Dan Leberfeld: The Eagles linebacker corps has a lot of new parts - how are they coming together?
Chris Steuber: They have been solid. The defense as a whole has played very well this season. The linebackers have been efficient, even though two of the starters, Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong, are in their second year. Takeo Spikes was a great addition to the defense and has added a lot of energy and leadership.
Leberfeld: The Jets really liked Chris Gocong in the draft last year. How is he developing, and might he have been better off as a 3-4 OLB?
Steuber: I talked to Chris about that a couple of weeks ago. He said he was surprised when the Eagles took him in last year’s draft. A funny story occurred during last year’s draft. The Jets were on the phone with Gocong, notifying him that they were going to draft him. While he was on the phone with New York, he looked at the TV and he saw that the Eagles had selected him. He told the Jets representative that on the phone and hung up. He admits that he is better suited for a 3-4 defense, because at Cal-Poly they ran a similar defense. But he’s a smart player that has picked up the Eagles defense. I expect Gocong to be a really good player in a year or two. I think he’s feeling his way through the transition from defensive end to linebacker, and once he gets comfortable, he’s going to be a great player.
Leberfeld: The Eagles played their last game without two starters in the secondary - Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard. Are they expected back this week, and do you think Chad Pennington can get a lot done against this secondary?
Steuber: I think Sheppard will be back, but Dawkins is still questionable. Dawkins has struggled recovering from his neck stinger, and if he does play this weekend, he’ll be rusty. Quintin Mikell has played well in his place, and if Dawkins sits out this week, I expect Mikell to continue his solid play. Pennington has struggled thus far, and it’s crucial for him to have a good game against the Eagles on Sunday. I think he’ll have some success, but I don’t think he’s going to do enough to carry the Jets to a win.
Leberfeld: The Jets running game has struggled. Is it unlikely the Jets will get it going this week against the Eagles?
Steuber: The Eagles run defense has improved over last season. A big reason for that is the play of defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. Bunkley’s emergence has made Patterson more effective, and it has carried over to the linebackers. Thomas Jones is a tough back who fights for yards, but I think the Eagles will play one of the better defensive games this week against the Jets. They should be well rested and ready to get out on the field and show that their rough start was just a fluke. If it wasn’t a fluke and they lose, their season is pretty much over.
Leberfeld: We hear that second-year DT Broderick Bunkley has really stepped up this year. How hard will it be for the Jets to deal with him?
Steuber: He’s playing at a high level right now, and he’s been tough for any opponent to keep in check. He’s so quick off the line and so strong that he gets a tremendous push through the middle. He’s going to be a handful for the Jets offensive line, and I expect him to have a great game.