Asante Samuel did not practice today after being listed as a limited participant yesterday.
That calls into question his status for Sunday night's game against the Cowboys, more than we have been led to believe. Eagles coach Andy Reid seemed to think Samuel would practice and play this week when Reid spoke to reporters yesterday, and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott this morning called Samuel's presence "huge" for the defense, going into Dallas.
Samuel, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions, has missed the last two games with an MCL injury.
"That's a tough injury he has," noted the other starting corner, Dimitri Patterson, who said he was not surprised that Samuel wasn't able to work out. "He has to be smart. It's about Sunday."
If Samuel is able to practice today, he would still seem likely to play in Dallas, but when the Birds broke for their nine-day break after beating Houston, it seemed possible Samuel would be back to full strength by now.
Right tackle Winston Justice said he was going to practice today with his hyperextended left knee, but as practice developed, Justice was mainly an observer, and was listed as not practicing on the Eagles' official report.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott talked today about how they feel their units have changed since the final two weekends of the 2009 season, in which the Eagles were outscored by the Cowboys 58-14. McDermott was asked several questions about why the 8-4 Birds are so ineffective in the defensive red zone.
"Anytime we've played like we have in the red zone, there's more than one problem," McDermott said. His team ranks dead last in the NFL, giving up a 78.79 percent TD rate, and has even been slightly worse the past three games, 80 percent."We're hard at work trying to get that problem fixed right now, and if we want to make a stretch run here, we need to do a better job in the red zone.
"We've got some new guys who haven't been in that situation a lot. That all goes into the equation," McDermott said. Eagles players suggested the game is speeded up in the red zone, and that inexperienced defenders have a harder time keeping pace.
McDermott said the Eagles, who have given up a lot of big plays, "are just missing in some areas, just six inches off."
Asked about how the Cowboys hurt the Eagles with screens last season, McDermott said screens are a big part of the Dallas offense, and "anytime you pressure like we pressure ... sometimes people see that as a compensator, the blitzes."
Mornhinweg said the recent improvement of the Dallas defense can be traced to getting more turnovers, and to the Cowboys' offense not turning the ball over as much.
Mornhinweg recalled that when Jamaal Jackson went down with one week left in the season, Nick Cole was thrown into the center spot, where he hadn't played much in a while. Mornhinweg said Cole played OK, but that the offensive line overall was "just off a little bit" against the 3-4 Dallas defense and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.
"Ratliff is a special player," Mornhinweg said. "Ratliff chews people up."