The Dawkins Question

Cowboys running back Marion Barber breaks the grasp of Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins to score the winning touchdown in Monday night's game. (Ron Cortes / Inquirer)

I have to admit, up front, that my heart is not in this one. But you know, after the Dallas game, that people are now going to be asking the question if Brian Dawkins is done. I don't think he is -- but I honestly can't decide if my judgment is being clouded by the fact that this is a conversation I just don't want to be having. But here we are. Again, I don't think he is done. But the conversation is a fair one at this point.

Dawkins had a poor individual game in pass-coverage against the Cowboys. The game was a track meet and nobody on that defense covered himself in glory -- and that means Dawkins did not, either. He was beaten downfield on a couple of passes to Dallas tight end Jason Witten,  and he was abused in a goal-line situation by Terrell Owens for a touchdown. It all happened. There is no sense denying it.

On the Owens play, where he somehow was isolated on the wideout by himself in a goal line situation, TO ran a slant route in front of him and scored easily. Dawkins said later, "I was anticipating the fade route (to the back corner of the end zone) and he ran the slant. It was a good move by him."

As for the rest of it, Dawkins said, "I don't like the fact that I gave up a couple of big balls down the field. I took a couple of bad angles on the football  today. I went for the interception on one and the other one, I wasn't quite in position. That wasn't good enough. I hold myself to high standards and it wasn't good enough."

He is a Hall of Fame caliber player, but he isn't not as fast as he once was. He still gives you a lot in the run game, and he's still a significant hitter. But the speed was an issue last year and it is an issue this year. It is becoming painfully obvious in some passing situations.

Again, I hate this conversation -- but we all have eyes. Dawkins can still be an effective player but it is almost more as an in-the-box player now, as a quasi-strong safety rather than as the human rocket/centerfielder of old. It looks as if they are trying to stick him down there in the box now when they can. Again, he can still play that game at a high level, I think.


Is Brian Dawkins too slow to still be the Eagles' free safety?

But you get caught sometimes. Safeties have to be interchangeable in the NFL in 2008. Everybody has to be able to run and cover. Dawk talks about bad angles but they look like they are a product of getting there late. I don't know. I will say that it is complicated. One of the main complications on Monday night was Witten, a Pro Bowl caliber tight end who will abuse a lot of secondaries before the season is over.

This obviously bears watching now. We all sensed that this was going to be the final season for Dawkins anyway, and we were all preparing ourselves to mark the passing of an era.  But now, this. If  anybody deserves a smooth landing,  it is this guy. At this point, we can only hope.