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3 Philadelphia EAGLES

Sept. 06, 2010
Sept. 06, 2010

Table of Contents
Sept. 6, 2010

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NFL PREVIEW
Departments

3 Philadelphia EAGLES

New quarterback, new feature back and a new commitment to toughness

WHEN WEAKSIDE linebacker Ernie Sims walked through the door of the Eagles' facility on April 20, the day after the Lions traded him to Philadelphia as part of a three-way deal with the Broncos, he had no idea he would be greeted by his future next-door neighbor. Sims didn't know much about his new team, let alone the tousle-haired middle linebacker he'd be playing alongside. But there to welcome the 6-foot, 230-pound Sims was Stewart Bradley: a year older than Sims, at 26, not to mention four inches taller and nearly 30 pounds heavier. "Stew approached me, excited to have me play next to him," Sims recalls. Why? "Me and Stew," Sims soon learned, "understand that hitting is the main part of football. And we like that."

This is an article from the Sept. 6, 2010 issue

Evidently. Eagles camp in Bethlehem, Pa., proved notable this summer for many things: the dawn of the Kevin Kolb era at quarterback, the emergence of second-year LeSean McCoy as the team's all-purpose tailback and, not least, the recurring crashing sounds orchestrated by Bradley and Sims, soulmates operating at the heart of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's 4--3 scheme. Bradley, Sims discovered, was the undisputed leader on the defense, a heartthrob among fans and one of the most talented players in the NFL, physically and mentally. Sims, Bradley found, was a hungry, quick and cold-blooded tackler—who also happened to need a new place to live. "So Ernie got an apartment right next to mine," Bradley says. They now share a locker wall, a block in Philadelphia (near South Street) and a taste for plastic-on-plastic violence that has teammates turning—and minding—their heads.

"I'm loving it," says strong safety Quintin Mikell. "We all know coming on the field that we're not going to be the biggest guys out there defensively. If we go 100 miles an hour, we might make a mistake, but at least somebody's going to get hit."

Just ask backup tailback Eldra Buckley. On one August morning he was nailed twice by Bradley during live practice, provoking playground-level oohs. Then, four days later, Sims jacked Buckley up on a would-be screen ... during a noncontact passing drill. Protests by offensive linemen and a whooping celebration by cornerback (and unflinching defensive partisan) Asante Samuel followed. "Ernie and I push each other," Bradley says. "If he gets a big hit, I'm looking for a big hit."

Last season, Philly's linebackers were known less for doling out pain than for suffering it. Not one of them started all 16 games. Notably, Bradley, who'd turned in a stellar season in 2008, missed the entire year after shredding his right ACL while entangled in a pile during Flight Night, the team's annual training camp open scrimmage. Then, nearly three months later, Bradley's replacement, Omar Gaither, was lost for the season with a Lisfranc sprain that required surgery. Attempts to replace him with a combo platter of five players, including former Philly linchpin Jeremiah Trotter, failed miserably. Amid all the disorder, opposing tight ends had their way over the middle. "Having Stew back," McDermott summarizes, "means a lot."

But none of it will mean much without the right arm of Kolb, upon whom coach Andy Reid has staked his offensive fortunes following the trading of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Kolb, 26, struggled at the start of camp but went on to find his groove, buoyed by a skill-position corps with as much youth and talent as any in the NFL. Speedy wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are just 23 and 22, respectively; tight end Brent Celek, who exploded for 971 yards and eight touchdowns last year, is 25; and McCoy is 22. Then there are the Eagles' 13 draft picks from April. "God, we got a brand-new team," says defensive end Trent Cole. "I got about 60 percent of the guys' names down."

One particular lesson that 2010 camp drilled into this offense? "You've gotta be a different cat to play defense," backup tight end Cornelius Ingram says, laughing. "Especially linebacker. Especially here."

PROJECTED STARTERS

WITH 2009 STATS

COACH ANDY REID

OFFENSE

2009 RANK: 11

QB KEVIN KOLB

G 5

ATT 96

COMP 62

PCT 64.6

YARDS 741

TD 4

INT 3

RATING 88.9

RB LESEAN MCCOY

G 16

ATT 155

YARDS 637

AVG 4.1

REC 40

YARDS 308

AVG 7.7

TTD 4

FB LEONARD WEAVER

G 16

ATT 70

YARDS 323

AVG 4.6

REC 15

YARDS 140

AVG 9.3

TTD 4

WR DESEAN JACKSON

G 15

REC 62

YARDS 1,156

TTD 10

WR JEREMY MACLIN

G 15

REC 56

YARDS 773

TTD 4

TE BRENT CELEK

G 16

REC 76

YARDS 971

TTD 8

LT JASON PETERS

G 15

HT 6'4"

WT 340

LG TODD HERREMANS

G 11

HT 6'6"

WT 321

C JAMAAL JACKSON

G 15

HT 6'4"

WT 330

RG STACY ANDREWS

G 10

HT 6'7"

WT 340

RT WINSTON JUSTICE

G 16

HT 6'6"

WT 320

DEFENSE

2009 RANK: 12

DE BRANDON GRAHAM (R)

G 12

TACKLES 64

SACKS 10½

INT 0

DT MIKE PATTERSON

G 16

TACKLES 55

SACKS 1½

INT 0

DT BRODRICK BUNKLEY

G 16

TACKLES 37

SACKS 1

INT 0

DE TRENT COLE

G 16

TACKLES 57

SACKS 12½

INT 0

LB ERNIE SIMS

G 11

TACKLES 49

SACKS 0

INT 0

LB STEWART BRADLEY*

G 16

TACKLES 108

SACKS 1

INT 1

LB AKEEM JORDAN

G 12

TACKLES 71

SACKS 1

INT 2

CB ASANTE SAMUEL

G 16

TACKLES 40

SACKS 0

INT 9

FS NATE ALLEN (R)

G 13

TACKLES 85

SACKS 0

INT 4

SS QUINTIN MIKELL

G 16

TACKLES 69

SACKS 0

INT 2

CB ELLIS HOBBS

G 8

TACKLES 11

SACKS 0

INT 0

SPECIAL TEAMS

P SAV ROCCA

PUNTS 76

AVG 42.4

NET 38.3

K DAVID AKERS

FG 32--37

XP 43--45

POINTS 139

PR DESEAN JACKSON

RET 29

AVG 15.2

TD 2

KR ELLIS HOBBS

RET 20

AVG 24.1

TD 0

New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns

*2008 stats

2010 SCHEDULE

2009 Record: 11--5

September

12 Green Bay

19 at Detroit

26 at Jacksonville

October

3 Washington

10 at San Francisco

17 Atlanta

24 at Tennessee

31 BYE

November

7 Indianapolis

15 at Washington (M)

21 N.Y. Giants

28 at Chicago

December

2 Houston (T)

12 at Dallas

19 at N.Y. Giants

26 Minnesota

January

2 Dallas

(M) Monday (T) Thursday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL Rank: 9

Opponents' 2009 winning percentage: .520

Games against 2009 playoff teams: 5

ANALYSIS

Donovan McNabb's return to Philly in Week 4 is the early highlight, and Andy Reid's 11--0 mark after a bye will be tested in Week 9 against the AFC champion Colts. But it's a tough four-game closing run that will likely determine Philly's playoff chances. Dallas's 24--0 smackdown of the Eagles in Week 17 last year debunked the notion that Philly had a late-season advantage over its bitter rival.

SPOTLIGHT

LeSean McCoy, Running back

FOR ALL the hand-wringing over the exodus of Donovan McNabb, the Eagles have to come to terms with another significant departure: Running back Brian Westbrook, a mainstay in Philadelphia for eight seasons, was released last February. (The 49ers picked him up in August.) "I thought that for several years Brian might have been the player most important to any team in the league," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg says. "We asked him to be one of the very best runners; we asked him to run routes and catch the football like a receiver; we asked him to pick up protection; and on occasion we asked him to run-block."

Into that Swiss Army--knife role steps the 22-year-old McCoy, who brings just two seasons of college experience (at Pittsburgh) and one in the NFL (gaining 4.1 yards per rush in backing up, and ultimately supplanting, Westbrook in 2009). The versatile—and confident—McCoy says he's ready to step into those shoes; reality suggests that, despite a 5'10", 208-pound frame very similar to his predecessor's, he can't possibly duplicate Westbrook in his prime. But the playbook will change very little, coaches say; in camp, practices incorporated the same swing passes and screens that have long been staples of Philly's offense. McCoy has soft hands and, according to Mornhinweg, is "180 degrees" from where he was last season in his understanding of the offense. McCoy knows his assignments and responsibilities on leaving the huddle and isn't wasting time trying to remember the playbook.

All he has to do now, Mornhinweg says, is "virtually everything possible in football." Just as Westbrook did for nearly a decade.

PHOTOANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGESFIGHTING VEHICLE Bradley (55) has returned from injury—and returned to dishing out hits.PHOTOAL TIELEMANS