August 26, 2007

Birds Defense Rebuilt

Chris Gocong glanced at an old photo the other day and couldn't believe what he saw.

“I was at home and picked up last year's linebacker team photo,” Gocong said. “And it was unbelievable. I'm looking at guys and thinking, "Oh yeah, I remember him.' ''

Shawn Barber? Jason Short? Greg Richmond? Dhani Jones? Jeremiah Trotter?

Gone. All of them.

“And that was just last year,” Gocong said. “It just goes to show you how quickly things change in the NFL. Year to year and day to day.”

How quickly things change? With the Eagles' defense, change is constant.

None of last year's starting linebackers are starting anymore. Only one is still here.

No linebackers remain from the 2004 Super Bowl season.

Only one defensive lineman remains from 2004

And only four starters from the 2005 opening-day defense are still Eagles.

“That really is amazing,” defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. “That is something.”

The 2004 Eagles weren't bad. They won 13 of their first 14 games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, they won the NFC Championship Game and they lost by three points to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville.

From that starting defense, only defensive backs Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown and defensive end Jevon Kearse are still Eagles.

“It is pretty crazy,” said Quintin Mikell, now entering his fifth year with the Eagles as a backup safety. “I still consider myself a young guy and I look around and a lot the guys I came in with are gone.

“But that's how the league is now. Guys can make more money somewhere else and they're going to take it. The thing is, we have good schemes here, and you can find guys who fit the schemes. Not to be rude or negative, but we lost the Super Bowl, so obviously we needed to get better. If we won, maybe more of those guys would still be here.”

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