On Third And Long, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson Dials Up “Exotic” Blitz Packages.
BY Chris White
Exotic Zone LB Stunt
Facing a three-wide-receiver set, the defense sets up in a nickel package with cornerbacks slightly off the line and safety Brian Dawkins deep. Linebacker Omar Gaither feints toward the line of scrimmage during the snap count, then backpedals into zone coverage, anticipating a crossing pattern to the slot receiver near the first-down marker. Tackles Darwin Walker and Mike Patterson run a twist, while left defensive end Trent Cole pushes his man toward the sideline. Nickelback Shawn Barber retreats five yards, slides into the lane created by Cole, and begins the sensuous Dance of the Seven Veils. The quarterback, stunned by the surreal balance between indomitable control and pulsating chaos evident in Barber’s satiny motion, suddenly questions how civilized we really are; how man is, in his basest impulses, no more than a frenzied animal lusting for survival. As waves of sobriety and panic wash alternately across the quarterback’s mind, Roderick Hood rushes off the corner and hits him in the sternum with his helmet.
Exotic Safety Bite
Empty backfield, four-wide-receiver set. The Eagles show a dime package. Brian Dawkins sets up to assist on deep passes. All four cornerbacks play tight to the line and jam receivers to slow the development of the play. Right defensive end Darren Howard guards against a screen by drifting back into coverage while the remaining linemen mount a standard pass rush. Meanwhile, on the sideline, running back/kick returner Reno Mahe prepares a wedding feast from his ancestral homeland, Tonga. Backup quarterback A.J. Feeley uses large misting fans to direct the mouth-watering aromas of suckling pig, fresh coconut, baked yams, and cool, refreshing ‘otai toward the line of scrimmage. Like Proust’s madeleine, the scents transport offensive linemen and the blocking tight ends back to happier times—to tropical honeymoons and stolen moments with loved ones, to carefree days lounging in the sun, before the ravages of wealth and painkillers drove invisible, undeniable wedges between two hearts (how did it all go wrong? when did passion give way to bitterness, to pettiness?)—and so they neither see nor block safety Mike Lewis as he runs full speed into the backfield.
Exotic Force Fire All-Out
Early in the game, the elusive and speedy running back Brian Westbrook contaminates the rival team’s Gatorade and water supplies with Costa Rican rodent urine, infecting the team with leptospirosis. As nausea, diarrhea, and cramping weaken the opposing offense in the second half, the Eagles switch to a 3-4 base and rush all four linebackers.
Exotic LB Slam Middle
Against a two-tight-end set, the Eagles send in their 4-3 defense, but left defensive end Trent Cole is replaced with Zi Chi, a giant panda wearing an Eagle-green silk dressing gown. Suddenly concerned over the ethics of attempting to pancake-block an endangered species, and uncertain of the best way to grip a silk gown, offensive linemen lose track of linebacker Jeremiah “the Axeman” Trotter, who rides directly up the middle in a basket on the back of an armored African elephant.
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