Kearse could see double duty
Like they did in the NFC Championship, the Eagles will likely use Jevon Kearse on both sides of the DL.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the darkness of the film room, Jevon Kearse flips on the video machine and watches cut-ups of New England right offensive tackle Brandon Gorin for a while, before slipping in another cassette and jotting some notes on the pass protection techniques employed by Matt Light, the Patriots left tackle.
Kearse isn't acknowledging yet that he will alternate defensive end spots in Super Bowl XXXIX, as he did in the NFC championship game, when he was principally charged with containing Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick in the pocket. But he hinted broadly on Sunday night that he and fellow end Derrick Burgess could reprise the flip-flop maneuver and, when queried about the double-duty film study involved, noted that both the Patriots tackles had better be prepared for him as well.
2004 SEASON STATISTICS Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int 31 28 3 2 8 0
"If it's double duty for me, well, it's double duty for them, too," said Kearse, who has seven tackles and a pair of sacks in the Eagles' two postseason victories. "Those guys are both going to have to prepare for me, just like I'm getting ready for them, because they aren't going to know until the game starts if we're switching sides. I will say this much: The (switch) worked great last week and me and Derrick both liked it a lot."
The flip-flop in the conference championship game, with Kearse moving from his usual left end slot to the weak-side position, was devised principally to counter Vick and to limit his freelance forays upfield.
New England quarterback Tom Brady doesn't often abandon the pocket -- he carried only 43 times for 28 yards in the regular season -- and he characteristically moves around just to buy himself some time to throw. And unlike the southpaw Vick, who prefers to move to his left, Brady is right-handed. If he does scramble, it will probably be to his right, and toward Kearse, if he is playing left end.
Even with the disparate styles of the quarterback opponents, though, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and defensive line assistant Tommy Brasher liked the Kearse-Burgess juxtaposition so much last week that it could carry over to Super Bowl XXXIX. In fact, permanently flipping the ends is something Philadelphia coaches might consider in 2005, if Burgess, a pending unrestricted free agent, is back with the team.
Until this season, and on those occasions when he was healthy, Burgess mostly played the left side. He migrated to the right side for 2004 principally to accommodate Kearse, who has played the strong side his entire career, even though his pass-rush skills set are more closely aligned with those of a right end.
"Playing the 'open' side, it's fun, because you aren't facing as many double teams," said Kearse, whose 7½ sacks led all Philadelphia defenders this season. "I've played on the left side all my career, but switching over (to the right side) is no big deal. If it helps the team, hey, let's do it."
Always known as an unselfish player during his five seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Kearse's reputation as a team guy has been further enhanced during this first campaign with the Eagles. When the Eagles signed Kearse to a landmark contract last spring as an unrestricted free agent, the feeling was that Philadelphia had gone out of character by adding the rare high-profile player to its mix because it needed a singular defensive star.
Instead, the man known as "The Freak" in Tennessee has been a terrific big-picture guy, a veteran who understands that his value extends beyond just raw statistics. Kearse's 43 tackles and 7½ sacks represented the lowest totals of his career for a season in which he was healthy. But you can't attach a number to the difference he has made in the Eagles front seven, a unit that was always quick, but now operates at warp speed.
"He's just a 'difference maker,' no matter if he has one tackle or 10 tackles," said middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. "And he knows it."
Kearse might not have always been so aware of his value outside of individual brilliance. But the second outing of the regular season, in which he collected only two tackles and had no sacks while clearly the most dominant player on the field in the win over Minnesota, helped to convince him that the big picture was more important than his own highlight reel.
"That was definitely the game," Kearse said. "Everyone on Monday Night Football was talking about me, I was named the player of the game, and I had two tackles. I didn't make, in my mind, any big plays. But I knew I had played well and I thought, 'You know, this is why I came (to Philadelphia), to win games, not personal credit. That's how I'm approaching this game, too. I don't care what they ask me to do if it means we come out of here with a (Super Bowl) ring."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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