Paul Domowitch: Trotter shows his value to Eagles

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Although it seems that middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter has lost a step on the field, many people, including Andy Reid, feel like his presence in the locker room is necessary. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

JEREMIAH TROTTER'S on-field contribution to the Eagles' defense this season has been negligible. Seven games, 12 tackles.

He is what he is, which is a 32-year-old linebacker with the heart of a lion and the knees of a mailman. Anybody who really thought a year away from the game and some cleanout surgery would turn the Ax Man into a Pro Bowler again was very much mistaken.

That said, I'm here to tell you that Andy Reid's decision to bring Trotter back in late September was a very good move.

While Trot hasn't been able to help Sean McDermott's banged-up defense all that much on game day, he's been invaluable the other 6 days of the week.

I've always felt strongly that, to be an effective leader, you had to be out there on the field. It's hard to inspire, hard to teach, hard to motivate, from the bench.

But Trotter is proving that it can be done.

"I have some good leaders [on defense]," Reid said. "Sheldon Brown is a tremendous leader, and Quintin Mikell. But when you have one of those linebackers that's right in the middle of that secondary and defensive line, they normally can rally it and they're normally your primary leader on the defensive team.

"I thought Trot could do that. I thought he earned the respect just from his past career where he could come in and do that. And he has. He's been willing to do anything. You see him out there on special teams, he doesn't care. He just wants to play and help any way he can. I think the players respect that. They all know he's old. But they also know that he's built quite a resume over his years in the league."

Starter or not, when Trotter talks, the young defensive players listen. When he tells them to grab their notebooks and follow him into the film room for a tape-watching session, they do it enthusiastically.

"One of the things he's done being here is he's gathered everybody up and taken them into the film room without the coaches there," Reid said. "They sit in there and they watch tape and go over things."

Two weeks after signing with the Eagles, Trotter played 19 rust-covered defensive snaps in the Eagles' 33-14, Week 5 win over Tampa Bay, then made mostly cameo appearances in the next five games.

With Akeem Jordan out with a hyperextended knee, Trotter rotated in the middle with Joe Mays on first and second down in last week's 24-20 win over the Bears. Took most of the run-down reps in the second half as the Eagles held the Bears to 2.4 yards per carry in the final two quarters.

With Jordan still unable to practice, Trotter likely will see a lot of action at MIKE again this week against a sickly Redskins offense that is 29th in the league in scoring. Then, when Jordan returns, it will be back to the bench. And Trotter is OK with that.

"He's put the team first," McDermott said. "He's taken a very unselfish approach, which in this day and age is unheard of in team play. Or unique. Or the exception to the norm. He's come in and accepted his role, whatever it be, each and every week.

"We need leaders right now because we're all banged up. Guys that can help us Monday through Saturday, as we like to say, as well as on the field."

 

Around the league

 

* Jon Runyan's patience was rewarded this week when he signed with the Chargers. The former Eagles offensive tackle rejected earlier contract offers from three teams, including the Chargers, to be a backup, preferring to wait for a starting opportunity. That happened this week when the Chargers lost their starting right tackle, Jeromey Clary, to a possible season-ending ankle injury. "In my heart, I knew I was more than capable of starting," Runyan told reporters Wednesday. "Not jumping on a backup job at the time, I knew eventually someone would get injured and there would be an opportunity." Runyan probably won't play this week since he still is learning the offense, but is expected to start next week when the 7-3 Chargers play at Cleveland. The following week, he'll face a familiar foe: the Cowboys.

* Quarterback Marc Bulger probably has played his last game with the Rams. Bulger, 32, is out 3 to 6 weeks with a tibial plateau fracture near the top of his shin bone. Kyle Boller will replace him for the rest of this season, but the 1-9 Rams, who likely will have one of the first four or five picks in next April's quarterback-strong draft, probably will use their first pick for Bulger's successor.

* The Titans ran some spread-option with quarterback Vince Young in Monday's win over Houston. Young, who has led the 4-6 Titans to four straight wins since replacing Kerry Collins at quarterback, rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries against the Texans. Young ran the spread-option in college at Texas. "Coming into the game, we knew that he had been converting a lot of third downs with his feet," said Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson. "So we emphasized it. But it's easier said than done to go out there and try to stop it."

 

2-minute drill

a reality. I like the continuity of the head coach and the quarterback. And in my opinion, the battery of head coach and quarterback goes a long way to winning it all. You have that with both the Patriots and the Saints." - ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden, on Monday's Patriots-Saints matchup.

* "Now that I know you get fined $250,000, I'll put my hands in my pockets." - Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, when asked if he has ever given the finger to opposing fans the way the Titans' Bud Adams did 2 weeks ago.

* "Some people are amazed at how I'm going around smiling and joking - my normal self. But football is something I've made a good living doing. It's my job. I enjoy it. I love it. But it's not who I am. It's just a job. Whichever decision I make, it's going to be fine." - Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels, who has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and told that he would be risking paralysis if he plays again.

* "He's not going to get any better sitting on the sideline. He's got to learn from his mistakes. And the only way to do it - you can visualize it, watch tape and carry a clipboard - but unless you get on the field, you aren't going to get any better in my opinion." - Jets coach Rex Ryan, who said he is not considering benching his struggling rookie QB Mark Sanchez.

BY THE NUMBERS:

* Twelve Super Bowl-era teams have gotten off to 10-0 starts, but only five parlayed it into the Lombardi Trophy: the 1972 Dolphins, 1985 Bears, 1990 Giants, 1991 Redskins and 1998 Broncos. The seven that won their first 10 games and failed to win the Super Bowl: the 1969 Rams, 1975 Vikings, 1984 Dolphins, 1990 49ers, 2005 Colts, 2007 Patriots and 2008 Titans.

* Brett Favre completed a career-high 88.0 percent of his passes (22-for-25) in the Vikings' win over Seattle last week. It's the second time this season he has posted a completion percentage above .850. The number of times he completed 85 percent of his passes in 18 previous NFL seasons? How about zero.

* Wes Welker has 302 receptions in his first 40 games with the Patriots. He's the first receiver in league history to notch 300 catches in the first 40 games with a new team. The previous 40-game record: 269 receptions by the Broncos' Lionel Taylor.

* With their fourth-quarter comeback against the Ravens Sunday, the Colts became the first team in NFL history to be trailing in the fourth quarter of four straight games and win all of them.

* Titans running back Chris Johnson has rushed for 125 or more yards in five straight games. If he makes it six in a row Sunday against the Cardinals, he'll become only the third back in history to do so, joining Earl Campbell (1980) and Eric Dickerson (1984).

* The Steelers have given up kickoff returns for touchdowns in four of their last five games.

 

Thumb things to ponder

 

This being Thanksgiving and all, I'm going to refrain from name-calling, insults and other regularly scheduled negativity, including the issuance of thumbs downs, which usually is my favorite part of writing this column. Today though, for one day only, I'm gonna be Mr. Positive:

THUMBS UP:

To Vikings safety Madieu Williams who made a $2 million endowment to his alma mater, the University of Maryland, earlier this month to establish the Center for Global Health Initiatives. The center will focus on improving the quality of health care for underprivileged people in Prince Georges County outside of Washington, and in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, where Williams was born and spent much of his childhood. Williams said his late mother, Abigail Butscher, a nurse who died 4 years ago, was the inspiration for his generous gift.

"I realized a vision of what my mom would have liked to do," Williams told the Washington Post. "She would have liked this."

A good many professional athletes have charities that raise money for worthy causes. But not many are willing to take $2 million out of their own pocket to get it off the ground.

THUMBS UP:

To Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker, who intercepted two passes, including one that he returned 94 yards, in his first NFL start last week, a 27-24 overtime win over the Steelers. You may recall that Studebaker was selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Eagles. A standout defensive end at Division III Wheaton (Illinois) College, the Eagles converted him to linebacker and put him on their practice squad last year while he made the transition to his new position. Practice-squad players are technically free agents, though, and the Chiefs ended up stealing him away.

"You get a guy like Andy Studebaker, who I said all offseason there was nobody better," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "Then to see it translate into some of the things the kid did out there ... "

 

Domo's rankings

 

1. Colts 10-0

2. Saints 10-0

3. Vikings 9-1

4. Patriots 7-3

5. Chargers 7-3

6. Packers 6-4

7. Bengals 7-3

8. Ravens 5-5

9. Steelers 6-4

10. Cardinals 7-3

11. Cowboys 7-3

12. Eagles 6-4

13. Giants 6-4

14. Texans 5-5

15. Broncos 6-4

16. Falcons 5-5

17. Titans 4-6

18. Dolphins 5-5

19. Jaguars 6-4

20. Panthers 4-6

21. Niners 4-6

22. Bears 4-6

23. Chiefs 3-7

24. Bills 3-7

25. Jets 4-6

26. Raiders 3-7

27. Redskins 3-7

28. Seahawks 3-7

29. Rams 1-9

30. Lions 1-9

31. Bucs 1-9

32. Browns 1-9

(Note: Yesterday's games not included.)