Bird Watch

Jevon Kearse (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

When the Eagles and Packers line up tomorrow to kickoff the 2007 season, Eagles fans will want to follow the status of Jevon Kearse and L.J. Smith, as well as the emergence of Jason Avant and Brent Celek.

KEARSED!

When Jevon Kearse arrived in Philadelphia in 2004, he was labeled the “Freak.” He was so fast, so strong, so athletic; he just needed to get the proper exposure necessary for a rising star in the National Football League. Philadelphia was the place, but his speed, strength, and athleticism have been replaced by injuries.

It’s been a while since Kearse has been able to get his “Freak” on. Last season, Kearse suffered a severe knee injury against the Giants in overtime during Week 2 of the season. Overtime should have been avoided, especially since the Eagles were leading the game into the fourth quarter 24 – 7, but things happen.

This is a new year for Kearse. It’s a chance for him to show the Eagles organization and the fans that he’s a capable player who can thrive in this defense. There’s no doubting his ability when he’s healthy. It’s obvious that he’s as talented as any defensive end in the NFL, but he has to show it on the field.

"My teammates know that whoever is healthy is out on the field, so we all know who we're going to go in to war with, and we just got to keep everybody on the field healthy and playing all the way to Week 16," Kearse said.

The last time Kearse played 16 full games was in his first three years (1999 – 2001) in the league. Since 2001, Kearse has battled nagging and severe injuries that have kept him out of the lineup.

Since joining the Eagles, Kearse’s sack totals have been less than spectacular. He’s recorded just 18.5 sacks in three years. During that time, Kearse has only played in 31 of a possible 58 games.

The Eagles are hoping this year’s version of Kearse is true to his Titans form, but with him being probable for tomorrow’s game; nothing is ever true to form.


SMITH QUESTIONABLE; CELEK READY

L.J. Smith
(Getty Images/Ronald Martinez)

Coming into the season, everyone knew that this was going to be a make or break year for Eagles starting tight end L.J. Smith. Not only is this a big year for Smith, but it’s a contract year; a year where he’s trying to recover from an off-season sports hernia surgery, an injury he aggravated in the preseason.

Smith, who was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft, has had an inconsistent four-year stay in Philadelphia. He’s shown signs of being one of the elite tight ends in the league, and moments of being a good player that vary from week to week.

That kind of inconsistency has dampened Smith’s career and his chances at a contract extension with the Eagles.

With Smith questionable for tomorrow’s game against the Packers, fifth round draft pick Brent Celek is going to see a lot of playing time. Celek has been a diamond in the rough for the Eagles. When he was drafted out of Cincinnati, the consensus in Philadelphia was, “Who is this guy?” Celek has displayed excellent hands, the ability to run after the catch, and solid blocking technique.

The uncertainty surrounding Smith means more reps for Celek and a greater chance for Smith to walk at seasons end.


AVANT READY TO EMERGE

Jason Avant
(Getty Images/Paul Spinelli)

There is a lot of hype surrounding Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis this season. In reality there should be, but the one receiver that is flying under the radar is second-year receiver Jason Avant.

Avant, 24, is an opposing figure as the Eagles slot receiver. At 6-foot, 215-pounds, Avant runs crisp routes, flashes great hands, and is as strong as any receiver in the league. He’s one of the best blocking receivers nobody knows about, and if he’s given the opportunity, he can become a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL.

With the Packers playing Al Harris and Charles Woodson on Brown and Curtis respectively, Donovan McNabb will go through his reads and find Avant open over the middle. The Packers linebackers will mainly focus on Brian Westbrook and McNabb, while Avant will be left alone.

Expect a big game out of the new No. 81.


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