Howard eager to have bang-up season at defensive end

Posted: June 13, 2007

Darren Howard believes he has nothing to prove. He doesn't have a chip on his shoulder and doesn't need anyone to tell him how much he needs to improve on his 35 tackles and five sacks last season to be an effective member of the Eagles' defensive front.

Howard knows this, which is part of the reason he has that look of hunger and fire at minicamp at the NovaCare Complex.

"If this was a few years ago, then, yes, I would feel as if I had some things to prove," Howard said. "But I've been in the league for 8 years and the only thing I want to do is show up every day, make sure my name is on that roster and do whatever I have to do to help my team out."

Last year, the defensive end fell short statistically. In 2005, his final season with the New Orleans Saints, Howard recorded 33 tackles and forced two fumbles through 12 games. At that pace, Howard said he expected to get back to 50-plus tackles last season, as he did in his first two seasons out of Kansas State with the Saints. Howard had 51 tackles in 2000 and 53 in 2001.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said the coaching staff could be as much at fault in the decline of Howard's numbers last season as Howard.

After Jevon Kearse was lost for the season in Week 2 with a left-knee injury, the Eagles were left with Trent Cole and Howard on the left side. Cole had never played the position in his 2 years in the league and Howard had limited experience there.

Howard, who said he was more comfortable on the right side, said that although he felt he was at a disadvantage, it was the right move for the team.

That attitude, along with Howard's increased work ethic, has Johnson sold on Howard having a huge season. Yesterday and Monday, Howard was taking extra sideline sprints at the end of practice, along with additional weight-room work. He said his offseason workouts included pickup basketball, where he focused on improving his agility.

"Once you get out here in these minicamps, you really find out what kind of shape you are in," the 6-3, 275-pound Howard said.

"You can't come out here and fake it and think you're in good shape, especially on this team, when you have to pass physical tests before you even enter training camp."

Howard, who was bothered by knee injuries last season but played in all 16 games, has split practice time with the first and second defense. He has shown no side effects of the injuries. Johnson said not only has Howard's health been improving, but his mind-set has remained positive, as well.

"I just see a real good attitude," Johnson said. "I'm sure he's disappointed from last season, because he's so used to having such good production, but these guys have to realize that every year, whether you want to believe it or not, they get older and you have to push yourself harder and harder in order to stay on top of the game."

The day after

For the second consecutive day, Donovan McNabb participated in minicamp. McNabb, who left practice about 30 minutes early for treatment to his right knee, did not appear to show any signs of stress in his second full day of workouts since tearing his ACL on Nov. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field.

For the second consecutive day, Donovan McNabb participated in minicamp. McNabb, who left practice about 30 minutes early for treatment to his right knee, did not appear to show any signs of stress in his second full day of workouts since tearing his ACL on Nov. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field.

While McNabb eases his way back, a teammate who is an expert in knee injuries has been a helpful resource to McNabb.

Running back Correll Buckhalter said he has been somewhat of an inspiration to McNabb. He said he talked to McNabb when the quarterback was hurt and let him know that if he could come back from three knee surgeries, it should be a breeze for McNabb to come back from one.

"I told him right now he is pretty much over the hump of the hard part," Buckhalter said. "Once you get past that fourth and fifth month, you're pretty much on the right track and ready to get back on the field. And we all see how bad he wanted to get back on the field."

Birdseed

Before the end of practice yesterday, offensive tackle Winston Justice and defensive end Marques Murrell got into a tussle in which a helmet was thrown after the fight was cleared. Murrell said afterward that Justice was just trying to bully the rookie free agent from Appalachian State. "Man, he was just trying to be funny. I'm not about to let no man push me around, so I just had to show him that I was going to hold my ground," Murrell said . . . Kelly Holcomb threw two interceptions in a row that bounced off an offensive lineman and fell into the hands of defensive tackle Ian Scott . . . Linebacker Takeo Spikes worked on hand-eye coordination with linebackers coach Sean McDermott by catching tennis balls with one hand while on his knees. *

Before the end of practice yesterday, offensive tackle Winston Justice and defensive end Marques Murrell got into a tussle in which a helmet was thrown after the fight was cleared. Murrell said afterward that Justice was just trying to bully the rookie free agent from Appalachian State. "Man, he was just trying to be funny. I'm not about to let no man push me around, so I just had to show him that I was going to hold my ground," Murrell said . . . Kelly Holcomb threw two interceptions in a row that bounced off an offensive lineman and fell into the hands of defensive tackle Ian Scott . . . Linebacker Takeo Spikes worked on hand-eye coordination with linebackers coach Sean McDermott by catching tennis balls with one hand while on his knees. *

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