Eagles aren't packing it in

Cullen Jenkins sees Michael Vick as the catalyst to an Eagles' turnaround. 'The things Mike can do with his arms and his legs can spark you,' Jenkins said.
Cullen Jenkins sees Michael Vick as the catalyst to an Eagles' turnaround. 'The things Mike can do with his arms and his legs can spark you,' Jenkins said. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 13, 2011

FIVE TEAMS have reached the NFL playoffs after a 1-4 start in the current 12-team playoff format adopted in 1990.

The Eagles have significant connections to four of them.

The Chargers made the playoffs after starting 0-4 in 1992.

Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan ran the Oilers defense that helped the 1993 team finish 11-0 after its 1-4 start.

Jeff Fisher, one of Ryan's assistants when Ryan coached the Eagles, took the 2002 Titans from 1-4 to 11-5, with a playoff win.

Former Eagles cornerback Herm Edwards concocted another second miracle at the Meadowlands when he coached the Jets from 1-4 to 9-7 in 2002.

Most recently, free-agent defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins watched the 2004 Packers follow the Eagles' template: win the first, lose the next four. That edition of the Pack finished 10-6.

That was a veteran Packers team, largely unchanged from the 2003 edition that also went 10-6 and lost in the second round of the playoffs in Philadelphia.

By contrast, the Eagles largely are reconstructed, especially on defense, and, thanks to the NFL lockout, obviously are struggling with a new defensive scheme.

Still, the Birds have talent, depth and tradition.

Jenkins was an undrafted rookie, but he played in all 16 games, started six games and managed 4 1/2 sacks.

"I was new to it. The one thing that I knew, which we should have here as well: the success that they had had for so long at Green Bay," Jenkins said. "The players who were there expected it to turn around. There was not a sense of panic."

Those Packers had made the playoffs nine of the previous 11 years, including three straight trips under coach Mike Sherman. Andy Reid has taken the Eagles to the playoffs nine times in his 12 seasons, including the last three.

Five games into the 2004 season, Packers quarterback Brett Favre had been brilliant twice, once in a loss, and atrocious in the fourth loss . . . similar to Michael Vick's inconsistent run.

Favre was incandescent in six of the nine wins after the poor start. Jenkins believes that Vick can do the same.

"The things Mike can do with his arms and his legs can spark you," he said.

Vick is acting as chief optimist, too. Jenkins appreciates that.

"You see a lot of teams that haven't had success get down; they get that attitude of, 'Here we go again,' " Jenkins said. "With [the Packers], it was a sense of having success for so long they knew it was going to get turned around."

Do the Eagles have that sense?

"Absolutely. You've got an offense that can move the ball," he said. "You've got a defense of going out and making the plays that need to be made."

Any suggestion that firing coach Andy Reid would help is absurd, said Jenkins, who was part of the Packers' surge last year that saw them go from 3-3, then from 8-6, to winning the Super Bowl under Mike McCarthy.

Reid, said Jenkins, has not lost the team: "We're buying in more than ever. It's not like he hasn't done a lot of good things and had a lot of success in this league."

The Eagles' maligned defense began to have success in the second half of Sunday's loss at Buffalo, too. It might have been a function of a Bills team protecting a 28-7 lead, but the wide-nine scheme run by first-year coordinator Juan Castillo appeared effective against everything the Bills threw at it.

After scoring on the opening drive of the second half, the Bills managed only a field goal, off an Eagles turnover.

"People are getting a lot more comfortable in their assignments. Because of that, they're starting to play fast," Jenkins said. "That second half that we played out there is something we can't forget. If we can learn from that and carry it over, use it as a standard of what things should be, we'll be all right."

Jenkins is hindered by a 3-week-old left triceps strain suffered against the Giants on Sept. 25, when right tackle Kareem McKenzie knocked Jenkins down with a cut block, Jenkins said. He hurt his arm trying to catch his fall. He was limited at yesterday's practice.

He will play Sunday at Washington, and he will hope to re-create the Packers' magic of 2004.

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