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2010 NFL Preview: Is the Philadelphia Eagles Defense...Soft?

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals attempts to break a tackle by cornerback Asante Samuel #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
WesAnalyst IJune 22, 2010

My first real memory of the Philadelphia Eagles occurred back in 1988, when our beloved Birds traveled out to Chicago for a divisional playoff game.

I really didn’t comprehend the meaning of the game or what the heck was going on. I was only a six-year-old brat, but the game was awesome.

There was fog all over the place, nobody could see anything, and it looked like the perfect setting to play a football game.

Little did I know the setting was horrible, the game was ugly, and it ultimately cost the Eagles, as they were handled by the Bears 20-12 in what soon became known as “The Fog Bowl.”

That was the game that sparked my interest in football, and more importantly the Eagles. Even though Randall Cunningham threw for 407 yards, I soon became fascinated with the defense, and my true love affair with the Eagles took off.

I had no idea who was good or what made them good. But I routinely heard names like Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Wes Hopkins, and Andre Waters.

It was a great era for the Eagles defense, and right around the age of 10 I finally realized why I liked those players: They put the fear of God in the opposition.

I know, I know, it sounds weird for a 10-year-old to get pumped up about football players intimidating the opposition, but I just thought it was the greatest thing going.

The Eagles defense in the early '90s simply dominated teams. But before I knew it White left to play for the Packers, Brown tragically died, and others saw their careers come to an end.

None of it mattered though. Somehow, someway, the Eagles always found a way to fill the roster with guys who, well, for lack of a better phrase, put the fear of God in the opposition.

Even during the 1998 season, when the Eagles went 3-13, there were players like Hugh Douglas, William Thomas, and Brian Dawkins who physically imposed their will against anyone that challenged them.

Eventually I saw the Eagles rise to greatness in 2004 as they went to their first Super Bowl during my tenure as a fan. Players the like of Jeremiah Trotter, Derrick Burgess, Michael Lewis, and Dawkins intimidated players throughout the season and physically beat the living hell out of anyone that came near them.

But now a funny thing has happened: No one on this defense puts any kind of fear in anyone. Actually, I take that back. The defense has put fear in our fans. We sit back nearly every game fearing if the defense will get gashed.

More importantly, who does the opposition fear now? I’m not saying we don’t have talent out there, but I am dangerously close to tossing around the “s” word, which in this case is “soft.”

Is Quintin Mikell going to make a receiver think twice before crossing the middle like Dawkins and Waters did before him?

Are Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, or Brandon Graham going to make a quarterback’s voice tremble in fear while calling an audible like White and Douglas before them?

Is Stewart Bradley going to look like a man possessed by some unworldly demons while looking into the backfield like Byron Evans and Trotter before him?

I don’t get the sense that anyone on this roster can do any of those things.

The Eagles always went through their ups and downs while I was a fan, and this season may be considered a down year. That’s fine—I can deal with that. But I can’t live with a defensive unit that is soft.

Hopefully someone will step up this season and remind me why I became an Eagles fan.

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