Behind Enemy Lines Part 3

Viking Update's Tim Yotter asked Warnest.com's Chris Steuber five final questions about the Eagles for this Sunday's game. Steuber discusses McNabb's early years and how they compare to Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Curtis' play thus far, and Jim Johnson's defense. All of this and more inside...

Tim Yotter: As the Vikings struggle through the development of Tarvaris Jackson, what were some of the issues the Eagles faced in developing Donovan McNabb and was there a point early on when he was close to getting the hook?

Chris Steuber:
When the Eagles drafted McNabb in 1999, it was understood that veteran quarterback Doug Pederson was going to be the starting quarterback to start the year. But when you draft a quarterback second overall in the draft, when you decide it’s his time to run the team, you live with the results win or lose. The Vikings’ situation with Jackson is different from what the Eagles situation was with McNabb. McNabb was the future and everyone knew it. Jackson was a second-round developmental player from a small school who they believed could one day be a starting quarterback at the NFL level. He still has a long way to go, but McNabb had a rough first season and developed into a tremendous player with playmaking ability.

Yotter: There seemed to be a lot of discussion this week about Jim Johnson’s aggressiveness. Is that still proving to be a good approach or has the defense been burned deep too often?

Steuber:
Jim Johnson’s defense is predicated on being aggressive. It’s his nature. He likes to get pressure on the quarterback and disrupt the opposition’s flow by bringing the blitz from all angles. The Eagles defense hasn’t been the problem this season, except for the last 1:50 in last week’s devastating loss to the Bears. The Eagles haven’t really gotten burned deep this season. The defense gives up some big plays, but they usually hold their ground in the red zone. They don’t give up many touchdowns, and force their opponent to kick a field goal. The defense has some holes, especially in the secondary, but overall they’ve been consistent this season.

Yotter: The Eagles don’t seem to be getting much out of their draft picks yet this season. What is the status there?

Steuber:
The Eagles rarely get production out of their rookies, because the coaching staff doesn’t give them the opportunity to play. The Eagles usually draft players for the future, not for the present. I don’t think you’ll see any of the rookies from this year’s class make an impact this season.

Yotter: The Vikings offered a better contract to WR Kevin Curtis than the Eagles did, according to Brad Childress. Besides his three-touchdown game, how has Curtis done and has he ever given a reason for his decision (other than Philly was expected to be more competitive than Minnesota this year)?

Steuber:
Curtis has been good, a little inconsistent, but good. He was incredible against the Lions during the Eagles 56-point assault, and caught 11 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. I believe he has big-play ability, but in the West Coast Offense you’re limited as a receiver because the quarterback spreads the ball out to everyone. So far this season, Curtis has managed 29 receptions for 506 yards and four touchdowns. When Curtis visited Philadelphia during the offseason, he really liked what he heard from the coaching staff as far as the offensive scheme. I’m not sure why he chose the Eagles over the Vikings, but looking at the quarterback situation during the time he made his decision, I’m sure, in his mind, Philly had more potential than Minnesota.

Yotter: For a guy who has gotten very little name recognition, Trent Cole already has seven sacks. Give us some background on him, and is he the Eagles’ best defensive player already?

Steuber:
Cole was the Eagles fifth-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was a linebacker/defensive end at the University of Cincinnati and was drafted by the Eagles to be a situational pass rusher. He’s really benefited from Jim Johnson’s defensive rotation, because it keeps him fresh and strong throughout the game. He’s a great athlete with a high motor and has developed into a tremendous pass rusher that teams have to pay attention too. He’s the Eagles’ best defensive end, but I still think Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard, when they’re healthy, are the best defensive players on this team.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber is the Editor in Chief of WarNest.com and an NFL Analyst for Scout.com. Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. If you have any questions for Chris, email him at: csteuber@scout.com.



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