October 19, 2007

Sheppard ready to return

Lito Sheppard can't say enough about the job the Eagles secondary has done in his absence.

And yet, when the sixth-year cornerback returns to the field, likely this Sunday against the 2-4 Bears at Lincoln Financial Field, he expects the defense to reach another plateau.

"They've been doing a great job making plays but now we've got another person who can also make plays back there," Sheppard said. "It's just a swagger thing.

"Once everybody gets in the mind frame that we've been playing well, now we can take it to the next level and start making some big plays."

The MCL sprain Sheppard suffered in Week 1 is all but healed, and he has been practicing with the first-team defense since Wednesday.

Sheppard is one of two Pro Bowlers -- along with free safety Brian Dawkins -- to have missed the last month or more with an injury, and yet 2-3 Philadelphia's patched-up defensive unit has been able to hold opponents to just one touchdown in the last 10 quarters and move up the NFL statistical rankings to seventh.

William James has filled in for Sheppard, with Joselio Hanson slipping into the rotation as the nickel corner and Quintin Mikell starting in place of Dawkins.

In addition, cornerback Sheldon Brown has stepped forward as the on-field leader of the defensive backs, making a game-clinching stop in the end zone in last Sunday's crucial victory over the Jets.

The Eagles defense, as it stood against New York, was one to be respected. Sheppard may represent the difference between respect and fear.

..Continue reading at the Courier Post>>

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