Answer Man VIII

<b>JW:</b> Well, Answer Man, here comes another undefeated team. Does the record of the Philadelphia Eagles surprise you? <br><b>AM:</b> No. They're a good team. It's surprising with some of the injuries they've had, but that quarterback and that wide receiver have jelled together pretty nicely and their defense is pretty tough.

JW: Do they miss Duce Staley as much as the Steelers would?
AM: Probably not. I mean, they're 7-0. You know what I mean? But Duce is a better fit for our offense. In that West Coast offense you can use a (Brian) Westbrook type. We couldn't use a Westbrook type as a main feature back. You can get away with a Westbrook that's a smaller shiftier guy that can catch it out of the backfield, that's not a downhill, power, bruising guy who's got to make quick cuts. A lot of their game is short traps, or sweeps, or outside stuff, nothing where you've got to pick inside. You can get away with Westbrook, but if we signed Westbrook instead of Duce he wouldn't be doing what Duce is doing. So, yes, Duce is more valuable to us than he is or would've been to them.
JW: How are their other backs doing?
AM: You've got Dorsey Levens, who's a vet on the decline. He doesn't have too much. Reno Mahe's a small, quick, shifty guy who's really a returner. Those are the two you're going with.
JW: Does Terrell Owens fit their team specifically?
AM: He fits any team. He just makes plays. I mean, he does have drops. They all do. But he just makes plays.
JW: Anything on the other side of him?
AM: Todd Pinkston, but he may be out. They've got Freddie Mitchell, who's inconsistent; Greg Lewis, who's a short, shifty guy with speed but he's small; and Billy McMullen, who's tall and kind of like Pinkston without the speed. They don't have anybody else, really. It's basically T.O. Freddie and Greg are the check-off guys who'll run across the middle and they'll get a ball or two here, but it's all T.O.
JW: They have a couple good tight ends, don't they?
AM: Yeah. L.J. (Smith) though has some inconsistent hands. If he could ever be consistent he'd be real good. And Chad Lewis is solid, real solid.
JW: How good is their line?
AM: To date, the best line we've played. Jon Runyan is a nasty S.O.B. who just mauls you. Tra Thomas is starting to decline but he could start for us, very serviceable. Artis Hicks and (Jermane) Mayberry, who may be hurt, are guards and they're good. And Hank Fraley is good. Steve Sciullo is kind of stiff and soft. We may see him.
JW: Fraley wasn't good initially with them, was he?
AM: He's been starting the last three years. This is the first time I've seen him. I could see if he struggled, considering where he came from and all the learning he needed at a new position, but he's doing well now.
JW: Defensively, are they still soft against the run?
AM: Yeah. You've got the two D-ends -- (Derrick) Burgess is more of a linebacker playing D-end, a rush specialist; (Jevon) Kearse is looking to get to the quarterback. Their two D-tackles are pretty tough, but their linebackers aren't the fill, stack and shed type guys, more run-around type guys. Now Trotter is, but he's only playing second team. He'll get some snaps. I would use him against the Steelers. But I think it's a combination of the two D-ends running upfield and linebackers that aren't stepping up. The off-tackle plays are where you're going to get them.
JW: Are the corners as good as the publicity would indicate?
AM: Lito Sheppard, I don't think. Sheldon Brown to an extent but he's going to have problems with size because he's a smaller guy. Their safeties are a good tandem, (Brian) Dawkins and (Michael) Lewis.
JW: What do they use on defense?
AM: They do a lot because they blitz so much. They'll play cover-2, man, three-deep, they're just not vanilla. Jimmy Johnson has a reputation for doing a lot of things.
JW: Are they better than New England?
AM: The line's better; the quarterbacks, take your pick; without (Corey) Dillon the running game's about the same; receivers, give it to Philly; the defensive line I'd go with New England; linebackers to New England; DBs, with Ty Law about the same. I probably would put Philly a little better because of the O-line and T.O. And they've got confidence. One of the things you can see with people like T.O. is, yeah, he does all this other stuff but you've never heard one player who's ever been with T.O. complain about his effort. You watch this game. He'll be out there two hours before the game working his butt off. He may talk a lot but he produces and he expects you to produce too, and that can help bring up the play of your whole team. It's the same with Ray Lewis. You talk to people who've played with Ray Lewis and they're so afraid of making mistakes they play better. So don't underestimate that part of a guy's game. A lot of people are going to concentrate on his showboating and dancing, but look how that team's responded to him. Duce has done the same thing here. He's not a showboat but the leadership role he's taken on, people are responding. Besides his running, his leadership is one of the big impacts on our team.

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