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					                                          OFFENSE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DEFENSE
                                                                                                                                                                                      PROFOOTBALL 2006

                                                                                                                              Aposition-by-position
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             DEFENSIVE LINE
QUARTERBACK
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                By all accounts, this seems to be the strength of the team, which is
  Dono van McN abb, after last year’s conflict with Terrell Owens and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        remark able, because it was the most under achie ving unit a year ago.
his sports hernia, faces more scrutin y than he has since the Eagles                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The addition of defensiv e end Darren Howard was the biggest offsea-
drafted him second overall in 1999. Ther e is a segment of the fan base                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      son move, and it seems to have helped rejuvenate Jevon Kearse.
that seems to have turned against him, that looks for things to pick                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         When first-round rookie defensiv e tackle Brodrick Bunkle y’s condi-
apart. In the preseason, McN abb gave those people little ammunition;                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tioning improves, he should mount a serious threat to starter Darwin Howard
he was fit and focused, fully recovered from abdominal surgery. Jeff McNabb                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Walker. Sub defensiv e ends Trent Cole and Juqua Thomas had excel-




                                                                                                                               glanceattheEagles
Garcia is the most accomplished backup McN abb has ever had. The                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             lent preseasons, as did rookie defensiv e tackle LaJuan Ramse y, a
addition of A.J. Feeley at the end of training camp was a solid upgrade over Koy Detmer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     sixth-r ound pick out of USC. The Birds still will be a bit vulner able to the run, given that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             they’re built for pass-rushing , but Jim Johnson really should be able to get pressure
RUNNING BACK                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 much of the time without blitzing .
  This might be the team’s biggest question mark. Brian Westbrook re-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             LINEBACKERS
vived all the longtime fears about his durability when he suffered a foot
sprain only six carries into the preseason. Correll Buckhalter’s come-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         This is the defense’s big question mark. The biggest surprise of the
back is courageous, and “Buck” definitely looks ready to help the Eagles                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     offseason was that the Eagles didn’t try harder to find somebody to un-
again, but after three knee injuries in 4 years, it’s hard to project contin-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                seat strongside lineba cker Dhani Jones, who just is not very good at
ued good health. Ryan Moats still hasn’t showed he can pick up a blitz and Buckhalter                                                                                                                                                                                                                        covering tight ends. It seems possible the Eagles will try to get around
keep McN abb from getting killed. Bruc e Perry essentially made the team                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     that problem in some situa tions with a gimmick defense that includes
as a kick returner. Will Reno Mahe be activa ted ahea d of Moats?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            one lineba cker and free safety Brian Dawkins lined up close: Maybe
                                                                                                     By LES BOWEN                                                                                                                                                                                            Dawkins will cover tight ends. Jeremiah Trotter is the emotional cen- McCoy
                                                                                                                                                                            line in recent memory , and a bigger, stronger offensiv e            year we had some talented guys, guys that specialized
FULLBACK                                                                                             bowenl@phillynews.com                                                                                                                                                                                   ter of the defense. Undersized second-year lineba cker Matt McCo y be-
                                                                                                                                                                            line than last season. They have a health y Dono van Mc-             in certain things, but this year we have a more well-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             comes the weakside starter. He did pretty well in the preseason, but still has a lot to
   Thomas Tapeh is back from a terrible hip injury and is an upgrade ath-                                                                                                   Nabb and harmon y off the field, two things that were                rounded team . . . This year, we really and truly have
                                                                                                       Losing bring s chang e more quickly than winning ,                                                                                                                                                    prove. Ther e’s not much experienc e among the backups.
letically on Josh Parry. But Tapeh still looks a little stiff and mechanical;                                                                                               missing right from the start a year ago.                             a better team than last year.”
the West Coast offense is not yet second nature to him. The idea of back-                            which is why the 2006 Eagles don’t look that much like                                                                                        They have to take on their old friend Terrell Owens
                                                                                                     the 2005 Eagles, at least on paper.                                       “I don’t care if they have us first or last. It doesn’t mat-                                                                  SECONDARY
up center Nick Cole blasting holes as a goal-line fullba ck is intriguing .                                                                                                                                                                      and the Cowboys twice, the second time on Christmas
                                                                                                                                                                            ter,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said this week. “We’re go-
                                                                                                       When the team cut down to 53 players last weekend,                                                                                        day, at the end of that ridiculous stretch of three divi-      The lack of a pass rush really hurt this group last season. Some of the
TIGHT END                                                                       Tapeh                10 were rookies. Sixteen were not with the Birds last sea-             ing to go play our hardest and our best.”                                                                                        dama ge will be hard to undo; opponents now know, for example , that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 sional road games in 3 weeks. Ther e are many other
                                                                                                     son, including new starter s at wide receiver (Donte'                     McN abb has said he thinks this is a Super Bowl team.             hurdles to clear between this Sunda y’s opener in           strong safety Mike Lewis flat-out can’t cover. Still, a decent pass rush
  This should be the year L.J. Smith makes the Pro Bowl; he was headed                                                                                                      Teamma tes have endor sed his vision, even thoug h there
                                                                                                     Stallw orth) and right defensiv e end (Darr en Howard).                                                                                     Houston and the New Year’s Eve finale , at home             ought to get corner s Lito Sheppar d and Sheldon Brown back on their
there last year before McN abb got hurt. Matt Schobel provides a better second target at this
                                                                                                     On paper, this is a deeper, stronger team than the one                 is much to prove, and a lot of youth will be involved in the         against Atlanta. By then, we’ll know whether last sea-      games, and ought to be able to help Dawkins counter those persistent
position than McN abb had last year, but neither Smith nor Schobel is a great block er.
                                                                                                     that slipped to 6-10, althoug h nationally not many fore-              proving.                                                             son was an injury -plagued anomaly , or whether mas-        whisper s that he’s on the decline as he approaches age 33 next month. It’s Brown
                                                                                                     caster s see the Eagles back in the playoffs.                             “I think this year, we have talent all across the board,”         sive, era-shifting chang e is nec essary to get this team   a little troubling that Sheppar d feels his repaired ankle still isn’t 100 per-
WIDE RECEIVER                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                cent, nearly 10 months after he injured it, but he feels he’s making
                                                                                                       But the Eagles feel they have their strongest defensiv e             running back Brian Westbrook said this week. “Last                   back to competitiv enes s. i
   The acquisition of Donte’ Stallw orth was huge. This group had a lot of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   progress. Rod Hood is a fine nickel corner. Keeping Joselio Hanson as the
interesting possession guys and no deep threat before Stallw orth arrived                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    fourth corner was a bit of a surprise , given the strong play of Donald
from New Orleans last week. It will be interesting to see who lines up in                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Strickland last season. The safety position seems especially deep.
the slot with Stallw orth and Reggie Brown — Greg Lewis has experienc e,                                                                                                                  Left cornerback                                     Wide receiver
Hank Baskett has size, and Jason Avant has great hands and a deceptive-                                                                                                                         24 Sheldon Brown                              86 Reggie Brown                                                SPECIAL TEAMS
ly solid build. This is a group with a lot of potential.                   Stallworth                                                                                                           45 Joselio Hanson                             81 Jason Avent
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Punter Dirk Johnson and kicker David Akers are health y and in their
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             primes. Both are locked up in long-term deals. Coverage was a problem Akers
OFFENSIVE LINE                                                                                                                                      Strong safety                                                                             Tight end                                                      for the Eagles early last season, but it wasn’t during this preseason and
  This is a really young bunch — center Jamaal Jackson, left guard Todd                                                                                  32 Michael Lewis                   Left end                                          82 L.J. Smith
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Kicker            it shouldn’t be when the real games start. John Harbaugh has a mix-
                                                                                                                                                        37 Sean Considine               93 Jevon Kearse                                                                                   2 David Akers
Herremans and right guard Shawn Andrews all are second-year starter s,                                                                                                                                                                        89 Matt Schobel                             8 Dirk Johnson     ture of experienc ed vets — such as lineba cker Jason Short and safety
                                                                                                                                                                                   95 Jerome McDougle
and Jackson and Herremans only played part of last season. The five re-                                                                                                                                                                Right tackle                                                          Quintin Mikell — and talented young sters — such as lineba cker Omar
serves include four rookies — second-round tackle Winston Justice,                                                                                                                                                                        69 Jon Runyan                                                      Gaither and wideout Jason Avant. The return game might be a bit of a
fourth-r ound guard Max Jean-Gilles, undrafted center Nick Cole and un-                                                  Weakside linebacker                                                                                              68 Pat McCoy                                                       conc ern. Plan A was fifth-round rookie Jeremy Bloom, who went to in-
drafted tackle Pat McCo y. The other reserve, second-year guard Scott                                                                      51 Matt McCoy                                                                                                                                                     jured reserv e without being able to show much. Plan B was J.R. Reed,
                                                                                                                                          56 Shawn Barber
Young, never appear ed in a game last season. The starter s looked big and Thomas                                                                                           Left tackle                                           Right guard                                                                who staged a courageous comeba ck from dama ging the peroneal
powerful in the preseason. If Andy Reid is serious about restoring some                                                                                                 98 Mike Patterson                                           73 Shawn Andrews                             Running back                nerve behind his left knee, but didn’t quite have the burst of speed he
                                                                                                     Punter                                                               91 Sam Rayburn                                            62 Max Jean-Gillies                           36 Brian Westbrook         had as a rookie 2 years ago. Having Bruc e Perry return kicks and Reno Gaither
balanc e to a pass-happ y offense, he ought to be able to run the ball a little behind these guys.   8 Dirk Johnson          Middle linebacker                                                                                                                                    28 Correll Buckhalter      Mahe punts clear ly is Plan C, and it remains open to chang e.
The health of left tackle William “Tra” Thomas is really crucial; Justice does not look ready         2 David Akers               54 Jeremiah Trotter                                                                     Center
to step in as a rookie starter.                                                                                                      96 Omar Gaither                                                                      67 Jamaal Jackson
                                                                                                                                                                  Right tackle                                            59 Nick Cole                               Quarterback                               FIVE KEYS FOR THE DEFENSE
                                                                                                                               Strongside                          97 Darwin Walker
    FIVE KEYS FOR THE OFFENSE                                                                                                  linebacker
                                                                                                                                                                 78 Brodrick Bunkley                                                                                  5 Donovan McNabb
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      7 Jeff Garcia                            1. Pressure: It’s what Jim Johnson's schemes are built on.
  1.    Keeping Brian Westbrook healthy: If you could guarantee that, you could just
        about guarantee a winning season.
                                                                                                                                55 Dhani Jones
                                                                                                                                52 Jason Short
                                                                                                                                                              Right end
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Left guard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       79 Todd Herremans
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               2. Linebackersbestepping up:toThe Eagles’ LBs have a lot to prove. The de-
  2.     Balancing the offense: Andy Reid has ackno wledged that last season’s pass-
         happ y appr oach was unfair to Dono van McN abb, and unsound. The Birds                                                                           90 Darren Howard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       71 Scott Young                                                                                fense could vulnerable teams throwing underneath.
  now seem to have an offensiv e line they can run behind, at least a little more.                                                                             58 Trent Cole                                   Left tackle                     Fullback                                                        3. Get need athe passpass rush and betterwas athe run-stoppers. Todefinite-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         off the field on third down: This
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 better
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  problem last year. fix it,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            run-stoppers. The Eagles
  3.     Giving Donovan time: Teams had a lot of success last season rushing the Ea-                                                                                                                             72 William Thomas
         gles right up the middle . Ther e’s a new center and a new left guard, pretty                        Free safety                                                                                        74 Winston Justice            38 Thomas Tapeh                                                 ly seem to have          rush. Hard to say about

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               4. Backrush support, theyand play-making abilitySheldon Brown2need to re-
  much for that reason. Better protection is an obvious key to a healthier , more suc-                        20 Brian Dawkins                                                                                                                                                                                             to the future: Corners Lito Sheppard and
  cessful quarter back.                                                                                        27 Quintin Mikel
                                                                                                                                            Right cornerback                                                                                                                                                         capture the confidence                           they showed years ago.

  4.     Meshing with Donte’: The Eagles’ new vertical threat, Donte’ Stallw orth,
         needs to be quickly integr ated into the comple x offense. He has limited value
                                                                                                                                                    26 Lito Sheppard
                                                                                                                                                   29 Roderick Hood
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Wide receiver
                                                                                                                                                                                                   18 Donte Stallworth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Given pass                     should be able to do that.
  as a decoy.                                                                                                                                                                                      84 Hank Baskett
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               5. emotional leaderTrotterdefense. An injuryno proven backup,asand he's the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Keep Jeremiah
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              healthy: There’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                here might pose big a prob-
  5.     Using both tight ends: L.J. Smith and Matt Schobel are big targets who can
         run. A hundr ed catches between them might not be out of the question.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lem as losing Brian Westbrook.


PAGE E-12                                                                                                                                                                        P H I L A D E L P H I A      D A I L Y    N E W S                                                                                                                                          THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2006

				
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