Sean McDermott looked the part. Classy. Hip. Prepared for the big stage. He had an attention to detail about him on Saturday, the first time he met the Philadelphia media, that was striking. McDermott, the team's defensive coordinator, has waited for this moment since he embarked on his NFL coaching career, and this step in the ladder is certainly going to be the one with the most challenges.
McDermott said all the right things and did all the right things at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday. He has learned from the master, Jim Johnson, since 2001, and with Johnson now unable to continue as a coach as he battles cancer, McDermott is the logical and natural and deserving next man in line. There are no promises about what we get from McDermott. We'll learn about him every day, as he learns about his new job responsibilities every day.
But at first glance, McDermott passed the test. His players respect him. Head coach Andy Reid can't say enough great things about him. Can McDermott run a practice? Check. He has done that since the spring, when Johnson took his leave of absence. Can he develop new wrinkles in the scheme? Check. McDermott and Johnson have masterminded together for years and the game-week preparation should be every bit as excellent as it was under Johnson.
Can McDermott make the necessary in-game call to get the defense off the field at a critical time. Well, we have to wait and see on that one ...
"There is a first time for everything, and all I know is that my second call is going to be better than my first, and my third call is going to be better than my second call," said McDermott. "As good as Jim was, and is, he had a first time, too. I'm looking forward to continuing the process on Monday when practice starts. I like this group of players and the coaches we have. I'm excited. I can't tell you how exciting it is. I've been raised just outside of Philadelphia and to be in this position, I can't quantify how exciting it is to me."
This is a huge story, obviously. And a gigantic change for a coaching staff that on the defensive side of the ball has a lot of new faces. McDermott is a bright, rising-star of a coach. The Eagles have had plenty of them here, with the likes of Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera, Steve Spagnuolo, John Harbaugh moving onand up the coaching food chain.
McDermott is next in line, even if the way he arrived as the defensive coordinator isn't exactly ideal.
"I'm prepared. I've prepared myself for this for a long time," he said. "This is one of my goals as a coach in the NFL. We're working hard as a staff and I know the players understand what we are asking of them and they will respond."
Will the Eagles blitz more, or less, with McDermott than they did with Johnson? Don't know. McDermott promises that the defense will be every bit as aggressive, regardless of how many blitzes are called. Certainly, McDermott is going to add his personality and his tweaks to the defense. Whether you notice or I notice isn't important. What is important is that the Eagles have a better defense than last year, when they were very good and ranked third overall in the league and we stout against the run all season.
Ten starters return. The one that doesn't, safety Brian Dawkins, brings about some fair questions about leadership, about emotion, about having a go-to player to make a play in crunch time. All of that will sort itself out as time goes along.
McDermott made a good impression watching the practices in the spring -- as organized and as high-tempo as they have ever been -- and he made another good step forward with the way he handled a questioning media on Saturday. There are many steps to go, for sure. Many situations that need to be conquered. You can be sure that McDermott will approach each practice and each preseason moment seriously.
NEWS AND NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- Nothing to report on the contract status of No. 1 draft pick Jeremy Maclin, other than both sides are working to get a deal done before Maclin is scheduled to report with the rest of the rookies and selected veterans on Sunday evening. Three first-round draft picks of the 32 have signed (a fourth, Ziggy Hood of Pittsburgh, has reportedly agreed to terms) around the league. Something has to be done to change the system. I still think Maclin will be done in time for Monday's practice, but why has it taken so long? The system isn't right.
- Tune in to PhiladelphiaEagles.com for the first Training Camp Live! on Sunday at 4 p.m. We're broadcasting Andy Reid's State of the Team press conference. The key part of that address will be Reid's update on Brian Westbrook, who is rehabbing his ankle after surgery. I'm optimistic that Reid will have promisnig things to say about Westbrook's recovery process.
- It's going to be interesting to see which "selected veterans" are in camp. Usually it is players who are coming off of injuries, a list that would include players like Max Jean-Gilles, Shawn Andrews, Stacy Andrews and Kevin Curtis. Will those veterans be in early for three days of practice? Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley will be in. McNabb traditionally has practiced two of the three days before having the third day off.
- The Eagles brought in defensive tackle Hollis Thomas back in June to take a look at him, but since then there has been nothing to report. It still seems that way, as there is no indication the Eagles have plans to bring in anyone beyond the current roster at the onset of training camp.