Winston Justice saw it coming and he knew that when Giants week rolled around, the reporters would be waiting at his locker to ask him about *THE *game, the infamous debut in the 2007 season when the New York pass rush overwhelmed the Eagles and Justice, playing left tackle, took the brunt of the criticism. Now, with the Giants on tap for Sunday, and with Justice starting again, at right tackle, the questions are natural.
Justice, though, wasn't playing the game. For those interested in re-hashing the story, well, that isn't the way Justice looks at his situation. His focus is on Sunday, yes, but he isn't talking about what was.
"When you look back, Winston ..."
"I'm not looking back," said Justice, cutting short the conversation.
That's the way it is for Justice, a second-round draft choice in 2006 who went through some tough seasons as an Eagle before circumstances -- namely, the back injury suffered by Shawn Andrews that knocked him out for the year before it began -- afforded Justice enough reps and enough success that he earned the starting job on the right side of the offensive line.
Justice has played well, and the results have been positive, but Sunday represents the true litmus test. You could make the case that the Eagles made offensive line a priority with the Giants defense in mind during the off-season, that they allowed Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan to move on into free agency and replaced them with Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews knowing that Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Co. were ready, waiting and frothing at the mouth after a rough end to the 2007 campaign.
The grand plans certainly have not worked out as the Eagles planned. Shawn Andrews won't play a lick. Stacy Andrews, coming off a knee injury, seems to just now be rounding into form -- at right guard. Peters was playing outstanding football prior to his ankle/knee injury suffered in Oakland and is working to get back to his best.
A player like Justice, who started in the summer and in all of the preseason games, suddenly finds himself on the edge with a Big, Bad Giants coming to Lincoln Financial Field.
"They are outstanding, all of them," said Justice. "I feel like I'm blessed to be out there right now. I feel good about things, and my focus is on being a better every time I have the chance to play. I know the challenge on Sunday. I have watched them on film and they have a great group. So we all have our work cut out for us.
"For me, I have to pay attention to every detail. It's so important to do that, and I have learned over the years how to break down an opponent and prepare myself the best I can. I watch Tuck and I see a player who is very good against the run and, of course, he rushes the passer very well. All of them play hard on every down."
Justice, then, knows what is at stake on Sunday. The big story isn't how far Justice has come from 2007 to now, it's how he deals with a premier player and a premier defense in an NFC East tussle in a few days. Play to play, Justice will be expecting the most out of himself, knowing that any letdown could result in a negative play for the offense.
"I'm very critical of myself. You have to be," he said. "The next play is right on top of you. What you did in the past can't be changed, so I don't spend time looking there. I have to be good on one play, and then better on the next play."
How is Justice coming along? He has looked pretty good through six games. But the real test is on Sunday. No need to look to the past. The present is captivating enough for Justice.
* SOME OF THIS AND SOME OF THAT *
- Will Brian Westbrook play on Sunday? I don't know the answer, but I think he has a real chance. Reading into what head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said on Wednesday, that Westbrook's symptoms after suffering a concussion on Monday night did not last long and that all he has now is a minor headache, I think Westbrook will play if he continues to make progress.
- In a related item, kind of, the Eagles added P.J. Hill to the active roster after signing him from the Saints practice squad. Hill is a big back who would have been drafted had he not handled the pre-draft period so poorly in the late winter and early spring. Hill is a solid 5-10, 218 pounds and he has a chance to impress here. This addition is not a reflection on Westbrook's condition, as some have speculated. The fact is, the Eagles scoured practice squads and the free-agent streets to replace Omar Gaither on the active roster and Hill was the player they wanted. I'm excited about his ability after watching Hill at Wisconsin. He runs downhill powerfully and has a little bit of a wiggle. Let's hope he has learned from his off-the-field mistakes.
- Some leftovers from Washington ... I thought Sean Jones had a terrific game and he showed he is coming around in this defense and on special teams. He earned some reps in my eyes. Stacy Andrews had his best game as an Eagle. It wouldn't surprise me to see him get some more snaps. Where is Jason Avant? He is the key player to get more involved, especially on third downs.