Quintin Mikell, Sean Considine
Even though Sean Considine came into last year's campaign ready to serve as the Eagles' starter at strong safety after taking over the position for the final 10 games of 2006, he is well aware of his current status on the team.
"Right now, I'm just competing for a job," Considine said. "Obviously, I'm not the starter right now. But that gives you something to shoot for, and hopefully it'll make me work a little bit harder."
After suffering a serious shoulder injury last November in a game against the Dallas Cowboys, the former 2005 fourth-round pick watched as his replacement, Quintin Mikell, impressed the coaching staff and established himself as the frontrunner to be a starter in Philadelphia's defensive secondary in 2008 by making plays and being in position on the field.
Before he got hurt, Considine was having an up-and-down season and did not have a consistent impact from game to game. For example, after registering a game-high 10 tackles (7 solo) in a close game against the New York Jets in week six, Considine got exposed the following week against the Chicago Bears, recording just three tackles and getting beat for a fourth-quarter touchdown by wide receiver Mushin Muhammad that gave the Bears the win. He finished the year with 35 tackles in eight games, and also recorded a sack and an interception.
Entering his fourth year with the team, Considine has flashed some solid potential up to this point, but his history of shoulder injuries has to be a concern. After having surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder he suffered against the Cowboys in '05, the former walk-on at Iowa worked hard to bulk up last off-season to prepare for his role as a starter. At 6-foot, 212-pounds, Considine showed a penchant for making big hits early in the season, but his shoulder gave out again when he sprained it in a loss to Dallas and more surgery was required.
Although it may be too soon to tell if his shoulder is completely healed, Considine is confident that he can make a full recovery.
"I think he'll tell you that it feels better than (after) the first surgery," head coach Andy Reid said. "The first one didn't quite work out, so the doctor went in and repaired it and tightened it up in a little bit of a different way. He says it feels great. Much stronger and tighter."
Even if he makes a comeback, it will be hard for Considine to regain his spot as a starter with how well Mikell performed last season.
Quintin Mikell emerged as a play-maker last season and was a pleasant surprise for the Eagles in 2007.
(Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
A week after Dawkins returned to the field, Mikell was again thrust into a starting role with the injury to Considine, and he responded with more solid play and brought an athletic presence to the defensive backfield. In the six games he started at strong safety during the second half of the year, the Eagles had a record of five wins with just one loss, and the defense held opponents to under 10 points in three separate contests.
Mikell finished the season with a career-high 74 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception while seeing action in 14 games and starting 11.
Like Considine, Mikell is not a big safety, but he puts all of his 5-foot-10, 206-pound frame into each hit and is good at wrapping up once he makes contact. The former Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year from Boise State has worked his way up from being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003 to proving he can be a force in more ways than just kickoff coverage, and his knack for making plays could secure him a permanent spot on the roster for some time.
Mikell played too well last season to not at least enter training camp as the starter at strong safety for the Eagles. If Considine is going to challenge him for a spot this season, he will have to show more consistency and prove that his injury history will not be an issue. Both players could be valuable parts of the team's long term future, as the Eagles will likely need a replacement for Dawkins when his contract runs out after this season.
Andrew Pluta can be reached at email@example.com