This is truly Johnson's club. He has taken charge of every phase of the operation, providing a textbook demonstration of how to revive a dying franchise.
The Philadelphia Eagles' new coach, Richie Kotite, has more old Jets than the Iraqi air force. His staff is loaded with them, guys who worked with Kotite when he was Joe Walton's offensive coordinator, and the playing roster has its share too. The best of the former New Yorkers is defensive coordinator Bud Carson. He replaces Jeff Fisher, who joined the Rams after the Eagles fired coach Buddy Ryan.
Carson's attack-the-pocket philosophy is the same as Fisher's and Ryan's, so the defense, which sets the tone for this team, should again be plenty tough, provided that the holdouts—end Clyde Simmons, tackle Jerome Brown and linebacker Seth Joyner—aren't too out of game shape from missing training camp.
The question is, Will the players on both sides of the ball bust their humps for Kotite the way they did for Ryan?
The offense is still seat of the pants: Randall Cunningham looking downfield, looking for tight end Keith Jackson, dumping it off to running back Keith Byars or hoofing it himself. The Eagles have been trying to build the offensive line for as long as I can remember.
Quarterback Timm Rosenbach is out for the season with a ruptured ligament in his knee, and the Phoenix Cardinals, hoping to climb out of the division cellar, are chalk for that spot. Backup Tom Tupa is a heavy-legged, journeyman type, so the offense will rely on two sturdy backs, 216-pound Johnny Johnson and 207-pound Anthony Thompson.
No one knows better than coach Joe Bugel that the NFC East is where big people live—tough guys, neighborhood bullies. They like to sit on the ball, grind it out and shove people around.
After the Cards allowed 157 rushing yards or more in five of their six division losses last year, Bugel decided he wanted big guys around him, too. So he picked up 305-pound defensive end Jeff Faulkner from Plan B and drafted 311-pound defensive end Eric Swann, who had been playing semipro ball, in the first round. Faulkner has been O.K. at right end, but Swann had to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee twice in the preseason.
Even if the Cardinals improve, their record might not be better than last season's 5-11.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]