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Linebackers Staying Flexible

Nothing fazes Will Witherspoon.

The veteran linebacker was acquired by the Eagles in the waning moments of the trade deadline to take over the middle linebacker position in place of the injured Omar Gaither. Not only did Witherspoon have to adjust to a new defensive scheme and new teammates, but he had to change positions from the weakside spot he had been playing with the St. Louis Rams.

The results were outstanding, of course, with Witherspoon scoring on an interception return and forcing a sack and fumble in his Eagles' debut against the Redskins. Since then, Witherspoon has been the picture of reliability, always where he's supposed to be.

But now, with starting weakside linebacker Akeem Jordan out because of a hyper-extended knee, Witherspoon is once again being asked to stay flexible. He will start at weakside linebacker, while linebacker Chris Gocong moves to the middle and rookie Moise Fokou gets his second straight start on the strong side. It will be the fifth different starting lineup combination at linebacker used by the Eagles this season.

"I think once you really understand what needs to happen on the defense and understand the scheme, I don't really think it's that big of a deal," Witherspoon said of moving positions. "It's definitely different. A little less conversation, but at the same time there's still a lot of responsibilities, a lot of things you have to be able to handle.

"It's really not that major of change. It's just sliding over a spot and looking at things a little bit differently."

Witherspoon said that it comes down to making sure the best 11 players are on the field, regardless of position.

"I think Coach McDermott's done a good job of putting together a game plan that's going to be effective for us, and making sure we maximize the usage of the guys we have," he said.

Witherspoon, Gocong and Fokou have had two full days of practice together to get acclimated, and it seems to be coming along quickly.

"We got some good communication going," said Fokou. "We're kind of on the same page, we're kind of flowing together which is working really well.

"You can look at it as two things. You can look at it as a challenge, or you could look at it as putting the onus on guys who are backups, guys who haven't played that much, to step up. And I think that's the way we're going about it."

For Fokou, one of his focuses will be playing smarter. He incurred two costly penalties against the Cowboys, but he's made sure that won't happen again.

"You live and you learn," Fokou said. "I write my penalties down. It's something that you have to do. You write them down, you read them over, and you don't commit them ever again. So you won't see those ever again from me."

-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:00 p.m., November 13

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