How to defend against Donovan

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott realizes that Donovan McNabb knows the Eagles' defense, well. (AP photo / Nick Wass)

Here is more from the Eagles Media Chalk Talk session held last week at the NovaCare Complex:

Among the more scrutinized two games this season will be against the Washington Redskins and Donovan McNabb. McNabb knows the Eagles’ defense and their personnel, something defensive coordinator Sean McDermott realizes.

McDermott said the goal will be to “work to disguise” what the defense is doing and “camouflage and confuse.”

Then, he offered this nugget, “Donovan gets a lot of balls tipped at the line of scrimmage, and I know that … We’re going to put our hands up.”

McDermott also echoed others in the organization talking about a “fresh feel” and “a new era” for the Eagles.

“He’s got ‘it,’ ” McDermott said of Kevin Kolb. “Some people are just born with it. When it’s their time to shine, they take the team by the reins and say, ‘Follow me,’ ”

For McDemott, he begins Year 2 as the defensive coordinator with a lot of new faces, including nine draft picks. He lauded the front office for sticking to their board and filling their needs.

McDermott said he personally flew “all over the place” before the draft to “look as many of those guys in the eye.” He said typically the Eagles’ coordinators don’t do a lot of traveling, but he decided he should.

In order to foster learning, McDermott said the Eagles coaches have reordered the playbook to emphasize what he called “learnable concepts” at the outset, supplemented by solid fundamentals.

Asked about head coach Andy Reid’s involvement in the defense last year, McDermott spoke about how his office was next to Jim Johnson’s for 10 years and he always knew when Reid was in there. He described Reid as “more hands-off than in prior years, which might surprise you.”

He also lauded the head coach for how he lets his people do their jobs.

McDermott said he had indentified two players to replace Brian Dawkins last year – Stewart Bradley and Quintin Mikell. Bradley suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp, and Mikell felt a serious burden, both in terms of leadership, being the defense’s spokesman and also having to deal with the uncertainty and flux at free safety.

* As we told you previously on Eagletarian, Marty Mornhinweg had the eyes of the media members glazed over quickly when he started talking about offensive football and all the permutations and progressions. He said a typical session in training camp in which plays are installed involves 25-27 plays and said it requires the players to have “football intelligence.”

Aside from the play, much of the session focused on Donovan McNabband Kevin Kolb. Mornhinweg lauded both, but also talked about how his job is to play to the quarterback’s strength. For example, he said the Eagles used more no-huddle because one of McNabb’s weaknesses was getting the team from the huddle to the line of scrimmage. In turn, he said one of McNabb’s strength was using the audible system. He said McNabb was equal to Steve Young in that regard, but not as good as Brett Favre.

Overall, Mornhinweg said of McNabb, “I think they will build a statue of him in 15 years.”

As for Kolb’s first year as a starter, he talked about the potential for ups and downs, but said, “He’s pretty good and has the chance to be really great. He’s well-versed and ready to go.” He lauded Kolb’s skills, abilities, intangibles and work ethic.

“I’ll always take talent over experience, and he’s got talent.”

He said consistency and accuracy will be Kolb’s strength. “I never wavered on him, and nobody in the organization did.”

* New special teams coordinator Bobby April told a lot of stories and talked a lot about the organization involved in just running a special teams practice, given the time allotted. He said they work on seven phases, but spend most of their time on four – punt and punt return, kickoff and kickoff return.

He was asked about the challenge he faces with so many new faces, especially the draft picks. “Almost everybody drafted has the skill to play special teams. The question is, do they have the will?”

* New general manager Howie Roseman talked a lot about the draft process. He said they start with 500 to 600 players and narrow that list down to 150 for their draft board – “getting rid of guys who don’t fit” and “keeping guys we feel strongly about.”

A few times Roseman used the phrase “let someone else take him” as he talked about the Eagles eliminating players. He said the coaches are a part of the process, with the head coach leading the process. He talked about “debate being an important part of the process” among the scouting staff and the coaching staff. He said he goes out to try to find positives in players, rather than looking to find negatives. He also said it is important to have your own evaluations and not get swayed by what others are saying.

Roseman said there are “very few sleepers” with all the information out there about the draft and said players are “not totally under the radar anymore.” He said the team spends an equal amount of time on the whole board, but acknowledged there is extra time spent on a potential first-round pick, given the risk involved. “You want the first-round pick to contribute to your program,” but you also “play players who are ready to play.”

He was asked about whether he leans toward players from bigger schools. He said the ideal combination is “big-time production at big-time schools.”

As for misinformation about what other teams might be planning, Roseman said, “I don’t believe anything I read anywhere.” He said he “stays in the cave.”

He said everyone sees things differently – “cars, houses, players.”

He said the Eagles are always looking to add linemen on both side of the ball, but they don’t want to force things when they make selections.