not a bad thing, because he brought the best out of you. You might not like it, but you played almost perfect because you knew if you messed up, youd hear about it and nobody wanted that.

Jim was one of the best at what he does. Hard to replace that. Hard to get that back.

Johnson was innovative, inventive and tireless. His blitz schemes were groundbreaking, and his second-half adjustments were legendary. Over his 10 years, the Eagles gave up on the average 10 points in the first half and just eight in the second.

As ferocious as his schemes were and as much as he demanded from his guys, Johnson was a gentleman. Incredibly demanding and ferociously competitive. But respectful with a notorious deadpan sense of humor.

He was an awesome coach, man, said Patterson, one of the senior members of the defense, now in his seventh year. He always inspired guys to go out there and play hard, and thats why I liked him. He didnt have to come out there and yell and stuff like that. He would just go out there and talk and have respect for you. So I always enjoyed him. I always miss him.

Johnson preached unity among his players and constantly emphasized that if any of his 11 guys strayed from the scheme, the whole thing would fall apart.

No matter how talented they were.

Defense works together, its one unit, thats one big thing I learned from Jim, Jordan said. You cant just stand out as an individual, you have to work together as a team. And even though he had great players in it, we all worked together.

Laws only had one year with Johnson but said he still carries with him all the knowledge that he picked up back in 2008.

It was great, he said. Just try to be a sponge, absorb as much as possible and try to learn from the greatness.

He had such an aggressive mindset on defense. Im coming from defenses that just kind of sat back and watched what was happening. Being who he was, he was the person who was going to dictate how the pace of the game went.

Some coaches are afraid to blitz, but the word afraid was not in Jim Johnsons vocabulary. He would bring the blitz on first down, second down, third down, fourth down, whenever he wanted to.

Under Johnson, 10 different Eagles defensive players reached at least one Pro Bowl, and those 10 went to a combined 26 Pro Bowls.

Great, great guy, said cornerback Asante Samuel, who played under Johnson for just one year. Hell of a defensive coordinator. He had a great scheme he implemented over here. Just a wonderful guy all-around. You know, hes definitely missed.

Johnson will be honored with a video presentation at halftime of the Eagles nationally televised game against the Cowboys Sunday at the Linc. His widow, Vicki, who still lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, will be there and will speak briefly. Record-setting cornerback Eric Allen, who went to five Pro Bowls as an Eagle, is also being inducted into the Honor Roll Sunday.

The Honor Roll tribute area is located in the Headhouse on the north end of the stadium, which opens three hours prior to kickoff, or 90 minutes before the main gates.

Its a great honor for Jim, Hanson said. He deserves it. Hope we can get a win for him. I know he didnt like the Cowboys, so the best thing we can do is get a win for him on Sunday.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL


MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York's captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

White Sox: Shuck called up with Jackson injured
NEW YORK -- With Austin Jackson bothered by turf toe, the Chicago White Sox recalled outfielder J.B. Shuck from Charlotte and optioned right-hander Tommy Kahnle to the Triple-A farm team.

Jackson left Sunday's game in the eighth inning because of his left foot.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Monday's series opener against the New York Mets that he doesn't think Jackson's injury at this point merits a move to the disabled list. He adds that the team does not "necessarily want to lose him for two weeks right away."

Shuck was batting fifth and playing center field Monday. He was 0 for 9 with the White Sox before he was sent down April 18 when Chicago needed to add a pitcher. He is hitting .299 at Charlotte with two homers and 17 RBIs.

Kahnle is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four games over three stints with Chicago this season.

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray


NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as the No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.  

Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

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Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

"I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough," Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. "I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game."

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered "We ain't going home!" -- and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

"We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse," Kerr said. "One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out."

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

"It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher," Curry said. "Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win."

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

"Lot of people probably counted us out," Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

"This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it," Durant said Sunday. "Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it."

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

"We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game," Donovan said. "We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group."

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

"I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going," he said. "I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7."