The Eagles' defense needed someone to take on the role, and so Quintin Mikell gave it a shot.
Brian Dawkins had been the guy, but he was now in Denver.
Stewart Bradley seemed like a likely candidate, but he was out for the season.
And Sean McDermott needed some help, taking over for a legend in Jim Johnson, who had passed away.
And so, Mikell tried to be the rah-rah guy. The veteran ready to help anyone who needed it. The player ready to deliver a pre-game speech or provide a halftime pick-me-up. In other words, the role Dawkins had filled so successfully.
Mikell's not even going to try to fill that role. He spoke at length yesterday about 2009, and how 2010 will be different. I asked him what advice he had for Nate Allen about what the rookie needed to get out of the next three weeks.
"I'm not going to give him no help," Mikell said with a laugh. "Throw him to the sharks, and let him swim."
Mikell was joking around, but his point was valid. Allen needs to learn for himself. These are professionals. In Week 1, if Aaron Rodgers runs play-action and is looking for Greg Jennings deep, Mikell needs to worry about his own job. He's not going to be able to hold Allen's hand. That's how Mikell learned. And that's how Allen will learn also.
Does that mean he won't help the rookie out or answer his questions? Of course not. Mikell's a quality teammate. But there's only so much he can do. Mikell said he's already been impressed with how smart Allen is and how much he's picking up.
The next few weeks are as big for Allen as they are for any other defensive player. I'll ask him this week what he thinks of Mikell's comments about having to learn for himself. I bet he'll agree.
Other notes from Mikell:
* I do buy the notion that Mikell tried to do too much last season, and I think it's reasonable to expect his performance to improve in 2010. He described his own play in 2009 as "not great" and not what he expected from himself. Always good to hear guys hold themselves accountable.
* Each year's team is different, and the Eagles simply do not have a player that will lead like Dawkins. Does the defense need leaders? Of course. It needs guys who can show the young players how to be professional and what it takes to win - showing up early, watching film, etc., as Mikell put it. The defense also needs a player or two who knows where everyone is supposed to be at all times, someone who can direct his teammates. Sean McDermott said earlier in the week that Bradley can be that guy.
* Speaking of McDermott, I asked Mikell to evaluate the defensive coordinator's performance in his first season. Remember, McDermott coached Mikell as an assistant working with the secondary and the safeties for pretty much his entire career.
Mikell made the point that last season wasn't really McDermott's squad. He was not named defensive coordinator until July 24. Back during the Eagles' media Chalk Talk event this offseason, McDermott talked about sleeping at the NovaCare Complex - watching film and trying to figure out specifically the best times to blitz during the season. For someone who prides himself on preparation, it means something that McDermott was not the defensive coordinator until training camp. This year, he had the full offseason with OTAs and minicamps.
I'm not making excuses for McDermott, but the point made by Mikell is valid.
* I'm back in Philly for the morning to take care of some things (like get clean clothes) and then will be driving back up to Lehigh for the afternoon practice and Andy Reid's press conference. Much more to come later today.
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