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News, Notes And This And That

This is a bye weekend for the players, who are in the midst of a three-day rest. Good thing, too, because the Giants are next on the can't-lose schedule next Sunday. So while the players pause and get their bodies and their minds fresh, let's kick around some of this and some of that about the 6-5-1 Eagles, who have proven to be one of the greater mysteries in the recent years of this franchise ...

  • When you look at the body of work through 11 games, the defense has played quite well. From what some on the Discussion Boards are saying, Chris Collinsworth from the NFL Network singled out middle linebacker Stewart Bradley for "looking back" at the line of scrimmage while he was in coverage and giving up plays down the field. Maybe he did for a play or two, but Bradley also had an excellent game. He was around the ball all night, and has generally been around the ball all season. The run defense has played hard and aggressive football all season, with only a couple of games where the offense got the better results. The pass defense has had a few holes, but really it has held up through 11 games with a lot of takeaways and big plays. In the big picture, the defense has a lot of upside, a lot of young players with which to work, and should be considered a bright spot in 2008.
  • Donovan McNabb has compiled a passer rating of more than 100 in five games this season and the Eagles are 4-1 in those games. No coincidence. When he plays at the top of his game, McNabb is one of the best in the business. I loved his calm and the way he picked his targets against Arizona. I thought his bursts when he saw openings made a difference, even though the 4 carries and 24 yards don't make much of a ripple in the ocean of nearly 450 yards of offense.
  • Andy Reid used the word "diluted" in his Friday press conference when he talked about the decision to narrow the rotation of six wide receivers to four. Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis are out of the mix right now, although they dress each week. Seems like what you are going to see down the stretch is a lot of DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis, with Jason Avant in the slot and Hank Baskett seeing a bunch of time, too.
  • Speaking of Baskett, he has improved more than any receiver I can remember, and I wonder how much higher he can go. Baskett is creating separation, he is making tough catches in traffic, he is laying out for big plays. Baskett, largely ignored last year, has 28 catches this season, with many more to come.
  • Brian Dawkins is an amazing, amazing player. How many big plays has he made this season? Teams are going after him in the passing down down the field and Dawkins is covering ground.
  • The performance by the offensive line on Thursday night was one of the most dominating the Eagles have enjoyed in mnay seasons. Stung by criticism, the line blew the doors off the Cardinals. Now the Eagles have to go to their third option at right guard. Everyone is going to have to pick up around Nick Cole. Cole should be OK. He isn't a typical guard -- he is lower, more powerful in the lower body -- and may not look the part, but Cole has a golden opportunity here. He'll battle inside. He will be physical. The first full-game test, against the Giants, is a great one for Cole.
  • The special teams need to get some kudos for the improvement in the return game, both on kickoffs and on punts. Jackson had a turnover on Thursday night, but it wasn't his fault, necessarily. Jackson tried to cover a punt that he thought had bounced off a teammate's leg and then failed to stay on top of the ball. Lesson learned. Kid was trying to make a play. He has made a bunch of them already.
  • Quintin Demps has made his first move up the depth chart, it seems, taking reps away from Sean Considine in the dime package. Maybe that was just a product of Asante Samuel's absence and Demps was a dime cornerback, rather than an extra safety, but Demps certainly deserves more playing time. He has to continue to prove himself. Already, we have seen his instincts for the ball, his athletic abiilty and his flare for making plays.
  • Just asking: If you had to choose one player to dress against the Giants, based solely on what you saw against the Cardinals, would it be either Lorenzo Booker or Kyle Eckel? Which player helps most against New York?
  • Maybe I am completely over-optimistic, but I really think having this bye weekend is going to help the Eagles' defensive front seven so much as it prepares for the Giants. The memory of New York running over the Eagles for 219 ground yards is fresh.
  • Lost in the success of the running game against Arizona was the job Dan Klecko did at fullback. He opened up holes and finished his blocks.
  • Quintin Mikell deserves strong Pro Bowl consideration.
  • No Plaxico Burress for the Giants this weekend. What does that mean for next Sunday?
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