Poor D.J. Ware, he never saw Cullen Jenkins coming. Late in the first half of the Eagles' 17-10 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday night, Ware caught a shore pass from Eli Manning and proceeded to make his way down the field. Ever the hustler, Jenkins proceeded to run full speed 20 yards from the Giants' backfield, where he had been closing in on Manning, and ran full speed into Ware, who somehow managed to hold onto the ball despite suffering a concussion on the play. It was a big-time, and notably legal, hit that exemplified what Jenkins has brought to the Eagles this season.
"I watched it a couple times," said Jenkins laughing. "I'm not a mean person.
"Wash always talks to us and we kind of take pride in running to the ball and just playing through the whistle. When (Ware) caught the pass, you start running because you never know what can happen, especially going towards the end of the half, you don't want any play to turn into something more if you can prevent it."
Several players in the locker room have pointed to Jenkins taking on an increased leadership role over the past few weeks. A Super Bowl champion last season, Jenkins was named a captain for the second time this season against the Giants. But while Jenkins has been vocal at times, it's the example he sets on the field that tends to resonate with his teammates.
"People in our society think that leadership is talking," said wide receiver Jason Avant, himself a team leader. "Talking is the last thing of leadership, the least important part of leadership. The best leadership is lead by example and those that lead, it gives you an opportunity to speak. I thought guys did a great job by leading by example (last week) and then, when it's done, you can have the audacity and the right to say something."
And on the field, the defensive line is coming off one of their best performances of the season. They sacked Manning three times, but hit him on many occasions and generally made the Giants quarterback appear uncomfortable in the pocket, at least through the first three quarters. Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Giants driving to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining, it was the defensive line that stepped up when defensive end Jason Babin sacked and stripped Manning, allowing defensive tackle Derek Landri to pick up the ball, cementing the Eagles' win.
"We're coming," said defensive end Trent Cole on the play of the defensive line. "It doesn't matter if you block three down linemen, that fourth guy is going to get there. Somebody's always going to get there."
Cole also pointed to the sense of desperation the Eagles feel at 4-6.
"When your back is to the wall and you don't have anything left and you only have one chance of surviving and you have to come up with one more answer before you get pushed over the edge, you're going to go out there and play.
"We know we have a chance here and we're not going to give this chance up. We know what kind of team we have, we know what we can do, we just have to go out there and play ball."
As for Jenkins, he'll continue to lead by example. Facing a daunting task against a high-octane New England Patriots offense this week, Jenkins knows that a lot of pressure will fall on the defensive line to get pressure on Tom Brady.
"We take a lot of pride in that, we strive to be one of the best d-lines and take a lot of pride," Jenkins said. "It's up to us to try to help everybody else out."
Ware, meanwhile, has not yet passes his concussion tests, though Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said he remains hopeful that Ware can play this Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. Jenkins said that he made sure that Ware would be ok after the vicious hit, but there's certainly no remorse about a playing the game at a high speed.
"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jenkins.