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Eagles D: Time To Step Up Vs. Run

Stewart Bradley watches the game tape and sees Steven Jackson and knows that Sunday is going to be a test. Jackson is, as Bradley sees, a total package.

"He's got power and he makes you miss, too," said Bradley, the Eagles' middle linebacker. "He is one of the best in the game. I don't know how much they are going to give him the ball, but I'm sure he is going to get his touches. He's a great player. We have to be ready for everything he brings to their offense."

Bradley was one of the popular visits during the week for the media, and as Sunday's game nears, his performance is one of the keys to victory. Bradley had a late-season cameo in 2007 and did enough to impress the coaching staff that Jim Johnson reconfigured the linebackers, moving Omar Gaither to the weak side and installing Bradley in the middle.

Now it's show time. And Bradley knows the Eagles are going to have to stop the run. Teams are going to go after the defense. They are going to try to play smash-mouth football. They are going to see if the smallish Eagles defense can man up and punch back.

"We have to be physical," said Bradley. "That's the name of the game. Be smart, play fast and be physical."

In the course of two seasons, the Eagles have overhauled the defense. The front seven isn't even close to the group that led the Eagles into the Super Bowl in the 2004 season. Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell are new starters in the secondary. The Eagles have youth strewn from one end to the other on defense, and Sunday is a chance to see just how ready the kids are to step up to the challenge.

The Eagles left the NovaCare Complex on Friday with only a Saturday walk-through and a bunch of meetings to go before the season opens. The locker room was a lively place on Friday. The players have been waiting for a long time to get to this point.

Anticipation is in the air.

"Everybody is excited," said center Jamaal Jackson. "We didn't have a good season last year. Nobody wants to miss the playoffs. We've got a lot of motivation. I know I feel that way. I know that the line, all of us, want to be better than we were last year. We didn't play like we wanted to play. We've worked hard and we've been paying attention to the details.

"The Rams are going to come in here and play hard. It's going to be a challenge. They're tough up front. But I also think we feel the same way. We feel it's time to go out and play and show what we can do."

In front of wide receiver Hank Baskett's locker, reporters crowded around him and wanted to know his thoughts on how the offense would fare minus starting wide receiver Kevin Curtis for sure and, likely, starting wide receiver Reggie Brown. Baskett anticipated the questions. He answered positively. He wants to be part of the offense.

He wants to contribute.

"Everyone in here wants to play, so if I get a chance and my number is called, I'm going to be ready to make plays," he said. "That's my job. That is why I'm here. We are all going to have to step up and replace Kevin. If Reggie doesn't play, we will have to step up and replace him, too.

"We've all been around for a while, and plus we have DeSean (Jackson) and you see the ability he has to make plays. We're going to move the chains. We're going to play and play well."

Jackson, of course, had cameras in his face for the third straight day. He continues to work hard and play well in practice, and he continues to stay humble and reserved.

"I'm here to help the team win," said Jackson, "so whatever they ask me to do, I'm ready to be there."

And so a week of coachspeak and player mumbo-jumbo is over. What more is there to say? The Eagles have a game to play on Sunday. They have a game to win. They have a season to start the right way.

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