On the heels of an amazing Phillies' comeback win and three cratering performances by our NFC East brethren seems like a good time to try to slip one of these mea culpa posts past an unsuspecting readership. I'm sure I'll get away with it.
Before the season began, if I'd had to pick guys at the front and the back of the defense who were the biggest question marks, I would have said Juqua Parker and Quintin Mikell.
I wrote about Mikell in May:
The second is that when it comes to Mikell as a starter, I'm not convinced. I think the guy is great playing situationally. He's very good in the box and down by the goal line. I'm just not as convinced about his ability to play in space.
I saw a few plays last year where he may or may not have been at fault in the coverage not being there (it's not always easy to tell what the scheme is on TV). I have a feeling that teams are going to target him this year -- because with Samuel/Sheppard/Brown and a (hopefully healthy) Dawkins out there they have to go somewhere -- and I'm not sure he's going to hold up.
Remember too that Mikell ran a 4.58 coming out of college.
I guess we'll know for sure in a few months, but if you're looking for realistic areas of concern, the SS position has to be up there.
About Parker I wrote:
If Juqua Parker is starting by the end of the season, it will mean one of two things: 1) significant injuries at the position or 2) he's the nominal starter but not getting the majority of the snaps.
I said similar things about Parker throughout the offseason.
Now, in my defense on JP, I don't think the Eagles thought he'd be starting by the end of the season either. They didn't draft Victor Abiamiri and bring in Chris Clemons because they thought they were set at the left defensive end spot for the next five years.
But I definitely thought Parker wasn't a stout enough run defender -- wrong so far -- and that his pass rush production was more a result of limited playing time coming in fresh at the end of the year when everyone else was a little worn down.
So far, I've been wrong on both counts. With the exception of the Redskins game -- a team-wide meltdown -- Parker has been fine against the run. Still not quite as stout as Cole, but plenty good enough for an undersized guy whose primary job is rushing the passer. Much better than Kearse was last year, for sure.
Parker is second among defensive linemen on the team in tackles, tied for first in sacks (with Darren Howard!!), and has gotten so good at dropping into coverage from the DE spot that he's now the team's primary hybrid guy in Johnson's "joker" set. I think the team still needs to think about limiting his snaps for awhile to make sure he doesn't get worn down by season's end (the emergence of Chis Clemons should help here), but the fact is, I was wrong about Parker. The guy's played great so far.
Through six games, my concerns about Mikell have also not materialized. He's been just as good as expected in the box, but I'm more impressed with his two interceptions already in only six games. We obviously don't get to see much of him on TV when he's playing deep, but he's certainly not getting routinely picked on in coverage. Even the touchdown catch against him in the Chicago game you're thinking of right now came on a perfect throw-and-catch on a play where he simply slipped a bit on his break. He wasn't just flat beaten.
There are some continuing concerns about what tight ends are doing against us. The strong safety is a natural guy to look for in picking those guys up when they're giving the linebackers trouble. And Mikell might have been the primary cover on that long Vernon Davis catch and run on Sunday (I'll have to check in the rewind). But still, Mikell hasn't just been adequate and he hasn't just been as good as he was last year, he's been better. I was wrong about him, too.