Philadelphia Eagles

How Brian Johnson plans to handle Patriots' Week 1 surprises

The Patriots have the best opening-day record in the NFL since Belichick became head coach in 2000 at 16-7

NBC Universal, Inc.

You might think you know, but the reality is you really don’t know.

Week 1 is about preparation, sure, but more than anything it’s about adjusting on the fly, because every NFL team changes its scheme and personnel and in many cases its coaches year to year.

So what you study in the film room isn’t necessarily what you’re going to see on the field.

And you can go by past tendencies and trends, but every NFL team spends a good chunk of the offseason focused on self scouting to try and make the product they show different than anything they’ve ever shown before.

It’s why Week 1 is so unpredictable.

“These first games are always tricky,” new Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “There’s not a lot to go on. Each team each year presents its own different challenges. Each team is different. 

“I think teams are really using this first week to really kind of find out their identity and what they have in terms of matchups, but for us, we just have to be ready to adapt.”

That’s the key. 

Football is always a game of adjustments – the 60-minute chess match – but more than ever in Week 1, when just about everything you see is an unscouted look.

So it often comes down to which team figures out faster what the other team is doing and how to stop it.

“These first games in particular are really about how fast you can get to your adjustments (and) get to your answers and give your guys an opportunity to go out there and do what they do best," Johnson said.

The Eagles open their 91st season Sunday against the Patriots in Foxboro facing one of the best in NFL history at surprising opponents. Bill Belichick has made a living out of it, and he may not have Tom Brady anymore, but he’s still a brilliant defensive mind who can make life difficult for opposing coaches.

Especially in Week 1.

It’s no surprise the Patriots have the best opening-day record in the NFL since Belichick became head coach in 2000 at 16-7.

The Eagles and Broncos are tied for 2nd-best at 15-8. For the Eagles, that’s under four different head coaches - three of whom led the Eagles to a Super Bowl.

“Every team in the NFL is going to have new wrinkles Week 1 and stuff that they've been working on that they haven't shown,” Johnson said. “We just have to be ready and trust our roles, trust our assignments and be ready to execute at a high level.”

No matter how much you prepare, it’s inevitable you’re going to see things you’re not ready for. On both sides of the ball.

For Johnson, he’ll lean heavily on his assistants but also on Jason Kelce, who has the combination of experience and intelligence to help the coaches navigate through whatever unexpected plays, alignments, fronts or schemes come up.

“Jason Kelce has played so much football and he's seen so much defense,” Johnson said. “So that definitely is a luxury in terms of being able to handle un-scouted looks. You're going to get a bunch of un-scouted looks in Week One. Guys have been working on week one for a really long time. There's a lot of things we have to be ready for that probably aren't on tape.

“But, I think that just goes to having the trust in the system, trust in your players to go out there and execute with great details and fundamentals (and) just really diagnosing how you're getting played defensively.”

It’s a much bigger challenge now than any other time of the season. NFL teams have a week to prepare for most games. They have eight months to prepare for the opener.

“There's always going to be new wrinkles, new adjustments that show up on game day that you have to be prepared for and you have to be able to show that you can handle and that you have answers for,” Johnson said.

“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.

“It takes great communication, it takes a great operation to be able to be on the same page with the staff, with the players, so you can get problems answered and corrected in-game.”

Contact Us