Eagles secondary focuses on task, not accolades
By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003
PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremy Shockey, the flamboyant tight end for the Giants, called them overrated.
What do rookies really know anyway?
The Eagles secondary has produced two Pro Bowl starters and one reserve this season. The remaining member of the group, 10-year veteran Blaine Bishop, made four Pro Bowls before signing with Philadelphia this season.
"It has a chance to be (one of the best ever)," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "The playoffs and time seem to write those books.
"I'm obviously very partial to them. You have two great corners and two great safeties. That's a pretty good makeup in the secondary."
Talk all you want about the NFL's great secondaries, how the 49ers sent four defensive backs to the Pro Bowl in 1984 and yet only one started.
Nobody's listening, particularly cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor and safeties Bishop and Brian Dawkins.
"That's all something we can talk about later," Taylor said. "We want a victory, and to get to the Super Bowl."
Should the Eagles beat the Bucs in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Veterans Stadium, there's a good chance their secondary will be key.
"It's going to be a tough task for us," Taylor said. "We feel like we can match up well against them, but that doesn't promise us we're going to have success."
In the last game between the teams, a 20-10 win by Philadelphia on Oct. 20, the Eagles starting defensive backs combined for 28 tackles and helped limit the Bucs to 207 yards.
Philadelphia also has intercepted Bucs quarterbacks six times in the past three games.
"We're definitely confident in what we do," Dawkins said. "I would think it's like a controlled chaos. We really go out and try to attack as much as possible."
In addition to using a quick defensive line that ranked just behind Tampa Bay's, coordinator Jim Johnson's defensive scheme relies on relentless pressure from the secondary.
"There are different people coming from all over the place," Vincent said. "They come from places I don't know where they're coming from. Sometimes we draw up things where I don't know how they're going to get there, but they get there."
Dawkins led the team in tackles (131) and forced fumbles (seven) during the regular season. Taylor, the largest of the four at 6 feet 3, 216 pounds, had a team-high five interceptions and took one 39 yards for a touchdown in the divisional playoffs against the Falcons.
But what helps the unit most, and helped the Eagles to the league's best third-down percentage (31 percent), is its familiarity.
"There are times out there on the field we can just look at one another," Taylor said, "and not have to talk."
Taylor, Dawkins and Vincent have been teammates with the Eagles since 1995 and, counting this season, have seven Pro Bowls between them.
"If you really sit back and think about the talent the three of us have, and to be in the same secondary for that long is a great thing," Dawkins said. "You not only have good things talent-wise but you have guys that know each other inside and out.
"I know Bobby and Troy. I know what they can do. I know they're not going to get beat on certain things. I know how to play with them."
Bishop chose the Eagles last offseason based on the establishment. The hardest part has been forging new relationships and learning the intricacies of a new defense.
"Everybody in the league knows that they're great players, let alone great guys," said Bishop, who missed the final four games of the regular season with a groin injury.
"My role was just to come in, fit in and mix in with those guys. They were already established. All I had to do was ... learn the defense and do my job here."
One thing Bishop has that the others want? He's played in a Super Bowl, with Tennessee.
"We compete against one another," Bishop said. "Everybody works hard and wants to be the best. You see another guy make a play, you feel like you've got to make some plays.
"We've got a blue-collar attitude."
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