The Dawk Days

Posted: August 4th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Nexium 2.5 mg granulado pediatrico dosis | 4 Comments »

The 1995 Philadelphia Eagles were a fun mess. They went 10-6, which is especially impressive when you consider that they started 1-3 and looked like a real mess. Randall Cunningham got benched and Rodney Peete was somehow the right guy to replace him. Peete had more toughness and savvy than talent at that point, but that’s what that team needed.

The offense featured a dynamic duo of Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner. The defense was outstanding, especially up front. Special Teams? Awful. And that might be a generous description.

When Ray Rhodes started planning for the future, he focused on finding help for the STs unit. The best STs draft prospect was a LB/S tweener from Duke named Ray Farmer. I coveted him for the Eagles. A defensive back from Clemson made some really impressive STs plays at the Senior Bowl and got my attention. His name was Brian Dawkins.

I won’t lie and say I coveted Dawkins. He was on my radar, but I wasn’t sure what to make of him as a defender. The book on Dawkins was that he might be too small for FS and too stiff for CB. Several draft analysts questioned his instincts, which seems crazy now, but was a real concern back then.

Rhodes picked Dawkins in the bottom of the 2nd round. STs coach Danny Smith said he would be “a headhunter” for his units. The plan was to play him at FS, behind Eric Zomalt, a 3rd round pick from the 1994 draft. Zomalt had been a backup to that point. The coaches felt he was ready to be a starter.

The 1996 season opener was down in Washington. The Eagles led 17-7 in the 3rd quarter. RB Terry Allen took a hand-off and got past Zomalt for a 49-yard TD. The Eagles held on for the win, but I was ready for the start of the Dawkins Era right then and there. The next week the Eagles used a 5-DB look against the Packers, giving Dawk his first NFL start. In Week 3, Zomalt was on the bench and Dawk was the FS.

Brian Dawkins was the Eagles starting FS for the next 13 seasons. And it was glorious.

Let’s not use revisionist history and act like anyone thought Dawk was a Hall of Fame player in 1996. People could see how talented he was, but he didn’t look special. Dawk finished fourth on the team in tackles, but did make his share of plays.

Dawk started 15 games in 1997. The defense fell from the Top 10 to being more of a mediocre unit. He led the Eagles in solo tackles with 61. He picked off three passes, but wasn’t as much of an overall playmaker.

1998 saw Dawkins play his best football yet, but the team went the other direction. The Eagles finished just 3-13 and had some horrendous losses (38-0, 34-0, 41-16). The defense was middle of the pack, but the offense was dead last. Poor coaching and poor QB play killed the team.

The Eagles had hired Tom Mordrak to come in and run the organization. The first thing he did was to self-scout. Ray Rhodes was always looking for players on other teams. He was the NFL version of Larry Brown, never satisfied with his own guys. Modrak was a scout from the Steelers and understood how to build a team for the long haul.

Modrak could see Dawkins was a player to keep so the Eagles signed him to an extension in November of 1998.

Young fans will shrug and not see the significance of this. Anyone who followed the team in the 1990’s knows just what a huge moment that was. The Eagles had done a great job of finding and developing talent in the 1980’s, but not so in the 90’s. Even worse, they tended to let their players go. Keeping Dawkins signaled a huge shift. The team had developed a good young player and then committed to him financially.

Rhodes was fired after the disastrous 1998 season. The Eagles hired Andy Reid to replace him. Reid tried to hire Marvin Lewis to be his defensive coordinator. Lewis turned him down so Reid had to settle for Jim Johnson.

Johnson came in with a creative, aggressive scheme. He wanted to attack. Rhodes and Emmitt Thomas had focused more on coverage. Johnson studied his new players and was struck by Dawk’s potential. This wasn’t just a talented FS. Dawk could be turned into a weapon. And that’s just what happened.

1999 was not a fun season. The Eagles went 5-11 and lost some brutally painful games. They easily could have gone 8-8 with a handful of plays being different. There was one bright spot…Dawkins.

Dawk picked off four passes, running one back for a TD. He had 1.5 sacks. He had six forced-fumbles and recovered two others. Six FFs for a DB? Let me put that in perspective for you. Ed Reed had 11 FFs…in his career. Troy Polamalu had 14 in his career. Dawkins strong performance earned him his first of nine Pro Bowl selections.

Beyond the numbers, Dawk gave the Eagles a presence on defense. Teams suddenly had to figure out where he would be and what he would be doing. He also started to make highlight plays. For my money, Dawk delivered the hardest hit of his career when he leveled Panthers RB Fred Lane that year.

By 2002, Dawkins was considered the best S in football. He could do it all. Dawk could be the 8th man in the box to help stuff the run. He could play Cover 2, where he would line up deep and then have to attack up the field if he saw a run or short pass. Dawk was great as a centerfielder. He had tremendous range. He could fly over to the sideline and pick off a pass or hit the receiver and break it up.

Dawk was a good tackler and dynamic hitter. Players who caught the ball in front of him had to worry. Dawk was one of the best blitzing DBs of all-time. He timed it well, but also knew how to finish. Many DBs can get into the backfield and then struggle to get the QB down or to knock the ball loose. Dawk could do both. He was terrific in man coverage. Johnson could line him up in the slot and the QB wouldn’t know if Dawk was going to cover or rush.

I think the skill that gets overlooked the most is Dawk’s ability to chase down the ball. A runner or receiver might break free for a big play. Dawk wasn’t going to give up. He chased them relentlessly and often made the tackle. He might have stopped them at the 15 or 10-yard line. The player might have gotten even closer than that, but Dawk wasn’t going to give them a TD. They had to earn that. 

The Eagles were usually a good Red Zone defense under Johnson and a lot of times those big plays turned into just field goals. There were a few times when the Eagles would come up with a takeaway in the RZ or even the end zone.

Dawk had to do with injuries for the first time during the 2003 season. He only played in seven games. Dawk had a huge pick of Brett Favre to set up the winning FG in the playoffs. As with previous seasons, the Eagles still came up short in January.

The 2004 season was different. Old friends Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor were gone. Dawk had new CBs to help out and that’s just what he did. Dawk had a monster year, earning the third All-Pro selection of his career. He came up especially big in the postseason. Dawk had a sack and FF against the Vikings. That came when they were driving and in Eagles territory. His play forced them to go for it on 4th-and-long. They didn’t convert. Dawk didn’t make a lot of plays that day, but neither did Randy Moss. The star WR finished 3-51. Dawk could impact a game with his ability to help double-team and shut down a star receiver.

The next week was different. The NFC title game was once again at The Linc. Here are my notes from that game:

Dawk had a big game. He was being as physical as possible out there. hit whoever he could. Tried to set a tone and it seemed to work. Best one was the shot he laid on Crumpler. Alge had to extend his arms to grab a pass and left himself wide open. Dawk exploded through him, leveling the man who is 70 lbs heavier. Clean shot. Had a huge INT in the 3rd Qtr. Vick made a poor read and Brian saw it the whole way. Returned it down to the ATL 11. Almost got his 2nd pick of the day at the end of the game. The WR had to come over his back to break up the INT. Good no-call. Helped out vs the run. Forced a fumble by Vick, but a Falcon recovered it.

Dawk played a huge part in the Eagles finally making it to the Super Bowl. They weren’t able to win that time, but 2004 was still an amazing season and a lot of fun.

The Super Bowl hangover turned out to be real for the Eagles. They struggled in 2005, heavily impacted by injuries. Dawk had another outstanding season. He seemed to be the one guy you could absolutely count on to deliver.

2006 was a better season, but it was also the first time I noticed Dawk starting to show signs of his age. In a game against the Jaguars, Fred Taylor got by Dawk and for the first time ever, made him look old and slow. Dawk was 33 at the time. Taylor was about 25 pounds heavier. Dawk was still a darn good player (his final All-Pro selection), but I think that was the moment when I saw his athletic mortality.

Injuries limited Dawk to 10 games in 2007. Maybe age was starting to become a factor.

The Eagles had a stifling defense in 2008. They finished Top 4 in points and yards allowed. It was a thing of beauty. The early season highlight was when they beat the Steelers 15-6. Dawk sealed the game with a strip sack of Ben Roethlisberger.

The regular season finale was a magical moment. The Eagles hosted the Cowboys. The winner would go to the playoffs. The loser would be watching on TV. This was especially huge because we didn’t know if this would be Dawk’s final game at The Linc. He was set to be a free agent. Dawk made some huge plays in the game, forcing a pair of fumbles that were both run back for TDs. The Eagles won 44-6 and life was good.

The team won its first couple of playoff games, but lost to the Cardinals in the NFC title game. Heartbreak city.

Dawk did become a free agent. Joe Banner will use 10,000 excuses to explain the situation, but put simply, he over-negotiated and Dawk left to go sign with the Broncos. It was incredibly frustrating at the time, and still is.

Dawk played for Denver for three years. He was a declining veteran and not the star Eagles fans were used to watching. The playmaker from the early days was gone. Father Time loses to no one. Still, Dawk was better than the crappy players the Eagles had in his place.

Jim Johnson died in the summer of 2009, losing his battle to cancer.

Johnson and Dawk were a dynamic duo for 10 amazing seasons in Philly. You could see just how much Johnson meant to his star pupil at Dawk’s retirement ceremony. Those two had a special bond. Johnson made Dawkins into the best possible player he could be. And Dawk made Johnson into a somebody. Very few people knew who JJ was when the Eagles hired him. By the end, he was considered a defensive genius.

It would have been great to see JJ introduce Dawk into the Hall of Fame. We will get to see Dawk pour his heart and soul into a speech about the game he loved and the people who helped him get to the top.

Ironically, I wanted Dawk to come to Philly to help out on STs. He did play on them, but wasn’t necessarily an impact player. His highlight moment came in 2002 when he caught a short pass on a fake punt and ran that 57 yards for a TD.

Instead of a STs demon, I had to settle for Brian Dawkins being the best safety I’ve ever seen play the game of football.

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4 Comments on “The Dawk Days”

  1. 1 Eagles Information: Brian Dawkins will likely be featured in upcoming episode of ‘A Soccer Life’ - Google Trends Online said at 9:30 AM on August 5th, 2018:

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