Philadelphia Eagles News

Below-The-Radar Eagles Key To Success

This isn't about the players who attract the crowds of reporters, who regal the cameras with their wit and wisdom. This isn't about the players who get the long lines at the autograph booths. This is about the meat-and-potatoes players on this roster, the ones that show up each week and play well and earn their paycheck and help the Eagles win and gain not a whole lot of attention in the process.

This is a story that could go on and on and on. Because for every Brian Westbrook, there is a Leonard Weaver. And for every DeSean Jackson, there is a Jason Avant. And for every Trent Cole, there is a Brodrick Bunkley plugging along inside to command a blocker.

So this is a shout-out to the players who have been to the NovaCare Complex each day as part of the off-season conditioning program. It is an abbreviated list, and apologies go out to those not included ...

**TODD HERREMANS, left guard

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We forget what kind of excellent season Todd Herremans had last year, and we don't take into consideration the great strides Herremans has made since transitioning from left tackle in 2005. Herremans is a guard now, and a darn fine one. He is tough, durable, powerful and athletic enough to handle the speed inside. The Eagles have a good thing going with Herremans at guard and Jamaal Jackson at center, as both of them work so well together in pass protection.

Maybe with Jason Peters at left tackle, the Eagles will run left a little bit more and allow Herremans to show what kind of drive blocker he is. That left side should be a strength this season, and Herremans is a reason why. He won't get the attention, but the coaches understand how good Herremans is.

**JASON AVANT, wide receiver

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Having the label, "third-down receiver" sometimes isn't a compliment. But for Jason Avant, it means so much. He is Mr. First Down on third downs. Avant has 62 career receptions and 24 of them have come on third down. Of those 24 catches, 20 have gained first downs. Last season, Avant caught 15 passes on third down, and 13 of those receptions gained first downs.

Avant combines sharp route running with great hands, strength and toughness to excel inside. Avant is one of Donovan McNabb's favorite targets, especially in the short-area game. Will Avant's numbers grow? Last year he caught 32 passes, so yeah, maybe. But with Avant, the quality of his catches means more than the quantity. He is a standout inside, where the play is nasty and only the strong survive.

**JOSELIO HANSON, cornerback

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I love the fact that the Eagles made it a priority to sign Joselio Hanson before the free agency period started. That's how much he means to this defense. Hanson's diligence in his study habits and his fine play in coverage allow the Eagles to move Sheldon Brown inside in the nickel and give Hanson room in coverage on the outside. Hanson's story is a familiar one, having been picked off the NFL's scrap heap in 2006.

If a starter goes down, the Eagles feel very comfortable with Hanson starting. He is always going to be in the right place, and he is going to be sound in his technique. You can't have enough players like Hanson on a roster.

**JON DORENBOS, long snapper

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Nobody talks about a player like Jon Dorenbos until something goes wrong. Fortunately for the Eagles, very little has gone wrong with their long snapping on special teams. You don't realize how unusual it is for the Eagles to have had a seamless transition from Mike Bartrum to Dorenbos. Teams struggle with this position for years and years and years.

It isn't a worry for the Eagles, because Dorenbos approaches his job professionally and makes sure he is on point.

**BRODRICK BUNKLEY, defensive tackle

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Maybe this is the year when Brodrick Bunkley makes the next step and gets some national recognition. Maybe not. Bunkley does so much of his work in the dark shadows of the game -- in the trenches against the run and in the locker room where his emotions run high -- and he is not the high-profile player on the defensive line. Bunkley needs to get more sacks -- along with Mike Patterson -- and he needs to make more highlight plays.

But as far as being there every week, and playing hard and doing his job, Bunkley has been a marvel since his poor rookie season. He needs to go to the next level, and maybe this is the year. No doubt that, though, that Bunkley has become so very reliable inside, even if nobody is watching the nasty work he does.

**QUINTIN MIKELL, safety

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It's likely that Quintin Mikell's veil of anonymity is about to end now that he has gotten some national attention. Still, he is not a household name outside of Eagles world, and that has to change. Mikell is too good to be unknown. He does it all for somebody who is not that big. Mikell helps the run very well, can play both safety positions without flinching and is a big-play maker in coverage.

Mikell is suddenly the elder statesman at safety, so his profile is going to grow. You're also going to learn about Mikell as a leader, because he is a good one in the locker room. His rise from non-drafted player to standout is one to admire. And he is typical of the players on this list -- unsung, quiet and incredibly valuable to this football team.

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