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December 16 Camden Courier-Post:
“Asante Samuel can’t believe that he’s still the NFL leader in interceptions even after missing the past three games with a knee injury and four altogether.
He’s still aiming for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, although he lamented Wednesday afternoon that he “probably gave that away” by missing almost a month.
Samuel was listed as a full participant in practice Wednesday for the first time since spraining his knee late against the Giants in a Nov. 21 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
After practice, the Pro Bowl left cornerback said he wakes up “itching to play football” but didn’t guarantee to reporters that he’d be ready for Sunday’s major division showdown against the Giants at the Meadowlands.
“Every game is a playoff game,” Samuel said.
As for right tackle Winston Justice, who missed the Dallas game with a knee hyper-extension, he’s expecting to suit up and be ready for the Giants even though he was once again limited at practice.
Justice said felt “100 times better” Wednesday than he did at this time last week and that he’s optimistic he’ll play.
Justice was also optimistic last week that he’d recover in time to play against the Cowboys but admitted Wednesday that last week he was thinking more with his heart than his head.
“Last week I was speaking positively,” he said. “This week I’m speaking realistically.”
December 16 Camden Courier-Post:
They’re more reliant on the running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, a tag team that pounded away at the Vikings’ defense for almost 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
And when they’re running the ball with authority, they’re awfully tough to stop.
“Those running backs are really doing something right now,” Fokou said Wednesday. “Jacobs is back on track. He started off slow this season but he’s their main runner, their main guy right now.”
Since rushing for a season-low 61 yards on 19 carries against the Eagles in a 27-17 loss Nov. 21 at Lincoln Financial Field, the Giants have rediscovered the rushing power that annually makes them one of the NFL’s best ground teams.
They’re also 3-0 in that stretch and have outscored the opposition, 76-30, setting up Sunday’s showdown at the Meadowlands between two 9-4 teams with a division title hanging in the balance.
The winner will take the division lead with just two games left. The loser faces long odds to qualify for the postseason.
“I think they’re playing at a very high level,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “They made a little switch at running back even though both guys had monster days on Monday night.”
“The Giants held Michael Vick to his lowest passer rating of the season, corralled his breakout scrambles, sacked him three times and provided the recipe to limit his destructive powers.
Still, when they walked off Lincoln Financial Field 3 1/2 weeks ago, they did so with a fifth straight loss to the Eagles and with little sense of accomplishment.
“We were upset going into the locker room, thinking, ‘We can’t wait to see these guys again,’ ” safety Deon Grant said.
Because their plan worked, right?
“It didn’t work,” Grant insisted. “Everybody thinks, because we contained Vick . . . Vick is not the only guy who runs that offense. They passed for too many yards. They rushed for too many yards. And when it really counted, when we needed to stop them, we couldn’t get off the field.”
That, of course, oversimplifies the events of Nov. 21.
Yes, with the score tied and a little more than 4 minutes left in the game, the Eagles turned a misfiring fourth-down play into a 50-yard go-ahead touchdown run. But the Giants lost mainly because quarterback Eli Manning threw three interceptions and hilariously fumbled the ball away late in the fourth quarter, gracelessly ending a run with a shameful slide.
The Giants’ plan – hit the receivers at the line, often use three safeties and two linebackers, keep incendiary receiver DeSean Jackson in front of them, keep Vick in the pocket, and, when he becomes a target, nail him – reinforced the Bears’ strategy, followed the next week in a win at Chicago.
December 16 Philadelphia Daily News:
“The place sure looked the same, Derrick Burgess thought. And it still had the same smell as all locker rooms: part sweat, part too much cologne.
But when Burgess arrived at the NovaCare Complex for his first practice yesterday as a reincarnated Eagle, just about all of the faces were unfamiliar. Where’s Donovan? Anybody seen B-Dawk? How about Hugh?
“It’s super-different,” said the 32-year-old defensive end. “It’s definitely a different team; definitely a different team [with] a different look. But they’re playing their butts off. They’re a young team that’s flying around.”
Burgess hasn’t been an Eagle since 2004 and has been out of football since New England cut him at the end of this year’s training camp. Just a few days ago, he was in Oxford, Miss., going about life after athletics. Then Andy Reid called.
“I had already moved on,” Burgess said. “[But] opportunity knocked and I’m just going to try to make the best of it.”
Burgess’ second chance comes at the expense of rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, whose season ended when he tore his left ACL during Sunday’s win over Dallas. A third-round pick out of Mississippi in 2001, Burgess spent his first four seasons in Eagles green before putting up a couple of Pro Bowl campaigns in Oakland. He moved to New England, where he registered five sacks in 2009, but his desire had waned. He just couldn’t get comfortable, he said, in the Patriots’ 3-4 scheme. Burgess was a defensive end and New England wanted to make him a hybrid linebacker.
“A couple of teams called before the season started, but I wasn’t feeling those situations,” said Burgess, before explaining the reason he put his cleats back on. “It’s the Eagles. It’s where I started. I know the coaching staff and they said they needed a d-end. That’s what I am: a d-end. In New England, I wasn’t.”
December 16 Philadelphia Daily News:
“SEAN McDERMOTT has faced a few challenges this season, fielding a defense in which five rookies have earned significant playing time. This week, the coordinator’s cast gets even younger as the Eagles prepare to visit the Giants, with the Birds planning to throw a sixth rookie into the fray, new starting middle linebacker Jamar Chaney.
“He’s prepared all season long. We’ve got a lot of trust in him. His teammates have a lot of trust in him, the same way. He’s worked extremely hard to this point. And he did well in the game the other night,” McDermott said yesterday, when asked about the seventh-round pick from Mississippi State.
Chaney’s work in practice moved him past veteran Omar Gaither – once a rookie starter for the Birds himself, for part of 2006 – as the replacement for Stewart Bradley, who will miss at least the rest of the regular season with an elbow dislocation suffered Sunday night in Dallas.
How does a rookie, drafted 220th overall, end up starting at a crucial spot for a 9-4 team that hopes to take a huge step toward winning the NFC East Sunday?
“He’s got good football instincts and works extremely hard. His play the other night, I think, opened some eyes. If nothing else, it earned the respect of his teammates,” McDermott said. “He came in, without many reps in practice, and played good, consistent and above all else, physical football . . . That’s a physical team we just played, and the Giants are just as physical as the Cowboys, if not more physical.”
Chaney, 6-foot, 242, said that Gaither, standing on the sidelines in sweat clothes after being deactivated Sunday, helped him a lot, “telling me what [the Cowboys] were doing, what to expect, what to do in certain situations.”
Gaither said yesterday that Chaney “played well, he played very well” against Dallas.
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