Next up in our Nuggets series is one of the more overlooked performers for the Eagles, veteran defensive end Juqua Parker. Parker, 6-2, 250, has started 27 games at left defensive end for the Eagles over the last two seasons and is coming off a career-high 8.0 sacks in 2009. The addition of rookies Brandon Graham and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, along with veteran Darryl Tapp, to the defensive line has certainly amped up the competition at defensive end, but Parker figures to continue in his role as a valuable pass-rusher opposite Trent Cole.
1. Few players have risen up the ranks of the league in such a steady, unnoticed fashion as the 32-year-old Parker. Originally signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State in 2001, Parker spent four years as a Titan notching only 5.0 sacks and no starts. He then joined the Eagles as a free agent in 2005 and didn't become a regular starter until part of the 2007 season. So Parker knows a little something about patience and making the most of his opportunities. Since 2006, Parker ranks third among all undrafted players with 25.5 sacks, behind only Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (37.0) and Chicago Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (29.0).
2. So what's been the key to success for the overachieving Parker? If you ask the man himself, he'll tell you that the most important feature of a productive pass rusher is the hands. "The game's all about hands," he said. "If you can remove an offensive lineman's hands with your hands, you get off blocks and make plays. I learned that early on from watching different people pass rush on TV."
3. With the schedule rotation pairing the Eagles up with opponents from the AFC South, the team will be welcoming in the brothers Manning, who both already have an idea of what Parker can do. Parker is the only player on the Eagles who has sacked both Peyton and Eli, each of whom was the victim of a milestone sack for Parker. Parker, then Juqua Thomas, notched his first career sack in November of 2002 when he brought down the Colts' cornerstone. Then, in January of 2007, Thomas sacked little brother Eli for his first career playoff sack. It's too bad Cooper Manning doesn't quarterback the Cowboys.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:24 p.m., July 21