ERIC ROWE said he felt "normal" Wednesday, the best news Eagles fans have gotten as their team faces a do-or-die game Saturday against NFC East rival Washington.
Rowe, the rookie corner who has shown steady progress since previous starter Nolan Carroll went down with a broken fibula on Thanksgiving, was cleared by an independent neurologist Wednesday morning, then returned to NovaCare, where he was a full practice participant.
The other starting corner, Byron Maxwell, did not practice Wednesday and is a longshot to play after suffering an SC joint sprain, where his collarbone attaches to his sternum, in last Sunday night's loss to Arizona.
The Eagles more or less played without Maxwell the last time they faced Washington, back on Oct. 4 at FedEx Field. He left after suffering a quad injury seven snaps into the game, bringing Rowe off the bench for 77 snaps, still the most activity Rowe has logged.
Rowe figured in the play that won the game for Washington, 23-20, Rowe and safety Walt Thurmond unable to keep Pierre Garcon from catching a 4-yard pass from Kirk Cousins with 26 seconds remaining. The winning touchdown came at the end of a 15-play, 90-yard drive, and it spoiled an Eagles comeback from an early 13-0 deficit.
"I have better technique now, I could have had a lot better eyes," Rowe said Wednesday. "My eyes were all over the place, especially that last play, when Pierre Garcon scored in the red zone, I could have jumped it earlier - just stuff like that."
Cousins set a record for a Washington quarterback against the Eagles, in 161 all-time meetings, with 31 completions (in 46 attempts), even though his team was playing without former Eagles Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Jackson is reasonably healthy this week - he sat out Wednesday's practice with the notation "foot/knee." The Eagles likely will send Rowe and either E.J. Biggers or Jaylen Watkins up against him. Rowe said he likely will remain on the right side, with the sub (or, if a miracle of healing occurs, Maxwell) on the left.
"I could care less who's covering me, man," Jackson told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters yesterday. "Whoever it is, good luck to them."
Biggers played the previous two seasons with Washington, last season as Jackson's teammate.
"He's one of the best in the league," said Biggers, who said until he practiced against Jackson, he didn't understand how well DeSean tracked the ball.
"You think he's just a deep threat and can run by guys, but he makes those tough catches in traffic, too. You see that in practice with him . . . He adjusts to the ball very well. He's not afraid to go up and get the ball."
Biggers said he saw Cousins as "a great competitior" who "can make every throw."
Cousins has a set of passing-game weapons the Eagles can't match - Jackson (26 catches for 488 yards in eight games), Garcon (62 for 648), elusive rookie slot receiver Jamison Crowder (52 for 482) and the most prolific target, tight end Jordan Reed (74 for 778 and nine touchdowns).
"When you've got weapons like that, it makes it easier for you," Biggers noted.
Cousins has the highest completion percentage among NFL starting quarterbacks, at 69.7 percent (336 for 482). He has thrown for at least 300 yards in four of the last six games.
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Cousins "takes what you give him."
"When DeSean is open and has it, Kirk has all the arm to get it there," Davis said. "He's a highly accurate thrower, good decision-maker. They're hitting on all cylinders right now."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said "it's completely different" with Jackson on the field. "Although he's not the No. 1 target they have, every time he's targeted, it can be explosive. He can change a game quicker than all their other threats."
"D-Jack, everybody knows him. Extremely fast, talented receiver," Rowe said. "Pierre Garcon's a physical receiver. Of course, 86 (Reed) is (listed as) a tight end, but in my eyes, he's a receiver. Just real athletic. They've got the rookie from Duke (Crowder). Quick slot guy."
Rowe fared pretty well two games back against Buffalo's Sammy Watkins, a different type of marquee receiver than Jackson.
"Sammy, he's a little more physical . . . But I don't think he probably has the speed of DeSean Jackson," Rowe said. "I won't really know until I'm running side-by-side with him."
Rowe said he still isn't sure how he was concussed, but he said he started to feel odd during the Cardinals' drive for a field goal that carried through the end of the first quarter and into the second.
Rowe said afterward, when the defensive backs gathered on the sideline, "Malcolm and E.J., they kind of saw that I looked different, I was acting different, and they kind of told the trainers and they just pulled me to the side."
Rowe did not go back into the game. He said he felt OK by the time he got home late Sunday night. He watched practice after going through baseline testing Tuesday.
Maxwell seemed to be moving his arm better Wednesday, but it's hard to imagine he'll heal by Saturday. Biggers and Watkins covered reasonably well in the loss to Arizona - particularly the long ball - but they were among a number of Eagles whose tackling was atrocious.
Watkins had an excuse - he'd spent much of the season on the Bills' practice squad, and had played just three defensive snaps before Sunday.
"I hadn't tackled anybody in three months," Watkins said.
"Guys just have to be smart enough to take the guy to the ground," Jenkins said. Davis said this week that players have gotten too caught up in trying to strip the ball, at the expense of tackling. "Ninety percent of tackling is want-to," Jenkins said. "The other 10 is technique. How are we approaching the football? Do we have the right leverage? Are we on the right shoulder? Are our knees bent? Are we in position to make the tackle?
"Obviously, we don't do a lot of contact (in practice) this late in the season, so when you get to the point of attack in all of these team drills, you have to detail that, because that's something you can't practice live."
On Twitter: @LesBowen