The numbers don't lie, and in the case of defensive end Juqua Parker, they speak very clearly: He is off to a great start in the 2010 season. He leads the team in quarterback sacks with three and his five quarterback hurries rank second to Trent Cole. Parker has alternated in with starter Brandon Graham and has been a force off the left edge.
"I am prepared to play whenever they call on me," said Parker. "That is the approach I take into every game. Whenever I am on the field, I have to be ready."
Parker registered a career-high eight sacks in 2009 and then the Eagles went out and bolstered the defensive line in the off-season, headlined by the move to draft Graham in the first round in April. By the end of training camp, Graham was firmly entrenched in the starting lineup. But the way the Eagles see it, there really isn't much of a distinction between the starter and the reserves. The defensive line rotates. Everybody plays. Everybody needs to produce.
And Parker has been at the front of the line. The Eagles bring Parker in to rotate with Graham in the base defense, and Parker also plays left end in the nickel, with Graham sliding inside to left tackle. It has been a particularly productive situation and on Sunday when the Eagles line up in Jacksonville, they know the task will be a large one: Get after quarterback David Garrard and force turnovers.
"I feel great out there. I like this defense and what we're doing," said Parker. "We're getting after it. We need to put four quarters together. That is the goal on Sunday."
Parker isn't the only Eagle flying under the radar. There are others ...
*JEREMY MACLIN, WR *
Fast enough to stretch a defense, Jeremy Maclin is becoming a complete wide receiver after an excellent rookie season. He has 7 catches, but he's been really effective in the short- and intermediate-passing game through two games rather than as a down-the-field threat. Maclin has a pair of touchdown catches and he is averaging 9.1 yards per reception. That last number is sure to increase, but for now Maclin is finding space underneath zone coverage and becoming a target in the red zone.
Maclin caught 55 passes last season and he could be in store for more this year. As the offense settles in more and more, Maclin will become an even larger threat -- and down the field, too. He has shown toughness and sure hands. The Eagles lead the league with 32 plays of 10-plus yards. Maclin will get his throughout the season.
*ELLIS HOBBS, CB *
As expected, Ellis Hobbs has battled on every snap. He has been right there for the most part, and last week against Detroit he contributed a key interception in the road victory. Hobbs was beaten -- with the help of a miscommunication in the secondary -- in the opener for a touchdown by Greg Jennings, but even in that game Hobbs was part of a secondary that limited quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Jacksonville has a couple of bigger receivers in Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker, so another test waits for Hobbs in the Florida heat.
OWEN SCHMITT, FB
Only a few days after signing with the Eagles after a workout, Owen Schmitt stepped in and produced from the fullback position. Schmitt didn't see a ton of action, but he made his time count against Detroit with a pair of catches for 21 yards. Schmitt was physical as a blocker and he looked about as comfortable as could be expected after practicing for three afternoons prior to the game.
It should become more and more natural for Schmitt in the weeks to come. He will learn the nuances of the offense and settle in, and hopefully he will be able to come close to replacing what Leonard Weaver provided for this offense. No question, though, the only silver lining in Weaver's injury is that it happened early in the season and a quality player like Schmitt was still available.
*NATE ALLEN, FS *
Talk about rookies getting off to great starts. Nate Allen has been a revelation at free safety, around the ball in each of the first two weeks, strong in his deep coverage and very capable in his tackling and signal calling. He has made mistakes -- that touchdown pass to Jennings went over the top of Hobbs, with Allen racing over too late in coverage -- but they have been minimal. Players and coaches on the other side of the ball are pretty good, too, and offenses are going to make plays.
The Eagles haven't put four good quarters of defensive football together yet. That is the goal. Sunday is the next opportunity. Allen has to be physical against the Jags' running game, and he has to make sure he doesn't bit on Garrard's play-action passing. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is a load, along with those receivers.
We'll learn more about Allen on Sunday.
SAV ROCCA, P
Sav Rocca's numbers are eye-popping: He is averaging 49.2 yards on 12 punts, with a net average of 43.8 yards. The net average is second in the NFL. Rocca has done his best to win the battle of field position for the Eagles, and he clearly has shown great improvement in each of his four seasons with the Eagles.
And the way the schedule looks, Rocca could take advantage of some nice weather for much of the season to keep his numbers among the best in the league. There are only a couple of potential cold-weather road games -- November 28 at Chicago, December 19 at the Giants -- and then a couple of games at Lincoln Financial Field to close out the regular season.
Knock on wood here, but Rocca's consistency has been great and his directional kicking has been outstanding. He has a chance to be right up there among the best in the NFL throughout the season. The Eagles have a weapon here.
TREVOR LAWS, DT
After a down 2009 season, Trevor Laws approached the off-season with great purpose: He knew he had to produce or he might not make the team. So Laws hit the conditioning program hard and then earned a roster spot and more in training camp and in the preseason. Laws plays as the team's third defensive tackle, and he is a starter in the nickel defense.
His numbers don't say much at all, but Laws has generated some pressure inside and has been part of the pass rush that really hasn't allowed quarterbacks to step into their throws. Laws is working at it. He is improving. It's a good sign for a player who had done nothing to generate a lot of enthusiasm last season.