Bumped Wayne will still get chance to bruise

Posted: November 14, 2004

The Eagles picked an interesting time to demote Mr. Monday Night.

Linebacker Nate Wayne has played some of his best games on Monday Night Football. But Wayne has been bumped in a defensive shuffle for tomorrow night's game in Dallas against the Cowboys. Jeremiah Trotter is expected to start at middle linebacker, and Mark Simoneau will move to the outside.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said earlier this week that he still planned to give Wayne significant playing time, especially in the team's nickel package.

If Wayne plays like he has on other Monday nights, he might earn a promotion. In 10 career starts on Monday nights, he has 88 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.

In the 27-16 win over the visiting Vikings on Sept. 20, he had eight tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack, and he was part of a key, game-changing goal-line strip of quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Like Wayne, the Eagles are no strangers to Monday night success - they have a 21-16 record. Under coach Andy Reid, the Birds are 7-1 during the prime-time event.

Division play. Starting with the Cowboys' game, the Eagles enter a three-game stretch against NFC East opponents. After facing Dallas, they will host Washington on Nov. 21, then visit the Giants on Nov. 28 in hopes of further cementing another East crown.

"We always make that our No. 1 goal," Reid said of the title chase. "I think every team in the NFC East does the same thing. So it will be a great challenge for us because of the teams that are in the division."

The Eagles already have one win against a division rival, the Giants. The Eagles and Cowboys, of course, also are heated rivals. That rivalry could reach another level tomorrow night, especially with the Eagles' star-dancing Terrell Owens.

"The players know each other, and they end up being knockdown drag-out [games]," Reid said. "That's what it's all about. It's as close to a college rivalry as you'll find."

Bouncing back from the loss against the Steelers last week, Reid said, is something that will take care of itself.

"They work hard, and that's kind of how they got to this point," he said. "So they're continuing to get back into the flow of things. I think their pride was hurt early, but they bounced back and have had a couple of good days of practice here."

Injury update. Reid said tight end L.J. Smith, who has been struggling with a hamstring injury, was looking better at practice yesterday. Smith is listed as questionable. . . . Safety/return man J.R. Reed is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. He missed the Steelers game. . . . The following players are probable: kicker David Akers (hip), safety Brian Dawkins (forearm), linebacker Dhani Jones (ankle), guard Jermane Mayberry (calf), tackle Sam Rayburn (concussion/elbow), offensive tackle Jon Runyan (groin), defensive tackle Corey Simon (calf), running back Brian Westbrook (rib) and cornerback Dexter Wynn (hamstring).

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.

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