If you think the week of hype has invaded the players inside the Eagles locker room, well, it would have been difficult to feel that way on Friday afternoon. The mood was light, as always. The sense of anticipation was great, as always. The presence of extra cameras and national reporters didn't seem to have one bit of impact on an Eagles locker room preparing for Sunday's NFC East tilt against Washington.
Here is my trip around the locker room at the NovaCare Complex as the hours closed in on kickoff ...
**MAX JEAN-GILLES, OG
With Nick Cole hobbled because of a knee injury and out of practice all week, Max Jean-Gilles has taken the starter's repetitions at right guard. As he has been throughout his career here, Jean-Gilles is prepared to play, should he get the call to start.
"Oh yeah. I feel good about where I am and if they give me the go-ahead, I'll be ready to go," said Jean-Gilles. "Right now, I'm preparing to start and to have a good game on Sunday and it feels good to be back in the groove of things."
Head coach Andy Reid says that Cole is a game-time decision, so we'll see. Newcomer Reggie Wells stepped in when Cole was injured last week after playing most of his career in Arizona at left guard. Reid said on Friday that moving to right guard is a tough transition for Wells at this point in his Eagles career.
So, if Cole can't play, Jean-Gilles will go against Washington's 3-4 scheme.
"They're good, very aggressive, they bring a lot of blitzes from both sides, they use a lot of overloads," said Jean-Gilles. "You really have to work as a unit to beat them. For me, it could be a great chance to play. I have to be ready, to show the coaches that they can depend on me whenever they call on me."
STEWART BRADLEY, LB
Every week in the NFL, Stewart Bradley is saying, you play a former teammate whether you played with him in college or in the NFL. That is the nature of the game. Truth is, when the game begins players are just players. There are no friendships, just competitors. So Bradley isn't up in arms about the return of Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia. He just wants to beat a Redskins offense that relies on bootlegs, roll-outs and mis-direction.
"They want to take you out of position, and if you aren't playing sound football, you are going to get burned," said Bradley. "Even in the games they lost, they still made a lot of big plays and gashed defenses. They gained a lot of yards. You have to be very disciplined and you have to read your keys. You have to be prepared with your film study and then understand what you are looking at when the game begins."
The Eagles put together a terrific performance defensively in their win in Jacksonville, and Bradley hopes the momentum has started.
"I hope we can build on that. You are only as good as your last game in this league," said Bradley. "We're on to a new game. What we did last week was something positive to build on."
MIKE PATTERSON, DT
Reid lauded Mike Patterson for his play against Jacksonville, but not a lot of people took notice. That's the way it is for an interior defensive lineman, unless he is racking up the quarterback sacks. That isn't Patterson's game. He is the muck-and-grind tackle inside, responsible primarily for stopping the running game. Patterson and fellow starting defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley come off the field when the Eagles go to nickel and bring in pass-rushing tackle Trevor Laws and another defensive end to rush the quarterback, and that's OK with Patterson.
"Whatever it takes to win," said Patterson. "We have a good rotation going and everybody is staying fresh and making plays. That is fine with everybody. We're a team."
Patterson, the team's first-round draft pick in 2005, has been solid and durable and productive in his time here. He knows the run game is his bread and butter.
"I feel like I'm doing a decent job, but I know I can be a whole lot better," said Patterson. "Washington, we know they are going to run the rock. That's what they like to do, so you have to be ready to be physical."
And no, Trevor Laws did not win any kind of competition for recording two quarterback sacks last week.
"He did a great job," said Patterson. "Doesn't matter who it comes from as long as we, as a group, get it done."
*MICHAEL VICK, QB *
The media crowd gathered around Michael Vick for yet another day and he remained the same: Calm, cool and appreciative to be in this position. Vick is in the biggest "spotlight" moment of his climb back up the NFL star ladder. The questions have been just as much about his recovery off the field as his resurgence on the field.
"Nobody is going to be perfect and everybody is going to make mistakes," he said. "You have to learn from those mistakes and bounce back. You've got to be resilient in life and I think that is a great lesson for kids."
Vick insists he has not paid attention to the hype. He says "this is just another tough game for us, for me."
And the idea that the Redskins, the 32nd-ranked defense in the league, will be easy pickings? No way.
"This is the NFL. It's a divisional game. I see a group that has unbelievable potential, that flies around, that has a lot of veterans over there. It is a good defensive group," he said. "They're going to put it together at some point and play great football. We have to go out there, keep them off balance and make plays."
JUQUA PARKER, DE
He had eight quarterback sacks a year ago, a career high. Now he has four after three games and, yeah, it's safe to say that Juqua Parker is playing outstanding, terrific football.
Maybe the best-laid plans for Parker are going to work as planned: By drafting Brandon Graham and reducing Parker's workload, Parker is fresher, more effective and more prepared to get into the backfield for 17 weeks.
"I think it is going to help me to not get tired, give me some rest," said Parker. "When I get the call and come in, I feel like I'm at 110 percent and flying around out there."
Parker's production has been outstanding, as has that of a defensive line that registered seven quarterback sacks in Jacksonville.
"I think I'm playing the best football of my career. I don't change what I do, I just try to get better," said Parker. "It's both mental and physical. I know a little bit more about the scheme and I can wipe everything out when I know the call. Then I just out there and play."
And play well. Parker's pressure off the edge is key against Donovan McNabb, who likes to roll toward Parker's side and throw across the field and, certainly, down the field.
JEREMY MACLIN, WR
Here is the message Jeremy Maclin has for any defense that wants to overload against DeSean Jackson: Do it at your own risk.
"There really hasn't been any of that so far. There were some times when they doubled DeSean last year, but not now," said Maclin. "I'm not going to allow people to do it this year, and they can't do it. It's as simple as that. If anybody wants to go out there and play us man to man, they're going to be in for a long day."
Maclin has four touchdowns in three games, matching his output from last season. He is catching passes in the red zone, in the clutch and is moving the chains, and that 45-yard shot last week for a touchdown against Jacksonville was a thing of beauty.
"As long as we're winning games, you can feel good about it," said Maclin. "Whatever it takes to win. If you have to score, you have to score. Luckily I've been on the same page as Mike a few times and we've gotten the job done. Hopefully we can keep that going."