Philadelphia Eagles Team Report

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has been coaching for 43 years and never, ever has been hit with an injury bug like this. The season is only three games old, and already, eight defensive players, including four starters -- cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, free safety Brian Dawkins and defensive end Derrick Burgess -- have gone down.

"I've never lost this many key players like this," said Johnson. "I don't know if it's just one of those years around the NFL or what. But it's been amazing. When I looked out at our secondary Sunday, the only veteran we had there was (second-year strong safety) Michael Lewis, really."

That won't change this week. Pro Bowlers Vincent (hamstring), Taylor (plantar fasciitis) and Dawkins (Lisfranc foot sprain) all aren't expected to play against the 3-1 Washington Redskins.

Dawkins has been replaced by former Arena Leaguer Clinton Hart. Vincent and Taylor have been replaced by second-year men Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard. Undrafted free agent Roderick Hood will be the club's nickel back. With Vincent out (he injured his hamstring on the third play of the game last week), the Eagles signed free agent corner Daryon Brutley Tuesday just so they'd have enough corners to play all of their nickel and dime coverages.

In last week's 23-13 win over Buffalo, Brown, Sheppard and Hood gave up 215 receiving yards to the Bills' Eric Moulds, Bobby Shaw and Josh Reed. But they allowed just one passing TD, a three-yard Drew Bledsoe-to-Shaw score in the fourth quarter.

"It was like (the line from) the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie: `Who are these guys?'" Johnson said. "I was amazed by the way those young corners and Hood and Hart battled. They didn't shy away. They were very aggressive.

"Sometimes, you put young rookies out there and they play a little scared. But I don't feel they played scared. It was a pleasure to watch how aggressive they were. And against a good quarterback and some good receivers."

They will be tested again this week by a Redskins receiving corps that features lightening-fast Laveranues Coles (28 catches, 16.7 yards per catch), Rod Gardner (19 catches, 2 touchdowns) and Darnerien McCants (15.3 yards per catch, 2 touchdowns).

Last week, Johnson had Brown shadow Moulds and put Sheppard on Reed. He'll likely employ the same strategy this week, putting Brown exclusively on Coles. The problem this week will be that, in addition to the difficulty of Brown stopping Coles, the 6-2 Gardner and the 6-3 McCants will have a distinct size advantage over Sheppard and Hood.

"They're getting thrown into the fire," Johnson said. "I'm not going to say they didn't make some mistakes (last week). We made a couple on some blitzes. But as long as they play hard and give effort like that, we'll be OK.

"The one thing we have right now is our front seven. I feel good about our front seven. I know we're short on ends and lost a backup tackle (Paul Grasmanis). But I think we're solid up front. Our tackles (Corey Simon and Hollis Thomas) are playing good. We're going to be getting (DE) Brandon (Whiting) back this week. And our linebackers are playing solid. So that has helped."

HISTORY: 137th meeting. Redskins lead the series, 73-58-5. Eagles have won three in a row, including both meetings last season. Donovan McNabb completed 26 of 38 passes for 292 yards and 2 touchdowns in an easy 30-point win in mid-September. McNabb was out with a broken leg for the second meeting in mid-December, but they still won with A.J. Feeley at quarterback.



The Eagles are first in the NFL in rush defense, holding their first three opponents to 57.7 yards per game on the ground and 2.4 yards per carry. They've allowed just one run over 9 yards so far. That was a 15-yarder by Tampa Bay's Michael Pittman in Week 1.

Donovan McNabb was dumbfounded by comments about him from ESPN's Rush Limbaugh. On the network's pre-game show Sunday, Limbaugh said that McNabb gets more credit than he deserves because he is black. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL," Limbaugh said. "I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really doesn't deserve."

Said McNabb, whose weekly Wednesday press conference was broadcast live by CNN: "It's sad that you've got to go to skin color. I thought we were through with that whole deal. What about (Michael) Vick? What does that say for Daunte Culpepper or Aaron Brooks or Quincy Carter? Culpepper is playing really well right now. What does it say about that?

"He said what he said. I'm sure he's not the only one that feels that way, but it's somewhat shocking to actually hear that on national TV."

Two of the ESPN pre-game panelists who were on the show with Limbaugh Sunday -- Tom Jackson and Michael Irvin -- both are black. McNabb was disappointed that neither of them took Limbaugh to task about his racial comments. "I'm not pointing at anyone, but someone should have said it," McNabb said. "I wouldn't have cared if it was the cameraman."

--The Eagles had two rushing TDs Sunday against Buffalo. Correll Buckhalter scored on a two-yard run in the first quarter and Brian Westbrook had a 62-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. It's the first time the Eagles have had two rushing TDs in a game since Week 4 of last season. In fact, they had registered a total of 5 rushing TDs in their previous 16 games.

--It wasn't surprising that the Eagles ran the ball more Sunday (34 rushing attempts v. Bills). It was surprising, though, that Duce Staley had just two of those carries. That was just one more than wide receiver James Thrash. Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter each had 11 carries. And quarterback Donovan McNabb had nine. Coach Andy Reid said that's just the way it worked out. "We'll continue to do what we think is best for the offense to move the football," Reid said. "This week it ended up with Brian and Correll having a few more snaps (than Duce). But we'll be using all three of them."

NUMBERS GAME: Three games into the season, Donovan McNabb still hasn't thrown a touchdown pass. He's attempted 111 passes without a TD.

QUOTE: "Donovan put together a nice game. He was very decisive in all of his decisions. He had great leadership in the huddle. Donovan did was he does best. I'm partial, but I think he's the best in the business." -- Head coach Andy Reid on his QB, Donovan McNabb.

QUICK HIT:
We may be seeing the emergence of Brian Westbrook as the club's No. 1 running back. Westbrook had a career-high 11 carries for 96 yards last week, including a game-clinching 62-yard touchdown run. While coach Andy Reid said he would continue to rotate Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley, it's becoming clear that Westbrook is his most dangerous running threat. The problem is his size and durability. He's just 5-8 and spent much of his rookie season and his second training camp nicked up. He's also the club's punt and kickoff returner.

War Nest Top Stories