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Domo: Jim Johnson put Dawkins in Hall of a position

I HAVE NO DOUBT that when Brian Dawkins' name comes up for discussion at the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection meeting in Houston a month from now, somebody among the 48 voters in the room will mention his interception total.

I HAVE NO DOUBT that when Brian Dawkins' name comes up for discussion at the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection meeting in Houston a month from now, somebody among the 48 voters in the room will mention his interception total.

Dawkins had 37 interceptions in his 16 NFL seasons. While that's a very respectable number, the fact is there are 102 players who had more.

Once upon a time, when a safety's worth was almost entirely measured by his interception total, that might have been a legitimate point to bring up.

But anyone who watched Dawkins play during his career knows this wasn't a guy who can be judged by just one statistic.

Dawkins helped change the role of the safety position in the modern game because he could affect the outcome of a game in so many ways besides intercepting a pass.

With a jarring hit that forced a fumble or an incompletion or stopped a ballcarrier dead in his tracks. With a blitz that resulted in a sack or a hurried throw. And, yes, with an interception.

Dawkins is the only defensive back in NFL history with more than 25 each of interceptions, forced fumbles (36) and sacks (26).

"I didn't see one stat line and say that's the only way I can affect the game," Dawkins said. "You can affect the game in so many ways. When you have a PBU (pass breakup) on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter and get your defense off the field, that saves the game. When you get a vicious hit that causes a fumble, that's a game-changer.

"But for whatever reason, when people think of safety, what's the first thing they say? Interceptions. Like that's the only way you can affect the game. No, it's not. It's not.

"In my mind, you're being narrow-minded if you're thinking that's the only way that a guy can affect the game. I'm living proof that you can affect the game in so many different ways."

Dawkins was the heart and soul of those great Jim Johnson defenses that helped the Eagles make it to five NFC Championship Games in eight seasons. From 2001 to 2008, the Eagles finished in the top 10 in total defense five times and in points allowed six times.

"I think he saw what I could do and he just began to open up the playbook," Dawkins said. "He began to design plays specifically for me. We would talk in the offseason and he would be smiling and telling me all about the stuff he had down the road for me.

"It was just a beautiful marriage. He knew that I would do anything to make his blitzes work. And I knew that he trusted me to get home. So when he called my number (on a blitz), I was going to do whatever it took (to get there). Whether it was diving over somebody, running through somebody, whatever it took. I was going to make his blitzes work because he trusted me so much."

Dawkins was part safety, part cornerback and part linebacker. He hated being called a free safety or strong safety. Felt it pigeonholed him.

"I was more than both of those," he said. "I could do both of those and also I did some nickel work. I covered the slot from time to time. I covered receivers. We used to have so many corner blitzes, so I covered receivers man-to-man.

"I was doing so many other things than what those positions defined me as. It wasn't that I could do them because Jim wanted to call them. I could do them because I could do them."

Dawkins will be forever grateful to Johnson, who passed away in 2009 after a brief battle with cancer, for trusting in him and giving him the freedom to maximize his talents.

During his acceptance speech in November after being inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, Dawkins said he wished Johnson's initials could be put in parentheses next to his name.

"If he hadn't used me the way he had used me, who knows?" Dawkins said this week. "If he didn't step outside his comfort zone of what he asked safeties to do, maybe I wouldn't have had the career that I had.

"But he saw something in me, and all of a sudden he started designing things specifically for the protections that we saw. Because he was great at breaking down protections. And then putting me in positions to have success."

This and that

* It's far from a certainty that Darren Sproles will be back next season. Retirement is weighing heavy on the 33-year-old running back's mind, particularly after his Week 14 concussion against the Redskins. "I'm going to talk to my family about it," he said after Sunday's final game against the Cowboys. "Then I'll just go from there." Sproles lives in San Diego. His two children are 7 and 4. "They want their daddy around more," he said. "That's the whole thing."

* Lane Johnson is all for the possibility of Jason Peters returning next season. Johnson will move from right tackle to left tackle whenever Peters leaves. But he said he'd be perfectly happy staying at right tackle for another year. "I hope he comes back," Johnson said. "We need him. A lot of people underestimate (the importance of a good right tackle). You need two good tackles. You saw what Brandon Graham did to (Cowboys right tackle) Doug Free (on Sunday)."

* My 2016 All-Pro selections, as well as my award selections:


WR (2): Antonio Brown, Steelers; Jordy Nelson, Packers

FLEX (1): David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

TE (1): Travis Kelce, Chiefs

LT (1): Trent Williams, Redskins

LG (1): Kelechi Osemele, Raiders

C (1): Travis Frederick, Cowboys

RG (1): Zack Martin, Cowboys

RT (1): Jack Conklin, Titans

QB (1): Matt Ryan, Falcons

RB (1): Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys


EDGE RUSHER (2): Vic Beasley, Falcons; Khalil Mack, Raiders

INTERIOR LINEMEN (2): Aaron Donald, Rams; Calais Campbell, Cardinals

LB (3): Von Miller, Broncos; Bobby Wagner, Seahawks; Sean Lee, Cowboys

CB (2): Janoris Jenkins, Giants; Aqib Talib, Broncos

S (2): Earl Thomas, Seahawks; Landon Collins, Giants

DB (1): Brett Grimes, Dolphins


PK: Justin Tucker, Ravens

P: Johnny Hekker, Rams

KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings

PR: Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

STer: Chris Maragos, Eagles


MVP: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots

Assistant Coach of the Year: Romeo Crennel, DC, Texans

Comeback Player: Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins

Defensive Rookie: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jaguars

Offensive Rookie: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys

Defensive Player: Von Miller, LB, Broncos

Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

Figuring the Eagles

* The Eagles led the league in time of possession. Their TOP average was 32:16, which was the team's highest since 1991 (33:25). The five teams directly below the Eagles in TOP average all made the playoffs: Dallas (31:41), Houston (31:20), Oakland (31:18), Green Bay (31:14) and New England (31:13).

* Thirty-two of the Eagles' 178 possessions lasted 5-plus minutes. In the previous two seasons under Chip Kelly, only 15 of 407 possessions lasted that long.

* The Eagles lost only six fumbles this season. That was the fifth fewest in the league and the fewest by an Eagles team since at least 1941, when the team first started keeping track of turnovers.

* Is the fact that six of the Eagles' nine losses were by seven or fewer points reason for optimism? Well, a little. But six other teams that failed to qualify for the postseason had as many or more defeats by seven or fewer points. A breakdown of the 20 nonplayoff teams:

Jacksonville, 3-13: 8

San Diego, 5-11: 8

New Orleans, 7-9: 7

Eagles, 7-9: 6

Buffalo, 7-9: 6

Carolina, 6-10: 6

Chicago, 3-13: 6

Arizona, 7-8-1: 5

Baltimore, 8-8: 5

Cincinnati, 6-9-1: 5

Los Angeles, 4-12: 5

Cleveland, 1-15: 5

San Francisco, 2-14: 5

Tamba Bay, 9-7: 4

Indianapolis, 8-8: 4

N.Y. Jets, 5-11: 4

Minnesota, 8-8: 4

Tennessee, 9-7: 3

Denver, 9-7: 3

Washington, 8-7-1: 3

* Carson Wentz's productivity as a runner increased in the second half of the season. In the first eight games, he rushed for 37 yards on 23 carries. Had just five rushing first downs, only one of them on third down. In the last eight games, he had 114 yards on 23 carries with 10 rushing first downs, including four on third down. Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said the goal for Wentz is to convert one third down a game with his legs.