Friday, October 3, 2003
Injuries deplete Eagles' strong secondary
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' once star-studded
secondary has a new moniker.
"I joke that it's 'Michael Lewis and the No-Names' out there,"
Eagles coach Andy Reid said Friday.
Because of injuries to All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins and Pro Bowl
cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, Lewis is the most senior
member of the secondary.
And he's a second-year pro who has started just seven NFL games
at strong safety.
When the Eagles meet the Washington Redskins on Sunday, free
safety Clinton Hart and cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown
probably will join Lewis in the starting lineup.
Hart, in his first season on the roster after spending most of
last year on the practice squad, will make his third straight start
for Dawkins, out with a foot injury.
Taylor and Vincent are questionable for Sunday. Sheppard, a
first-round pick last year, has started the last two games for
Taylor (foot injury). Brown, a second-round pick last year, would
make his first career start for Vincent (hamstring).
The Redskins have a solid receiving corps, featuring Laveranues
Coles and Rod Gardner. Sheppard and Brown played well against
Buffalo's Eric Moulds, Josh Reed and Bobby Shaw in last week's
23-13 victory over the Bills.
"I think they'll be up for it," Eagles defensive coordinator
Jim Johnson said. "They handled the pressure last week. They knew
they were going to play quite a bit. I think the guy who made a
great adjustment was Sheldon Brown, because he's the one who had to
go on Moulds last week. He adjusted well."
Brown came off the bench after Vincent was sidelined in the
first quarter and held Moulds, a three-time Pro Bowler, to no
touchdowns despite eight receptions for 114 yards.
"We're confident no matter when we get to play," Brown said.
"We don't need to have played last week to gain confidence. We're
confident without even having played."
Vincent's injury also forced rookie free agent Roderick Hood
into extended action at nickel back. Hood's only previous
experience was in the preseason.
"I'm always looking for my opportunities, and when it came it
was kind of a shock. But I wanted to stay level-headed and play
well," Hood said.
Johnson normally likes to blitz his cornerbacks or safeties, but
he's less likely to do so with an inexperienced group in the
secondary because it could create a mismatch. Coles has 28 catches
for 194 yards and one TD, and Gardner has 19 catches for 194 yards
and two TDs.
It will be important for the defensive line to take pressure off
the cornerbacks by generating a pass rush on Washington quarterback
"We probably will cut down some of our package a little bit and
let these guys just play, and hopefully they can handle it,"