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Steelers vs. Eagles: Let's Ask A Philly Fan

Jason, a cool cat from Philadelphia, and I exchanged some questions about each other's respective teams and this Sunday's game. Here are my questions, to be followed soon thereafter by several questions that he asked me. Enjoy. And of course, jump in with any thoughts of your own. You can check out Jason's fine site and community at Bleeding Green Nation.

1) Are Eagles fans off the back of McNabb by now? When healthy, he's still a top-5 QB in this league in my opinion. How's his knee holding up and has all the Kevin Kolb talk been put on the back burner where it belongs?

BGN: I'd say the mood around here about McNabb these days is pretty positive. Honestly, I never thought the people who were really down on him were anything more than a very vocal minority. There will always be people that just don't like the guy, but the concerns many fans have had about his injuries are clearly justified. I love McNabb as much as anyone, but for the past 3 years the injuries really have piled up. This year, we're all holding our breath at times when we see him running around out there praying he's not going to tear or break something... but otherwise I'd say the confidence in him is quite high.

As for the knee, as we saw on Monday Night Football, it seems to be just fine.
2) Tell us a little bit about DC Jim Johnson's pedigree as a coach. Other than Dick LeBeau, there's not many other guys I'd love to have coordinating my team's defense. Johnson' one of them, and like LeBeau, he's been around the game for a longtime. Tell us his story if you don't mind.

BGN: Before he came to the Eagles Jim Johnson actually won a national title as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, but it was his work as defensive coordinator of the Colts that had caught Andy Reid's eye. His previous job before the Eagles was with the Seahawks, but there was something about the Colts defense under Johnson that stuck in Andy Reid's mind when he got the head coaching job here. 10 years later it seems like Andy got it right.

JJ is all about the attack. He attacks the run, attacks the passer, and is known as one of the more creative blitz callers in the game. Andy Reid more or less let's him run the defense any way he sees fit.

3) I was somewhat surprised to see the tenure of your offenisve lineman. All seem to have been developed within the organization. How good is this line? We all know who Jon Runyan is, and William Thomas has been around forever, but what about the other guys? 

BGNWhen healthy it's a really good line. There's three multiple time pro bowlers in Runyan, Thomas, and Andrews. Plus there's the undrafted Jamal Jackson and the late round pick todd Herremans. Herremans was drafted as a LT out of college and was competing for a backup job to Tra Thomas, but looked so good in camp and preseason that Reid converted him to guard so he could get on the field. Same story for Shawn Andrews, who was a first pick as an OT and won the starting RG job in his first year.

The Eagles value their lines as much as any team in the NFL. There's two first picks and one big money free agent on the offensive line and 5 guys taken within the first two rounds on the defensive line. Andy Reid is a trench guy to say the least.

4) How exciting has it been to see DeSean Jackson get off the blocks so quickly in his rookie season? I always felt McNabb was hampered by the paucity of weaspons at his disposal on the outside. What's your take on whether Jackson can be a consistent pass-catching threat, or whether he's more of a one-trick pony who will occasionally break one big, but also struggle as a possession receiver?

BGN: He's been great so far. A genuine surprise, especially when you look at the struggles all of the other WRs picked this year have had(with the excepetion of Eddie Royal). He's a really smart guy who does all the subtle things you don't expect rookies to do. He's got good hands, he's fast, runs good routes. So far, he's pretty much everything you want. The amazing thing is that he's looked this way from the first preseason game! The concern with him going forward is durability. He's not a big guy, not even close... So it'll be interesting to see how he holds up at this level. I think that's pretty much the only thing that can stop him from being a really good player here.

5) When the Eagles went on their somewhat surprising run to the playoffs in 2005 behind Jeff Garcia, the offense was more balanced in the rush-pass department. Has Andy Reid resorted back to his old tendency of letting McNabb use the short-passing game as his running game? It can be done, but it's tough to beat the Steelers, even at home, when the running game is non-existant. How do you see Reid calling this game?

BGN: Andy Reid is going to call the game he's always called. Having watched the guy call games for 10 years, I know he's not going to come out and run the ball 25 times. It's just not what he does. I expect him to run the ball generally the same rate he has so far this year. Brian Westbrook will get around 18 carries, Buckhalter will get one or two... Frankly, when he has McNabb healthy he can't resist using him and he's always cautious to not overwork Westbrook. It really depends on how many possessions the Eagles have. McNabb has thrown a lot of passes the last two weeks, but the Eagles have gotten a ton of possessions. The Rams were three and out every series, and the Cowboys were scoring every series... there were not many long stretches were the offense was off the field and those first two games. Pittsburgh is more of a ball control offense, so I expect the Eagles to have less plays than the last two weeks. I think that will make the pass/run ratio a little more even. I kinda have the feeling that going into a week Reid has an idea of how many carries he wants to give Westbrook... Whether that's close to the amount of passes they throw depends on how much they have the ball...