Generally, when you have a player - let alone two - going up against a former team that released said player, there's a side that harbors something of a grudge. This week, the Eagles will go up against two members of the 2009 Eagles who have made immediate contributions to the Titans defense in defensive end Jason Babin and linebacker Will Witherspoon. But neither the ex-Eagles nor the Eagles would acknowledge any sort of bad blood.
"It's more fun," Witherspoon said to TitansOnline.com. "It's playing against guys I know, coaching staff I know and it'll make things more fun for me."
Witherspoon joined the Eagles as a trade-deadline acquisition following the season-ending injury to backup middle linebacker Omar Gaither. Witherspoon, who actually lost his bye week in the transaction and played a 17-game regular season, was released by the Eagles following the season. This year, he's contributed 3.0 sacks as a starting outside linebacker.
But while Witherspoon had the pedigree of a starting linebacker, Babin has been the real surprise for the Titans. A first-round pick-turned-journeyman, Babin's football evolution began as a 3-4 outside linebacker with the Houston Texans, after which he spent time with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Eagles mid-way through last summer's training camp. He impressed the Eagles in the preseason with his high motor and earned a spot on the roster, where he was employed mostly as a situational pass rusher, earning 2.5 sacks on the year.
Babin and the Eagles parted amicably, as the team had the option to match any contract Babin received elsewhere. They elected to let the 30-year-old continue his career elsewhere, in Tennessee. The move has been great for both Babin and the Titans, as Babin has already notched 6.0 sacks on the season, tied for fourth in the league.
"He just had some guys in front of him here," said wide receiver Jason Avant. "He had Trent (Cole) in front of him ... I think he (just needed to get) his opportunity. (Also), the schemes that (the Titans) run. They stunt on every play and I think that frees him up with his quickness. So I think that he's doing the same things, he's just getting his opportunities."
The Titans defense "fits my mentality. It fits my abilities," Babin told the team's official website. "There's no more 'square peg, round hole.'
"There were a lot of zone blitzes (with the Eagles). A lot of times we were dropping. A lot of times we had different responsibilities. Here it's just go as fast as you can and hit the guy in front of you and whatever happens happens."
With his six sacks, Babin is one-up on his friend and occasional hunting partner Trent Cole, the Eagles' leader in sacks with 5.0.
"He deserves it," said Cole.
Babin has mostly been lining up on the left side for the Titans defense, which matches him up against Eagles right tackle Winston Justice.
"I always knew he was a good player even when he was here," Justice said. "I think (Babin and Witherspoon) would be a good fit anywhere. I think they were a good fit here. Things just didn't work out, but they were always good players."
As for whether the Eagles will have an advantage in knowing Babin's tendencies and abilities so well, King Dunlap, slated to start at left tackle, expects that to go both ways.
"It does (help us)," he said, "but I'm sure he'll try to throw something different in there."
Actually, the love fest between the Eagles and their former teammates extends all the way to Dunlap, who had a classic training camp fight with Babin under the sweltering Lehigh heat last summer.
"It was just one of those things in camp," Dunlap said, "We were friends after that."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:11 p.m., October 21