THIS IS not going to be a fun week to be Kiko Alonso.
The guy the Eagles got when they traded LeSean McCoy has not returned to the form that made him the NFL's defensive rookie of the year for Buffalo in 2013. In fact, to Eagles fans, that form might seem about as far away and as relevant as Nick Foles' 27 touchdown passes vs. two interceptions, the same year.
"The fact that I got traded for (McCoy) has no relevance at all," Alonso said Tuesday. "It's really just, the guy's a great player. We're going to have to be on top of our game and run to the ball and play sound football to stop that guy."
The Alonso that Eagles fans have seen missed five weeks after suffering an injury to his repaired left knee, which had cost him all of 2014, and he seemed to be playing in slow motion when he returned. Because they were in nickel and dime packages most of the New England game, the Eagles left Alonso on the field for 70 snaps, and both Eagles coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis felt the need to say they'd overextended Alonso, that they needed to balance the inside linebacker snaps more. Mychal Kendricks had 48 and DeMeco Ryans had 21. Kendricks and Ryans have missed time with hamstring issues this season and are struggling in space.
"It showed up very late in the game, where he was gassed," Davis said Tuesday. "I think at the very end there, where Kiko had a couple plays where he fell or he was just exhausted, we should have made a switch there. But we are happy with Kiko and Mychal. We have to get some coverage things down techniquewise, but they're good athletes with good football awareness, and will play better and better as we go."
Specifically, Alonso fell down and left Patriots running back James White open for a huge catch on fourth-and-12, helping lead to the touchdown that put New England within seven points.
"Naw, man, it's another week," Alonso said Tuesday, when asked if there might be anything different about playing McCoy and his old team. "It'll be fun because, obviously, I know those guys," he said.
Asked how he thought he played against the Pats, Alonso said, "Good. I thought I gave up some plays, I made some plays."
Alonso said he did not feel worn down by the end.
Asked if things have gone the way he'd hoped here, Alonso said, "Yeah."
The way Davis talked about McCoy Tuesday, it was hard to envision why the Eagles would ever trade such a player.
"Shady's on top of it right now. He's playing the best you've seen him play," Davis said. All three of McCoy's 100-yard games this season have come in the last five outings.
"He's peaking right now, like he does a lot of times," Davis said. "I think always in November and December, you've seen him be at his best. It looks like he's in great shape.
"They're feeding him the ball a lot. He's being Shady - he's making the cuts and stopping on a dime and changing directions and making plays when they aren't there. We're going to have our hands full, and we look forward to the challenge. We know he's going to be at his absolute best. He'll be the best blocker, the best runner and the best pass protector that you can be. He'll be fired up for this game, but so will we."
Davis said having practiced against McCoy would be of limited value for his players.
"It's not the full speed. Shady is about full speed," Davis said. "His start-and-stop and perimeter run is second to none, and he sees the field. You see him in one gear in practice, and then there's another gear to Shady that shows up in the game that we have to be ready for, and we will be."
Means to an end
The Eagles filled Miles Austin's roster spot with 26-year-old Steven Means, an outside linebacker signed off the Houston Texans' practice squad. Means, 6-3, 263, worked out for the Eagles in October, before going to Houston. He was drafted out of the University of Buffalo by Tampa Bay in the fifth round in 2013 and played in 10 games as a rookie. Cut in 2014, he played one game for Baltimore.
It's late to teach anyone your offense or defense and really expect them to contribute. This is the time of year when teams sign players off other teams' practice squads with an eye toward next spring and summer.
"Similar defense when I was with the Ravens, and Houston was 3-4," said Means, who obviously would prefer to get on the field sooner rather than later. He was a 4-3 d-end in college and with the Bucs, but said he likes the 3-4 stand-up view.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Means' presence affects 2014 first-round pick Marcus Smith's status.
Defensive lineman Bennie Logan (knee) sat out practice Tuesday . . . Safety Malcolm Jenkins said LeSean McCoy "has a specific skill set," which made Shady sound a bit like Liam Neeson . . . Asked if it felt like the Eagles have a "second chance," now that they're tied at 5-7 with the Giants and Redskins, Jenkins said: "I think we've had about five second chances, to be honest . . . However we got here, we are right where we want to be. Everything up until this point is really null and void. Our playoffs start this week."