Eagles players said the tone and emphasis was the same, with Sean McDermott running the defense Wednesday, but Jim Johnson's absence still was deeply felt.
Many of the guys taking part in the Eagles' Wednesday and Thursday camp for rookies and select veterans haven't been Eagles long enough to really know that much about Jim Johnson or Sean McDermott. So having McDermott, the secondary coach, run the defense Wednesday, while defensive coordinator Johnson takes an indefinite leave of absence to continue cancer treatments, wasn't all that unsettling to them.
But for the ones who have spent time with Johnson, it was a strange day.
"It was just different, man, like it was with 'Dawk,' " said second-year free safety Quintin Demps, who drew an analogy between his situation, replacing Brian Dawkins, and the task facing McDermott. "You really don't feel him out here ... you just feel that something's different."
Demps, who worked more closely as a rookie with secondary coach McDermott than with Johnson, certainly feels McDermott is up to the challenge.
"That's my dawg," Demps said of McDermott. "A man of great integrity and respect. Great character, very disciplined ... He knows the whole defense, from the d-line to the safeties."
Cornerback Jack Ikegwuono, who sat out his rookie season recovering from a knee injury, said of McDermott: "He's very vocal, he's very confident, he knows what he's talking about. He's going to be a head coach someday."
Second-year linebacker Joe Mays said the workout was "no different" than it would have been had Johnson, 67, been present. "It was still high intensity, guys needed to take care of their business and get to the ball."
Mays conceded that McDermott "doesn't have the stare" that the tall, craggy coordinator can lock onto a mistake-prone player, but "he stills asks for the same things Jim asks for. They've been in the system for years now; they pretty much think the same now."
Mays called McDermott, 35, "a natural leader" who "deserves to be here."
Second-year defensive end Bryan Smith agreed that Johnson and McDermott "want us to do the same things."
"Our hearts are with Coach Johnson," Smith said. "We wish he were here with us. But we've got to go out and do our job, also."
Recapping an earlier post, sources close to the situation have denied a report that the Eagles have scheduled a visit with free agent linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who visited the Bears Wednesday.