John Crist: With the failure of the Rex Grossman experiment and continued chatter that Donovan McNabb is unhappy in Philadelphia, speculation is running rampant that the former NFC Offensive Player of the Year and Mt. Carmel graduate could come home to Chicago next season. Do you believe McNabb is a lame duck in Philly, what are the reviews so far on Kevin Kolb, and could a trade even be worked out considering the potential salary cap ramifications?
Chris Steuber: Is McNabb a lame duck in Philly? That's a tough question, but I think as the weeks go on, we're starting to get the feeling that he's not going to be in Philly after this season. The way things are being said, McNabb's mannerisms on the field, and his overall mentality, it appears that McNabb believes he won't be here next year either. Kolb showed great presence and poise during the preseason when he had a chance to play. He has a high football IQ and understands what it takes to be a quarterback at this level. He's a tough, smart, polished quarterback that can handle pressure and excel in this offense. Getting back to McNabb and a possible trade at season's end, anything's possible.
I'm not sure what the exact cap hit will be if he's traded, but I know it's far less than it would have been if the Eagles traded him before this season. McNabb's contract runs through 2013, and I'm sure the Bears would be interested in bringing McNabb home.
JC: McNabb may be a perennial MVP candidate when he's healthy and playing well, but it's becoming common knowledge around the league that tailback Brian Westbrook is truly who makes this Eagles offense go. Why did it take so long for head coach Andy Reid to settle on him as an every-down back, and what is it that makes him such a unique player?
RB Brian Westbrook
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CS: The durability issue with Westbrook has always been a main concern of the Eagles coaching staff, and in many ways it still is. I don't know if Reid is sold on Westbrook being an every-down back, but he understands that he's the fuel to the Eagles' offensive engine. Without Westbrook in the lineup, the Eagles offense is mediocre at best. Westbrook is tremendous. He's the best all-purpose running back in the league not named LaDainian Tomlinson.
He does so many things well on the field. He can run between the tackles and around the end. He is an excellent receiver. He's probably the best running back in the league at catching screen passes and allowing his blockers to set up in front of him. He's deceptively strong and is great in pass protection. He's just an incredible talent with one of the best all-around games.
JC: Terrell Owens quickly wore out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love, but the fact remains that the Eagles were hurting at the wide receiver position before he got there and started hurting there again once he split for Dallas. Is Kevin Curtis a one-trick pony with the deep ball, and why isn't Reggie Brown further along in his development at this point?
CS: Last year, the Eagles offense was efficient when Donte' Stallworth was healthy and in the lineup. I really liked the mix of Stallworth with Brown receiving the ball from Jeff Garcia. I thought the three of them had nice chemistry and were a big reason why the Eagles made it to the playoffs last season. Now Stallworth is in New England having a lot of success with Randy Moss and Tom Brady – it hurts too much to think about it. Curtis is a really nice receiver. I liked the signing, and I think he can play in this league. There is more to his game than just being a vertical threat. He's a fast receiver with game-breaking ability, and that's what you're seeing at this point because the Eagles are looking for big plays. I think that's what's hurting them. They're not the same offense of three years ago when they had T.O. They have to manufacture drives better, and that all starts with McNabb. He has to get all of his receivers involved.
It was nice to see Brown catch six passes for 89 yards against the Jets, and hopefully his number gets called more often as the season moves forward. I think a lot of the questions surrounding the receivers stem from McNabb's inconsistent play. I don't think Curtis and Brown are as hard to figure out as they have been made out to be this year. I believe it all comes back to No. 5.
JC: Jevon Kearse still generates a lot of headlines at the defensive end position, but he's probably the least productive player of the Philadelphia front four right now. Tell us more about his counterpart Trent Cole – currently in the midst of a breakout season – and that young D-tackle combination in Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson.
DT Brodrick Bunkley
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CS: Cole is an outstanding situational pass-rusher. He improved his size during the offseason, but he lacks ideal size to be an every-down defensive end, because he's a liability against the run. But if you need a big sack at a key moment, Cole is the Eagles' best bet to accomplish that feat. He was a tweener coming out of Cincinnati. He was a hybrid linebacker with the Bearcats in college and wasn't projected to be much at the next level. The Eagles loved his athleticism and selected him in the fifth round of the 2005 draft.
Bunkley has been terrific thus far after a suspect rookie year last season. He's quick off the snap and gains instant penetration through the middle. He commands double teams on most downs and allows others along the line to have success. Patterson has benefited the most from Bunkley's rapid development and is realizing his full potential this season.
JC: Six-time Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins has been one of the best safeties of his generation and could get the call from Canton one day, but he's missed the last three games with a neck injury and didn't appear to be doing much when he was in there earlier in the season. Has Father Time finally caught up to him at 34 years old, and if so, who will take over as the leader in the secondary?
CS: It's hard to say, but I think the writing's on the wall and it's becoming bolder by the day. Dawkins has been the emotional leader on defense and a player the entire team looks up to. But with his neck injury still prevalent, the coaching staff isn't saying much about his progress except, "It's a day-to-day situation."
I don't think there is one player in the secondary that will assume a leadership role, but I do believe as a unit they'll all rally around one another and become a dominant defense once again.
Be on the lookout for Part II of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answers five questions from Chris, on Thursday.