John Crist: Despite the fact that Donovan McNabb has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league for close to a decade, he's seemingly always had a testy relationship with the City of Brotherly Love. Aside from being injured a great deal and not delivering a Super Bowl title yet, is there more to this story? I know Chicago would kill to bring this Mt. Carmel grad home.
Chris Steuber: The relationship between Eagles fans and McNabb was scarred from the beginning. It all started at the 1999 draft when 30 morons, known as the "Dirty Thirty," decided to voice their displeasure in a chorus of boos directed toward the selection of McNabb because they wanted the team to draft Ricky Williams. From that day on, Donovan, even though he doesn't show it very much, has some disdain for Eagles fans considering the way they treated him as he was introduced to the NFL. Eagles fans have never fully embraced the best quarterback to ever don midnight green, even though he's been a main reason for the Eagles' success this decade.
I think there are some fans that like McNabb, but for every person who's a McNabb fan, you will find 20 others who think the Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia should start. If things don't continue to go well in Philly this season, I could see McNabb in Chicago. I'm sure McNabb has thought about what he'd look like in a No. 5 Bears jersey, since he's from the Windy City.
JC: Brian Westbrook is arguably the most versatile offensive player in the entire NFL, but he's banged up again and likely won't suit up Sunday against the Bears. A lot of teams can plug tailbacks into their system and have success, but Westbrook is irreplaceable. Tell us a little more about Correll Buckhalter and Lorenzo Booker should they have to shoulder the load.
CS: When Westbrook is out of the lineup, obviously, the Eagles lose a lot. But Buckhalter is a serviceable runner who is well versed in the Eagles system and has the ability to be a threat. Buckhalter has been injury prone over his career, as well, but he's healthy and gives the Eagles some relief in Westbrook's absence.
Booker is a nice change-of-pace runner who gives the Eagles the speed that's missing from the lineup without Westbrook. I think between Buckhalter and Booker, the loss of Westbrook will be eased a bit if he doesn't play on Sunday night. But it isn't easy replacing Westbrook long term.
JC: Aside from Terrell Owens– remember him? – Philly has had a revolving door of underachievers at wide receiver for quite a while now. Nevertheless, rookie DeSean Jackson looks to be keeper and is very explosive. How has he been able to do so well in this offense since first-year wideouts tend to struggle? And is he really that much of a diva?
CS: The reason why Jackson was a second-round pick rather than a first-round pick was because of the reports scouts conducted and received in regards to his behavior. It was well known that Jackson had a bit of diva in him at Cal, and that scared away a lot of teams. But the Eagles benefited by selecting Jackson, and he's going to show the 31 teams that passed him up exactly what they're missing.
I think a lot of people in the Eagles organization were pleasantly surprised by how fast Jackson picked up the offense during mini camp, training camp and now into the season. Before the draft, I wrote an article with the premise of "If Devin Hester and DeSean Jackson were both available in the 2008 NFL Draft, who would you select?" I stated that Jackson had more value because of his ability as a wide receiver in addition to his dynamic skills as a return specialist. Jackson is proving me right.
With Kevin Curtis still out with a sports hernia and Reggie Brown slowly making his way back into the lineup, Jackson is the team's best receiver. I know a lot of people probably think he isn't a smart player because of the blunder he created in Dallas by dropping the ball at the 1-yard line before entering the end zone for his first career touchdown. But don't worry about Jackson because he knows how good he is, and he's going to score a lot of touchdowns over his career. That incident just adds more fuel to the fire.
JC: Defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson has been able to generate a ton of pressure on quarterbacks thus far, as evidenced by nine sacks against the Steelers in Week 3. But no one player has more than 2.5 sacks (Juqua Parker) this year, which tells me it's more about the scheme than the players running it. Who must the Bears neutralize first if they want to win?
CS: That's the thing: there isn't one player you can focus on. There are a lot of players on the Eagles defense that can hurt you. The one player that teams always try to double team and chip is Trent Cole. But if you concentrate on Cole, that allows others to step up and make an impact.
The Eagles have a very good defense, especially in the secondary. The defensive line is solid, and the young linebackers are progressing each week. This will be a tough matchup for the Bears because the Eagles are out to prove that they're better than what they showed in Dallas during Week 2. Ask Pittsburgh how good they are.
JC: It sure sounded like Asante Samuel wanted to stay in New England during the offseason, but he turned into a free-agent coup for the Eagles. He's already intercepted two passes and seems to be fitting in with one of the best secondaries in the league. Is Samuel's presence somewhat responsible for Brian Dawkins looking five years younger all of a sudden?
CS: I don't know how to answer that question because, after the Dallas game, the media in Philadelphia questioned Dawkins' performance and asked if he thought he lost a step. Dawkins emphatically stated that he can still play this game and that he can play it well for at least two more years. I think those questions sparked Dawkins, and he silenced the media after his tremendous showing against the Steelers.
Samuel adds a lot to the Eagles defense. As a team, the Eagles only had 11 interceptions last season. Over the last two years, Samuel had 16. It's obvious that he's the best player in the secondary and has made life easier for everyone.
To read Part II of this three-part series, where John answers five questions from Chris, Click Here.
Behind Enemy Lines: Part I
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