Jim Johnson, Eric Allen inducted into Eagles honor roll

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(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Two of the greatest defensive minds in Eagles history were inducted into the team's Honor Roll during halftime of Sunday night's game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field.

One was a coach, the other was a player, but both made their marks during two of the greatest eras in the franchise's recent past.

Jim Johnson was the Eagles' mad scientist defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2008. His signature defense was an aggressive, blitzing one that almost never was reckless.

Eric Allen was as physically gifted as any cornerback the Eagles have ever had. But he became a true student of the game, immersing himself in the nuances of his position and went on to reach five Pro Bowls from 1988 to '94.

Johnson, who died in July 2009 after a battle with cancer, helmed defenses that were part of five NFC championship appearances along with one Super Bowl berth.

And while the defenses Allen played on never reached such heights in the postseason, the unit that also included such greats as defensive end Reggie White and linebacker Seth Joyner will forever hold a special place in the heart of this city.

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The two eras were linked Sunday night. Vicki Johnson, who accepted the honor on behalf of her husband, summed up the greatness of both when she said: "Jim would be so proud to be associated with Eric, and he would have loved to have coached you."

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie spoke glowingly of the two honorees during a news conference held before the game. When Lurie first informed Allen that he was to join the team's other greats in the Honor Roll, the ESPN analyst was elated to find out during which game the ceremony would take place.

"I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' " Allen said. " 'The Eagles and Cowboys game?' "

Allen played his final seven seasons in New Orleans and Oakland, but his finest moments were in Philadelphia. His 34 interceptions are tied for most in team history along with Bill Bradley and Brian Dawkins. He also holds the franchise record with five interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Johnson was a beloved figure in a city that embraced defensive coaches like Buddy Ryan and Bud Carson. From 2000 to '08 his units were second in the NFL in sacks, second in third-down efficiency, third in red-zone touchdown percentage, and fourth in points allowed.

"Jim was the architect of an unpredictable, aggressive, blitzing-style defense," Lurie said.

Allen remarked that the Eagles "are still missing that great part of him."

Lurie nodded his head.

 


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.