Joe Mays entered training camp as the backup middle linebacker. With Stewart Bradley ahead of him, it appeared that if Mays was going to see the field it would be on special teams.
But when Stewart Bradley suffered a knee injury that required surgery - in fact, the surgery is today - Mays was promoted to the starting middle linebacker slot. On Thursday night, Mays will get to prove that he's worthy of the job when the Eagles take on the Patriots in the preseason opener. The last nine days of practice have prepared Mays for the role.
"It won't be any different," Mays said. "It was my job to step up and do the things that I'm capable of doing. I plan on doing that. I think it was just an opportunity that I had to jump on. This is our job and our job is to come out here and play football and learn. It's like being in school again. I'm just doing what my job requires me to do."
The area where the first-team reps during practice helped Mays the most, he said, was in forming the chemistry with the rest of the defense.
"It helps a lot, especially with the chemistry with the other guys and actually doing what I need to do to earn their trust," Mays said. "It helped a lot. I'm looking forward to using that going into the season."
The 5-11, 246-pound second-year man suited up and played in two games last season. Mays won over fans in the 2008 preseason with his hard-hitting, physical, downhill style earning the name "The Headbuster" from Omar Gaither. It's one thing to play all-out and relentless, but it's another to play with discipline.
"Last year, I didn't know the system too well. Now, I make sure I play to my strengths, but also play to the system," Mays said. "That's pretty much the biggest difference, just me being more comfortable."
Expect Mays to be the starting MIKE linebacker in the base 4-3 on first and second down. He'll come off the field for passing downs when the Eagles are in the nickel package. Head coach Andy Reid will confirm the starters on Wednesday after the team walkthrough which is closed to the public.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 11:10 a.m., August 11