Focus at Lehigh shifts to the 'D'

The news broke this morning around 10:30 a.m.

It was official. The Eagles' defense now belonged to Sean McDermott.

It was something most people assumed would happen, but something nobody really wanted to say.

Jim Johnson has been there for all the ups and downs of the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid era. Beloved by his players. Admired by the media. And respected by his opponents.

So let me join everyone in saying that my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family during this difficult time.

When you now look at the Eagles, and the questions that face this team when camp opens Sunday, the defense is at the forefront.

The unit ranked third in the NFL last season, but that is no guarantee that it will deliver a repeat performance in 2009.

Combine the absence of Johnson with the loss of Brian Dawkins, and you realize the 'D' will be searching for a voice, a personality, an identity as it runs through drills on the fields at Lehigh. This instantly becomes the most intriguing aspect of training camp.

By all accounts, McDermott is ready for the job. But it would be unfair to expect him to have the instincts and be the innovator Johnson has been in his first year as a defensive coordinator.

So for a few weeks in Lehigh, I plan on spending quite a bit of time with my eyes on the field where the defense practices. Who will take a lead role? What will McDermott do the same as Johnson? What will he do differently?

For once, the focus is not on the offense. When's the last time that was true?

It's not about McNabb, Brian Westbrook's injury, the new offensive line. Sure, we'll still have our eyes on those things.

But it's now about this defense and who becomes the face of a group that will be searching for a leader.