Muddled Middle; Gocong back to SAM

Chris Gocong may be back at strongside linebacker against the Bears after starting in the middle last week. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

Even if Akeem Jordan remains sidelined, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott indicated that Chris Gocong could be moving back to strongside linebacker. Gocong played middle linebacker for the first time since high school last week against San Diego.

Gocong confirmed that was the plan; Will Witherspoon said he will remain on the weakside in the base defense, which means the Birds once again are in need of a middle linebacker. Your Eagletarian is prohibited from reporting the details of practice, but there aren't that many middle linebackers on the roster. Two of them are Joe Mays and Jeremiah Trotter, both confined to special teams lately.After practice, both acknowledged the possibility they could have more of a role in the defense Sunday night in Chicago. More reporters clustered around Mays than around Trotter, your Eagletarian observed, while carefully obeying the rules about what can be reported from practice. 

"If I were to be named the starter, I'd be very excited," Mays offered, demonstrating an impressive command of the subjunctive mood, no doubt the result of that North Dakota State education.

"They're giving me some reps right now, so they can give me a feel for the game, just in case my number's called, I can go in and produce," said Mays, who was McDermott's first choice to replace starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, back in August, when Bradley tore his ACL. Mays looked uncertain in a few preseason games, and was deep-sixed on the depth chart. He seems to have worked his way back, partly because McDermott is desperate, and partly because after wallowing in despair for several weeks, Mays has started to play the hard-hitting special teams role that demonstrates to the coaches his head is back in the right place.

"It always feels good to be able to get in there and play ... we'll see what happens when the game comes," said Mays, who was asked if he got down when the job was taken away from him before the season started. Omar Gaither, who inherited it, now is out for the season as he recovers from Lisfranc surgery.

"I did. I shouldn't have, but I did ... You just have to adjust, get better, pick up the pieces from where you left off," Mays said. "That's what I plan on doing."


Who should start at middle linebacker for the Eagles?

Mays said he eventually realized that "everything is out of your hands, where decisions are made. I can't really control what decisions the coaches make, all I can do is go out there and perform my best and hope they make the best decision for me and for the team."

Trotter was even more determined not to give away any secrets.

"We're all just working hard, trying to stay ready for whatever happens," he said.


Brian Westbrook returned from Pittsburgh and was in attendance at the NovaCare complex Thursday, but he did not speak with reporters.


Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said if quarterback Donovan McNabb yelled over on camera during Sunday's loss to San Diego that the Eagles should have run the ball on third-and-1 from the 7-yard line, "He was probably right."

The TV cameras appeared to catch McNabb after one of the Eagles’ failed red zone excursions, turning toward the sideline and seeming to yell “just run the ball,” or something similar.

Mornhinweg said that he needs to do better at looking beyond which play should work against a particular defense, to the personnel he has trying to run the play.

"You've got to play to your players' strengths," he said.

He also said that is he is looking forward to getting the usual offensive line back together this week, if there is such a thing. Left tackle Jason Peters did not play against San Diego with an ankle injury.

"Continuity in the offensive line, that equals winning," he said.


McDermott said cornerback Sheldon Brown (hamstring strain) is day-to-day. "He says he's going to play; we'll just have to see," he said. Brown was again a partial practice participant. Left tackle Jason Peters (ankle) practiced fully for the second day in a row.


On the Bears' injury report, center Olin Kreutz (back) returned to practice after missing Wednesday and was a ful participant. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) and safety Al Afalava (shoulder), limited Wednesday, also were full participants in practice. Tight end Desmond Clark (neck) and safety Kevin Payne (back) did not practice.