After a review of the game tape, here is look at three key Eagles in Monday's 30-10 victory over Cleveland.
The Eagles might not have a No. 1 receiver, but they do have some underrated ones, and Avant is among them. He compensates for his lack of speed by running great routes and catching just about everything that is thrown his way. He also has the toughness needed to be an effective blocker in the run game.
This was Avant's best game, as he matched a career high with five catches and established a career high with 101 receiving yards. Most impressive was his work on third down.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb went to Avant three times on third-down plays, and each time the result was a first down for the Eagles. That trend started on the Eagles' opening drive, when Avant, despite going to the ground, kept his feet inbounds for a 20-yard gain on a third-and-5 play.
McNabb went to Avant again on the Eagles' second series on a third-and-5 play, and the third-year receiver came up with an 8-yard catch for a first down.
The last of Avant's third-down conversions came in the third quarter on third and 11. Avant got a step on safety Mike Adams, and McNabb delivered a perfect pass. After making the catch in stride, Avant broke a tackle by Sean Jones and picked up 24 yards.
Third-down catches are nothing new for Avant. He has 15 catches this season, and 13 of them have been good for first downs.
He also had a terrific first-down catch late in the first half. Despite being tightly covered from behind by cornerback Eric Wright, he came up with a 24-yard completion from McNabb. It could have been argued that Wright was guilty of pass interference, but there's no need to make that argument when the wide receiver catches the football anyway.
It's always fun to evaluate the work of the starting tight end because he is the player on the Eagles' offense who is most despised by the fans. Like McNabb, Smith was benched at Baltimore, with Brent Celek starting ahead of him in that game.
Also like McNabb, Smith has responded by playing much better during the Eagles' three-game winning streak. Smith has 11 catches for 84 yards in the last three games. He had 17 catches for 152 yards in his first eight games this season.
The tight end had just two catches for 13 yards against the Browns, but McNabb went to Smith only three times. Smith's first catch went for 11 yards and a first down in the opening quarter. After initially staying in for pass protection, Smith became McNabb's check-down option and picked up an additional 10 yards after the catch.
Three plays later, McNabb tried to find Smith again in the back of the end zone, but the quarterback was under pressure and his throw sailed over the tight end's head. The only other throw in Smith's direction was a short dump-off late in the third quarter. Smith fell after the catch and picked up just 2 yards.
Smith, as he always does, spent a good amount of time blocking, and he did a solid job in that role, mostly taking on linebackers Willie McGinest and Kamerion Wimbley. It was Smith's first-down block on linebacker Alex Hall that opened a huge hole for Correll Buckhalter on a 27-yard run to start the fourth quarter.
It really is stupid to make assumptions without letting things play out, and the Eagles' free safety is more proof as to why. Many assumed a month ago that Dawkins might be heading into his final days with the Eagles, but the veteran safety is forcing the team to make a difficult decision even as he sets franchise records.
On a night when he set the team record for games played, Dawkins continued to show that he still has the energy and skill to play the game at its highest level. He set the tone for the Eagles' defense in the first half with two tackles for losses and a quarterback hurry.
Dawkins came off the edge on the Browns' first offensive series and tackled running back Jamal Lewis for a 2-yard loss. The following play, he blitzed and made a jarring hit on Ken Dorsey even though the Browns quarterback delivered a nice throw to Braylon Edwards for a 28-yard gain to the Eagles' 13.
With the Browns in the Wildcat formation early in the second quarter, defensive end Trent Cole beat tackle Joe Thomas to immediately disrupt the snap, and Dawkins shed a block by tight end Darnell Dinkins before tackling Joshua Cribbs for a 2-yard loss.
Dawkins, of course, added to his potential Hall of Fame resume yesterday when he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his career. Even though Dawkins is one of the best and classiest players in franchise history, Quintin Mikell is the Eagles' safety who was more deserving of that honor this season.