Hot Topic and Player Notes

Two months ago, the Eagles felt secure enough in their defensive tackle situation to take the franchise-player tag off Corey Simon and let him become an unrestricted free agent.

At the time, even without Simon, who held out of training camp, they were five deep at tackle with veterans Hollis Thomas, Darwin Walker and Paul Grasmanis, up-and-coming third-year player Sam Rayburn and rookie first-round pick Mike Patterson.

But Walker, the team's starting right tackle, has missed the last three games with a thigh injury and Grasmanis suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury two weeks ago against Kansas City.

With just three healthy DTs, the Eagles were compelled to sign rookie seventh-round pick Keyonta Marshall off their practice squad last week so they'd have enough bodies to throw out there against the Dallas Cowboys.

While that group did a decent job against the run in their surprising 33-10 loss, it was unable to get any inside push on Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

Walker is expected to return after the bye week for the Eagles' next game, against the San Diego Chargers, and that should help the pass rush a little. But Simon was the Eagles' best interior pass rusher and the only one of the tackles who drew double-teams from the opposition.

With Simon gone and right end N.D. Kalu a non-factor in the Eagles' first five games, opposing teams have been able to focus more attention on left end Jevon Kearse. Kearse has just one sack in five games and was in on just one tackle Sunday against the Cowboys.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Mike McMahon, the club's No. 3 quarterback, will have exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week, which probably will force the Eagles to sign another quarterback.

--QB Donovan McNabb is looking forward to resting his sports hernia during the bye week, though it still is going to eventually need surgery to fix. He is hoping to put that off until the end of the season.

--RB Brian Westbrook has had just 24 touches in the last two games. He averaged just 3.4 yards per touch in those two games after averaging more than 8 per touch in the Eagles' first three games.

--FB Josh Parry's playing time has been severely reduced as the pass-oriented Eagles seldom use a two-back set.

--WR Terrell Owens had just one catch longer than 10 yards in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. Owens was frequently covered by Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry, who did a good job on him.

--WR Reggie Brown, the Eagles' rookie second-round pick, has just two catches in the past three games. Brown is the third wideout, behind Terrell Owens and Greg Lewis. He's getting a lot of playing time as the Eagles use a lot of three-wide receiver sets. He's just not getting many balls thrown in his direction.

--TE L.J. Smith had an MRI on his ankle and it doesn't appear to be anything serious. The Eagles are confident he'll be able to play in their next game after the bye against the Chargers.

--DT Darwin Walker is expected to play in the Eagles' next game against San Diego after missing the last three games with a thigh injury.

--DE Jevon Kearse continues to have a quiet season. He's got just one sack in five games and had just one tackle Sunday against the Cowboys.

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