Last season, the Eagles hosted the Denver Broncos and on the opposing sideline was a franchise icon in Brian Dawkins. On Sunday, another icon in Donovan McNabb returns to Lincoln Financial Field, but as a member of the Washington Redskins.
Pro Bowl strong safety Quintin Mikell thought it was weird seeing Dawkins, his former mentor and safety partner, in another uniform last year. Mikell admitted, however, that it's going to be even weirder seeing McNabb in another uniform.
"I didn't have to go out and play against (Dawkins)," Mikell said. It'll feel like practice a little bit, but it won't because he's got a different kind of red shirt on this time."
After McNabb was traded, there is only one player who has been on the Eagles longer than Mikell and that's kicker David Akers. Mikell saw McNabb help carry the Eagles to three NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance since he was signed as a rookie free agent in 2003. Certainly, Mikell knows McNabb and McNabb knows the Eagles defense. Who has the advantage entering Sunday? Mikell said it's a push.
"He knows our defense. We have a new (offensive) scheme that we have to adjust to," Mikell said. "That being said, we do have a lot of different people here. The personnel's a lot different. Our scheme's a little bit different than it has in the past. We changed up a lot of looks."
Another thing that has changed is the roles of these two players. McNabb has gone from leader of the Eagles to that of the Redskins. Mikell has transformed from a role player, a special teams ace to one of the premier players on defense. A two-time Special Teams MVP, Mikell has recorded back-to-back 100 tackle seasons and is well on his way to a third with 25 tackles and six pass knockdowns this season.
Mikell, an All-Pro in 2008, believes that he's off to his best start ever and things might be coming together for the defense. Last week, the Eagles allowed David Garrard to throw for just 105 yards with an interception and corralled Maurice Jones-Drew in a 28-3 rout of Jacksonville.
"I feel like last week was just one of those games where everything kind of clicked, but it's not going to be like that every week. I think right now we're starting to learn each other better," Mikell said. "We got Stew (Bradley) back. We have a lot of guys that have been in and out of the lineup back. I feel like we're starting to build everything together. It takes a while.
"I think the heart's there. The effort's there. Anytime you have those two things, you can do a lot of good stuff. It's still in the early stages, but I'm feeling very good."
Well, if there was ever a week for a defense to click it could be against the quarterback that it practiced against for 11 seasons.
"It's going to be emotional. It's going to be crazy out there," Mikell said. "After all that's said and done, we still have to go out there with our helmets on, put our pads on and strap up and make plays."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 6:30 p.m., October 1