THERE WERE a lot of reasons for
impressive performance in the Eagles' 48-20 Thanksgiving night win over the Arizona Cardinals, not the least of which was the fact that the Cardinals have a pretty lousy pass defense (a league-worst 26 touchdown passes allowed).
"Donovan played better," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "Virtually every position played better. And there were some other things as well."
One of those "other" things was that Mornhinweg and head coach Andy Reid finally abandoned the fire drill they had been running at the wide-receiver position.
Having six wideouts to mix and match in a myriad of formations and personnel groupings sounds like a really neat idea in theory. But it doesn't do much for the timing between the quarterback and his constantly revolving cast of receivers.
Two weeks ago, in the first half of their ugly 36-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles ran 13 plays out of two widereceiver formations and 13 out of three wide-receiver sets. They used seven - count 'em, seven - personnel groupings in those 13 plays out of two wide-receiver sets, and seven more in the 13 out of three wide-receiver sets. McNabb practically had to take roll call in the huddle before every play.
He ended up completing just eight of 18 passes for 59 yards and throwing two interceptions before getting benched by Reid at halftime.
"There were times where we were rotating by series a lot of players," Mornhinweg said. "I thought that it hurt our timing just a little bit and it showed up in the games.
"I was concerned about that. So, what we did [against the Cardinals] instead of rolling them by series, we did it more by personnel groups. And some guys didn't get as many plays as they had been getting."
Against the Cardinals, Mornhinweg and Reid essentially benched Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis and went with just four wide receivers. Brown played just four snaps in the first half. Lewis didn't play any.
In the first half, the Eagles ran 16 plays out of two widereceiver sets. While they used six personnel groupings, they went mainly with DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis, who were on the field for nine of those 16 plays. Ran 19 plays out of three wide-receiver sets and used five personnel groupings. But 15 of those 19 plays featured Jackson, Curtis and Jason Avant.
McNabb completed 15 of 19 passes for 112 yards in the first half against Arizona.
"I think it helped the timing in the pass game," Mornhinweg said. "You just don't have many plays, especially at this time of year, in practice, for every one of those players to run all of the routes. So our timing was off just a little bit, both in practice and games, because we were rolling so many guys in there."
Around the league
, who will start at right guard Sunday against the Giants, is one of the league's smaller offensive linemen at just a shade over 5-11. But Fox Sports analyst
, a former NFL offensive lineman, doesn't think Cole's lack of height will be a big disadvantage for him against the Giants' taller defensive linemen. "He just needs to get good leverage on them and stay in front of them and he'll be OK," Baldinger said. "
] was what, 6-3? But he played so high. He couldn't get under guys. What's going to get Cole is all the different looks he's going to see from them where you have to think on your feet. You can draw things up in the meeting room. But when things happen out there [on the field], you've only got a split second to make a decision and react."
* A quarterback whose draft stock is skyrocketing is Ball State's Nate Davis. Davis is an underclassman, but NFL scouts think he'll be coming out. He is an accurate passer (67.3 percent completion rate), has a laser arm and can run. The only downside to him right now in scouts' eyes is his size. He's only 6-2.
* There has been speculation that San Diego State, which last week fired coach Chuck Long, might approach Chiefs coach Herm Edwards about the job. Edwards is a San Diego State alum and his son also played there. When asked about it last week, Edwards, whose team includes 15 rookies, said, "I've got a college team right now and I'm coaching it." Despite the Chiefs' 2-10 record, Edwards, who is in the third year of a 4-year contract, is in no jeopardy of being fired after the season. And he has no interest in being a college coach at this point in his career. "He's going to coach at Kansas City as long as they'll have him and then he's going to get into broadcasting," a person close to Edwards said.
* Chargers coach Norv Turner also will return in '09, according to the team's GM, A.J. Smith, despite the team's disappointing 4-8 record entering last night's game against Oakland. "I believe in coach Turner and know what he brought to this organization and this team during the '07 season, and in particular, what he accomplished in the postseason," Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Last year under his watch has been dismissed like yesterday's newspaper by many, but not by me."
* The Bills, who will play eight games in Toronto over the next 5 years, will make a whopping $78 million from the arrangement. That's more than double what they would get if those eight games were played in Buffalo. No wonder the league's owners were so quick to give the Bills permission to do it.
FROM THE LIP:
* "To be a head coach in the NFL and deal with the personalities in the NFL, and to deal with a completely dysfunctional franchise when you get there ... that's something that was real valuable to me. You can't go to school and learn crisis management like [you can] going there." - Newly named University of Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, reminiscing on his experience as head coach of the Raiders
* "I am not going to give one of those endorsements. I'm not going to say anything other than they are the same people who have been here for years now. They had good years and years that weren't so good. But they're the same. They coach the same. They are teachers. They do their teaching the same way as they did before this year." - Bengals president Mike Brown, on the job security of coach Marvin Lewis and his staff
* "I've never really had a reason to carry a gun. I don't feel like my life is threatened, although a lot of people don't like me. I don't carry myself like that. I either have some security personnel that rolls with me or I don't go. Or I travel with a group of guys. Other than that, I try to keep myself out of harm's way." - Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens
BY THE NUMBERS:
* The 1-10-1 Bengals now have lost double-digit games in 16 of the franchise's 41 seasons. This is the first double-digit-loss season under Marvin Lewis.
* The Cowboys haven't had a winning record in December/January since 1996, which also is the last time they won a playoff game. In the past 11 seasons, they're 18-36 in December and January, including five postseason defeats.
* If the Giants defeat the Eagles on Sunday, it would be their seventh straight win over a team with a winning record, tying the NFL record set by the 1970 Vikings.
* The Steelers are first in the league in total defense, first against the run and first against the pass. If they finish that way, they'll be the first defense since the '91 Eagles to finish first across the board in defense. They are giving up just 3.88 yards per play, which is the best since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in '78.
* Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell has thrown just four interceptions in 378 attempts. He didn't throw his first pick until the eighth game of the season.
* The Patriots are 29th in third-down defense (44.7 percent) and 30th in red-zone defense (25 TDs allowed in 39 chances).
Thumb things to watch
* To Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard, who acknowledged to reporters earlier this week that his unhappiness over his contract and diminished playing time has affected his play this season. It seems the guy can't play hurt and now he also can't play when he feels he's being underpaid. Poor baby. If he thinks this mature attitude is going to help him get a new deal from his next employer, he's in for a big surprise.
* To Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, who showed up for practice Wednesday wearing Homer Simpson sleep pants underneath his workout shorts. Can't imagine this went over too well with owner Jerry Jones, who was entertaining VIPs on the sideline during the practice.
* To Titans quarterback Vince Young, who saw his first action since Week 1 in a mopup role against the Lions on Thanksgiving, then refused to talk to reporters after the game.
PANTHER DRAFT PICK WATCH:
Last week: beat Packers, 35-31
This week: vs. 9-3 Bucs
Current draft position: 28-30
1. Giants 11-1
2. Titans 11-1
3. Bucs 9-3
4. Steelers 9-3
5. Panthers 9-3
6. Colts 8-4
7. Cowboys 8-4
8. Falcons 8-4
9. Ravens 8-4
10. Broncos 7-5
11. Jets 8-4
12. Vikings 7-5
13. Redskins 7-5
14. Patriots 7-5
15. Dolphins 7-5
16. Cardinals 7-5
17. Eagles 6-5-1
18. Bears 6-6
19. Saints 6-6
20. Texans 5-7
21. Niners 4-8
22. Bills 6-6
23. Packers 5-7
24. Chargers 4-8
25. Browns 4-8
26. Jaguars 4-8
27. Chiefs 2-10
28. Raiders 3-9
29. Seahawks 2-10
30. Bengals 1-10-1
31. Rams 2-10
32. Lions 0-12