The bigger the pebble, the wider the ripple.
Akeem Jordan might not have seemed that large a rock, but the last four games have shown that not having the Eagles linebacker has had repercussions.
Jordan, though, appears ready to plop right back into the pond, the consequences of which will spread beyond the linebacker corps as the Eagles gear up for Sunday night's showdown at the New York Giants.
Jordan practiced with the first-team defense for the second straight day and proclaimed his hyperextended right knee well enough to play on.
"If the game was today I would try to go," Jordan said yesterday.
The decision is up to the Eagles' coaches and trainers.
"He has a familiarity with the scheme, I would say, so there is a comfort level with Akeem out there that it provides me with as a play-caller," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "He knows our defense, I'll just say that."
Since Jordan injured his knee against the Cowboys last month, the Eagles have tried an assortment of different alignments at linebacker with varying degrees of success. Last week against the Falcons, it was mostly Will Witherspoon at weak-side, Chris Gocong at strong-side (opposite the tight end) and Jeremiah Trotter in the middle in the base sets.
Asked if Jordan's return would mean that Witherspoon would move back into the middle, McDermott said not necessarily.
"It depends on the personnel group," he said. Jordan "provides depth at the position for us, wherever he may play, in any situation versus the personnel that they show. He supplements the numbers that we already have there."
Jordan said that he practiced occasionally in the middle yesterday, but that it was no different from playing on the outside.
"Every position is interchangeable," he said. "I don't want to say you do one thing or another. . . . If Chris needed a break, I'd give him a break. If Trot needed a break, I'd give him a break."
Witherspoon has been Mr. Interchangeable. When the Eagles traded for him in October, he was playing weak-side at St. Louis. The Eagles needed him in the middle with Omar Gaither lost for the season, and he filled that spot for the next three games. But then Jordan got hurt, and Witherspoon went back to weak-side.
"It's important for all of us to know what everybody's got to do, because you never know what the game is going to be about," Witherspoon said. "Throughout the course of the year guys get banged up, as you see, and you got to make adjustments and put together the best possible combinations."
McDermott has consistently said he'll play the best three. He even tried Gocong in the middle last month at San Diego. That experiment failed, and the Eagles were forced to go with the 32-year-old Trotter and the inexperienced Joe Mays. Trotter, despite his physical limitations, ended up playing more than Mays, who could find himself inactive with Jordan back.
When Jordan went down, he led the team with 64 tackles – he's still third – and was arguably the defense's most valuable player aside from defensive end Trent Cole.
"He hasn't taken a whole lot of reps, but from what I have seen he's pretty much almost back to where he was," safety Quintin Mikell said. "He can move around. He can run. Obviously, he can make plays on the ball. You saw that earlier this season."
Despite Jordan's four-week absence and the loss of cornerback Joselio Hanson during that span, the Eagles weathered the storm and went 3-1. Hanson is back as the nickel - after serving a four-game suspension for taking a banned substance – and the defense is getting bodies just in time for the stretch drive.
"I'm probably one of the freshest guys in the NFL right now," Hanson said.
McDermott was asked if having Jordan and Hanson back in the fold has allowed him to scheme the defense differently.
"We're always going to do what we do," he said. "We're going to be aggressive, but there is more experience on the field with the players that we are getting back in Hanson and Akeem. From that standpoint I would say yes."