Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott has had a lot thrown at him during his first training camp in charge of the Eagles defense. The death of his mentor and predecessor Jim Johnson, the injury to starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, and the off-the-field incident involving defensive end Juqua Parker have all posed challenges and distractions to McDermott, but he said that those unforeseen distractions are a part of the game.
"We've talked about it as a team, as a defensive team from the start," McDermott said during his conference this morning. "We knew there were going to be things that were going to come up that, no matter how much you plan, that we didn't anticipate. Every team in the NFL goes through that. It's how we handle those challenges that will determine our level of success this year ... We can't allow one challenge or two challenges at this point to derail the progress of this defense."
McDermott also addressed the situation at middle linebacker with Stewart Bradley's absence.
"It's really not that much of an adjustment," he said, "Because Joe (Mays) has been there at the middle linebacker position, and Omar (Gaither) has played that position over the years, and had quite a bit of success. Right now we're Mike linebacker by committee, and the job is open for both of them, or anybody else that wants to show that they can play and take the reigns of that position."
McDermott is also pleased with the depth he's seen at safety.
"The competition is on and most players know it," he said, "There's a lot of guysin the mix back there ... It's really about finding the right combination of two back there. Whatever that combination is, as I mentioned before, our safeties are interchangeable and that's how we like it from a disguise standpoint and just from a being effective at the line of scrimmage standpoint."
"We want competition," McDermott said, "And we've got great competition at the safety position."
One of the most fun things to watch at Lehigh during training camp has been the one-on-one battles between Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson, both of whom like to rib each other.
"We love it," McDermott said. "That's all part of having fun, and I believe on defense and playing football you have to be able to have. It's an emotional, intense game."
But the challenge of guarding a premier receiver like DeSean Jackson is also a great opportunity for the defense to improve.
"We love to see that because they're at the top of their game in the NFL," McDermott said. "We always talk about defending the best, and that brings a challenge every day to Asante, Sheldon, and Ellis. And if you want to be the best you have to defend the best every day, no matter who is in front of you."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 11:36 p.m., August 6