Philadelphia Eagles News

QB Donovan McNabb

On whether the team is better now than it was at the end of 2007: "That's hard to say. We're a little bit more experienced than we were last year because guys were asked to do a little bit more who haven't played. Also, I think that the mindset is to try to get everybody involved and get them a little bit more confidence early on in the season, so there's no looking back at the end. It's kind of hard to say, to make that assumption right now."

On how important it is to win the first game of the season: "I think it's very important that we do that. I think you always want to start the season off on the right note. Coming off a preseason, as well as a great offseason, to be able to start the season off the right way, I think what that does is it builds confidence early on. No matter how well you played, or how bad you played, to come out a winner is always good. To get wins in this league is tough. And, to set the tone at the very beginning of the season will do a lot for you as the season continues on."

On whether he has any theories on why the team has a losing record in opening day games during his career: "No. I wish I did, and it would have been changed a long time ago. You kind of look at when we did start the season off well. Obviously in 2004, that was kind of a different year, but this year, I think it's important that we do start off on the right note and be able to go into each week knowing that if we all do our jobs individually, good things can happen. We can do that this year and it starts this week."

On WR Hank Baskett saying that McNabb is playing at a Pro Bowl level and whether that affects him: "It doesn't. I think, there's a different mentality for myself being healthy this year. I thought, as the season continued on - playing at a high level, I wouldn't say Pro Bowl level - I would like to say that we all came together as a team last year. We have to be able to start that this year. It's important, not only that I play at a high level, it's that we all play at a high level and be able to do a lot of things together. As the season continues on, there's no reason for one particular person to play well and no one else begins to follow. We have to set the tone from the very beginning together to be able to accomplish everything that we've set out for this year."

On the Rams having had a lot of injuries in 2007 and what he sees in their defense going into this game: "I see a team that's trying to form an identity. Obviously, trying to erase the mindset of how people look at them from last year. Last year, we know that they had some injuries and, this year, that everyone is pretty much trying to state their claim over their position. Obviously, (they drafted DE) Chris Long, a guy that's trying to make his mark in this league, (LB Will) Whitherspoon is an experienced linebacker that they have, (S) Corey Chavous has been playing for years now. Other than that, other than (DT) La'Roi Glover, they have a lot of younger guys who want to be recognized as one of the top of their craft. They're going to look to try and make big plays and do whatever they can to turn the course of how things are going throughout the game. Really, for us, we have to be able to challenge them with that. We know that they're going to be energized coming in, we have to be able to match that energy and be able to put points on the board the right way."

On whether practicing against defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's defense every day helps prepare for the Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's defense: "They're somewhat similar, but a lot different. You're talking about Jim (Johnson) who likes to pretty much blitz everybody that's on the field. 'Haz' kind of has that same mentality, but also he wants to put his guys in position to make plays. He may have them sitting back in zone, he may have them playing man and only blitz seven, maybe eight guys, if that, and we have to have an answer for that. Playing against 'Haz' for a couple years now in my 10-year career, I kind of know his approach and I know how he attacks us. So, we have to be able to answer everything that he presents to us."

On how important WR DeSean Jackson is in this game: "I think all our guys are important, not just DeSean. I think you have to remember, he's still a rookie. This isn't the preseason any more, this is the regular season where you'll see a lot of different things that you didn't see in the preseason. I think the one thing that we can do to help DeSean is every other guy has to step their game up and be able to make as many plays (as possible) so we won't count on him so much. He's going to be doing a lot for us; you talk about special teams, you talk about playing offense, rotating in and out, having to know what plays are being called, where he's at, moving him around. We're trying not to ask of him so much and try to maybe spread out the pressure on the rest of us to be able to make as many plays (as possible), instead of waiting on him."

On whether he's had a rookie receiver before with this much expectation around him: "Everyone looked at (WR) Todd Pinkston to come in and be that guy. In his second year, everyone looked at (WR) Freddie Mitchell to do the same thing. Anytime that we draft a receiver here, since I've been here, everyone expects him to be a world-beater, which puts so much pressure on his shoulders and when things don't work out all of the sudden people look at him as being a bust. You want to try to avoid that as much as possible. You want to be able to put him in positions to make plays and be successful, let alone make sure all the rest of the guys can do that same thing as well."

On how important it is for TE L.J. Smith and others to take pressure off of McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook: "It's going to be big for everybody to step their game up, including me and Brian. We have a healthy L.J. and you rotate in different guys who have played, like (WRs) Greg (Lewis) and Hank (Baskett) and Jason (Avant) and Reggie (Brown), obviously. You know, that takes pressure off of everyone. It's important that you be able to put guys in position to be able to do that. I think we have that mentality this year to be able to do that and, hopefully, it will work out well for us."

On head coach Andy Reid saying that this first week is the longest of the season and whether he agrees with that: "By the way we practiced last week, we thought we were playing in that Jets game. It feels like we'll be practicing for two weeks. A lot of guys try not to focus on it. It feels like a long week, but it's right around the corner so it'll be here soon. You want to get your work done off the field to prepare yourself for the game as far as watching film and things of that nature. When you're on the field to be able to execute and just take it right into Sunday."

On what it is about the team that makes him think they will be better on offense in red zone scoring: "Everyone's healthy. Everyone learns from the mistakes which we've made. Like I said, we did put up a lot of yards as far as being able to drive into the red zone. Now it's time to execute. We've all seen what we did wrong and we were able to answer that, obviously, during the preseason and focus in on it in the offseason. I'd like to make that change.

On what it means to have WR Reggie Brown back at practice: "It's important. Anytime you lose your top two receivers, now you're rotating different guys in, it's tough. I think, in the situation in which we're in, we may ask DeSean to do something that none of our rookies have ever done. That may be starting, we don't know. It's important for all the other guys to be able to step up and make plays for us. Some are probably going to have great games, some may not, but, hopefully, that will help us to win the game."

On whether it's natural for people to be excited about DeSean Jackson because of the preseason that he had: "DeSean did some great things, but, like I said, the other guys (Pinkston and Mitchell) did some great things too. We can't overlook the fact that Todd did a great job for us. He also led the league, I believe, in catches over 20 yards in 2004. Freddie did a great job for us in the slot. We threw the ball a little more too to DeSean than we did those other guys in their first year. It's hard to make that assumption right now to put that much pressure on him. It takes time. He's still a rookie."

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