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Quintin Mikell: Eagles New Last Line of Defense

Pete LevinContributor IMarch 11, 2009

Dawkins leaving town has us all spinning.

But one way or another, life and Eagles football will go on.  Jim Johnson will still call his style of aggressive defense, or at least I pray he is able to. 

The prospective 2009 Eagles secondary may be built more like the past than we think, and may have the potential to be an improved unit in the upcoming season.

Asante takes Lito’s place as the gambling, INT making No. 1 corner (which is an upgrade), and Sheldon is better than he has ever been as a No. 2.  They may be the best 1-2 corner combo in the NFL.

Hanson has cemented his spot as the Eagles nickel corner this off-season, even if only due to the contract he was given. 

Hanson has shown flashes of playing every bit as well as the No. 3 corners of the past few years like Roderick Hood, Dexter Wynn and William James.  Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor haven’t been with the Birds since 2003, but it seems like a whole lot longer.

At Free Safety, Dawkins has always been the enforcer, emotional leader, and last line of defense for the Eagles secondary.  He has been coupled with quite a few Strong Safeties to mixed results. 

Michael Lewis was a physical SS who got exposed for his lack of coverage skills after his Pro Bowl season in 2004, then walked away in Free Agency and didn’t amount to much in San Fran.  The Considine experiment was a miserable failure, and then Mikell stepped up.

Mikell was an undrafted rookie in 2003 when he landed with the Eagles, and working with one of the best ever over the past six seasons has crafted him into a quality safety in his own right.

Mikell has the tools to make himself a household name now that the shadow of Brian Dawkins has been removed.

  • Physicality - That YouTube clip is just one of the many fairly vicious hits Mikell has contributed during his short time as a starter.  He’s learned the game from Dawk and Brown, and I expect Mikell to be a hard-hitting force for years to come.
  • Play Multiple Positions - In the more recent years of Dawkins’ career, he was lining up in the LB position more and more to support the run.  And he was damn good at it. Mikell has the ability to be an effective edge blitzer as well, plus can show blitz and drop back into coverage effectively.
  • Coach on the Field - Mikell has a been a special teams contributor from Day 1, and after six years in Jim Johnson’s defense he has grown comfortable with his role and the role of those around him.  Having Sheldon handle the leadership and on-field coaching role among CBs, Mikell will manage the play of the Eagles Safeties in ‘09 (be it Demps or Jones who starts opposite Mikell).  If he continues to make plays, Mikell could end up being the leader of the defense in ‘09.
  • Last Line of Defense - Jim Johnson’s aggressive, attacking scheme has a solid amount of risk built into it.  Over the past 13 years, the Eagles have had the luxury of the strong tackling play of B Dawk to back up the defense.  Dawkins has turned countless potential 60 yard TD plays into 50 yard plays that result in red-zone stops and eventual FGs.  Having a sure-tackling Safety who gets involved in every play is a necessity in maintaining the “bend but don’t break” defense we have all grown accustomed to.  Mikell will fill that role.

These characteristics make the current Eagles Safety Quintin Mikell as good of a replacement for Brian Dawkins as anyone could be. 

Fellow future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis is the only current NFL player who could rally his troops with emotional intensity comparable to B Dawk, and those types of players don’t come around often.  For the Raven’s sake, they recognized the value in veteran leadership and didn’t let Lewis walk.

When it comes down to it, there can be no replacement for Dawk.  But Quintin Mikell will step up and play that role to the best of his ability, and may end up in the Pro Bowl after the 2009 season due to his newfound prominence the Eagles defense.

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