Paul Domowitch: Eagles' Mikell earned one All-Pro vote

Mikell
Mikell
Posted: January 02, 2009

IFILLED OUT my Associated Press All-Pro ballot earlier this week. Put just one Eagle on it.

It wasn't Trent Cole or Asante Samuel or Brian Dawkins. It wasn't Brian Westbrook or Donovan McNabb or David Akers.

It was Quintin Mikell.

I penciled in the sixth-year strong safety right alongside the Ravens' Ed Reed. Penciled him in ahead of the Steelers' Troy Polamalu and the Cardinals' Adrian Wilson and the Titans' Chris Hope and all of the rest of the league's starting free and strong safeties.

You can't overstate what Mikell has meant to the success of the Eagles' defense this season. He leads the team in tackles with 169. His three interceptions are second to Samuel's four. His four forced fumbles are second to Dawkins' six. He has two sacks and nine hurries, which are the fourth most on the team, and the most by a non-lineman.

He's played a major role in a run defense that's held opponents to 3.5 yards per carry. He's been a big reason why tight ends no longer are roaming free through the second and third levels of the Eagles defense. He's been a big reason why the Eagles finished third in the league in pass defense (182.1 yards per game) and second in opponent completion percentage (.541).

I've done a 180 on the guy. A year-and-a-half ago, I had my doubts whether Mikell could cut it as a starting safety. Thought he was a terrific special teams player, but the gulf between special teams ace and every-down starter is wide, and I wasn't sure he could cross it.

Actually, Mikell kind of wondered the same thing.

"I've always had confidence in myself, but until you do something, you're not quite sure [whether you can]," said Mikell, out of Boise State who was one of Tom Heckert's undrafted free-agent finds in 2003.

"But this year, each week, I've been playing better and better. And now, I'm playing at a level where I feel comfortable saying I can make plays in any game at any time. It's been fun, man. I've got to admit, I never thought I'd be able to do this. But I'm having so much fun right now. It's awesome."

Until Mikell stepped in, first for the injured Dawkins at free safety and then for injured strong safety Sean Considine last year, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson also wasn't sure whether Mikell had the right stuff to be a starter. But he's sure now.

"Last year, you could just see the light go on," Johnson said of Mikell. "Safety is one of the hardest positions to learn as far as making all the calls and the adjustments. But you could see [him improve] last year as far as confidence and where to be. And it's just kind of carried over this year.

"He does a great job of getting guys lined up along with Dawk. But he makes a lot of the calls and checks. And he's very confident now. The thing about Quintin, he could be a free or strong safety. He's a tough guy, but has good cover ability. He actually can cover a wide receiver. He's covered a wide receiver at times. So he's got that versatility. Not many strong safeties have that versatility."

Mikell said playing with Dawkins, who received his seventh Pro Bowl invitation, has helped make him a better player and a better person.

"To be able to play with your idol and see what kind of man he is off the field, it's been great for me," Mikell said. "Last week, he had an ear infection and barely practiced. Then he goes out there [against the Cowboys] and makes the great plays he made.

"It's just amazing to see that kind of stuff. [It's] the kind of stuff I'll remember the rest of my career, the rest of my life. Any time I feel I can't go or can't do something, I'll think, 'Dawk did it.' That'll make me strong enough to do it.

"I hope that, at some point in my life, I can have the kind of influence on younger players that he's had on me. My first couple of years in the league, I was having fun. I wasn't really taking it as seriously as I should have. But when I sat down and really began to watch Dawk and see how he lives his life, that was the key for me. Being a family man and being a spiritual man, those things right there are something I learned that really helped me get to where I'm at."

A lot of veterans aren't interested in helping younger players who might someday take their job. But Mikell said that wasn't the case with Dawkins.

"Early on, I was a special teams guy and just out there," he said. "It wasn't until I really started playing and watching him and actually talking to him that he kind of took me under his wing. I was really surprised by it, too. Because a lot of guys wouldn't do that. But he talked to me about being a [better] person, talked to me about being a [better] player.

"I'm forever indebted to him."

Two-minute drill

FROM THE LIP:

* "I'll wake up tomorrow and keep living. I've had a lot worse happen to me than a loss in a sporting event, that's for sure." - Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo when asked how he will deal with Sunday's 44-6 loss to the Eagles

* "They are more like Hercules right now, if you are going to go to fairy-tale time. I think Philadelphia is dangerous, because what they have proven this year is that they can stop the run on first down. They are No. 1 in the NFL stopping the run on first down. And if you can do that, that means Jim Johnson can start dialing up those blitzes." - "Inside the NFL's" Cris Collinsworth on whether the Eagles might be a Cinderella story.

* "I'm disappointed, I'm shocked, I'm not happy about it, I'm not pleased with it at all." - Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on the firing of coach Mike Shanahan

* "When I come in, it's pretty much a signal for everybody to get up, grab a beer and go to the bathroom. But that's the life of an NFL punter, I guess." - Vikings punter Chris Kluwe

* "I feel like ownership is trying. Every year, they evaluate where we need help. They bring in the people that are supposed to help, but there's always something missing. It's hard to figure out what it is. If you know, you should be the GM." - Redskins long-snapper Ethan Albright on his team's woes

BY THE NUMBERS

* Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia had a fourth-quarter passer rating of 63.9.

* Donovan McNabb, who has a 93.2 fourth-quarter passer rating, has not thrown a fourth-quarter interception.

* Sav Rocca has just four touchbacks in 77 punt attempts. The only punters with at least 50 attempts who have fewer are the Bengals' Kyle Larson (three in 100 attempts) and the Colts' Hunter Smith (two in 53).

* Brian Westbrook's first-quarter fumble Sunday against the Cowboys was his first lost fumble in 342 touches, dating back to Week 14 of last season. In his career, Westbrook has fumbled just 12 times (lost nine), which is only three more times than the Vikings' Adrian Peterson has fumbled this season alone.

* Winners from the wild-card round have won six of the 42 Super Bowls, including the last three.

* With nine straight wins, the Colts have tied the record for most consecutive victories for a wild-card team. The 1987 Saints also won nine in a row entering the playoffs, then promptly lost to the Vikings, 44-10.

Thumb things to ponder

THUMBS UP:

* To the San Francisco 49ers for having the unexpected wisdom to hire Mike Singletary as their head coach. Considering the impressive job the Hall of Fame linebacker did as the team's interim coach – five wins in the Niners' last seven games - keeping him was a no-brainer. But the York family, which owns the team, could screw up a one-car funeral. This time, though, they got it right.

THUMBS DOWN:

To Titans running back Chris Johnson, an ungracious loser, who was miffed that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan beat him out for Associated Press offensive Rookie of the Year. The AP awards are selected by a panel of 50 media members. Johnson seems to think he would have been a landslide winner if the players had voted for it. "The whole thing is bogus because people are voting for it that are not on the same field as the people who are playing," he said. Yeah, Chris, and as we've seen, the players do such a terrific job with the Pro Bowl voting. They spend about 2 minutes filling out their ballot, and usually just ask the guy next to them who they're voting for.

PANTHER DRAFT PICK WATCH:

Record: 12-4

Last week: Beat Saints, 33-31

This week: Bye

Next week: Divisional playoff game

Current draft position: 28th, 31st or 32nd

Current position of Eagles' own pick: 22nd, 31st or 32nd

Domowitch's rankings

1. Colts 12-4

2. Steelers 12-4

3. Titans 13-3

4. Giants 12-4

5. Panthers 12-4

6. Ravens 11-5

7. Dolphins 11-5

8. Patriots 11-5

9. Falcons 11-5

10. Eagles 9-6-1

11. Vikings 10-6

12. Texans 8-8

13. Chargers 8-8

14. Saints 8-8

15. Cowboys 9-7

16. Jets 9-7

17. Cardinals 9-7

18. Bears 9-7

19. Redskins 8-8

20. Broncos 8-8

21. 49ers 7-9

22. Raiders 5-11

23. Bucs 9-7

24. Packers 6-10

25. Bills 7-9

26. Jaguars 5-11

27. Browns 4-12

28. Chiefs 2-14

29. Seahawks 4-12

30. Bengals 4-11-1

31. Rams 2-14

32. Lions 0-16

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