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Fokou regains starting LB role; Eagles focus on run defense

PHILADELPHIA -- Moise Fokou never received an explanation as to why he lost his starting job. So, when it was given back to him, he certainly didn't ask for one in return.

"I've been working for this since the start of the preseason," Fokou said Thursday. "I just have to go out now and show a physical presence. That's what they want and that's what I bring."

Fokou started the final month of the 2009 season for the Philadephia Eagles at strongside linebacker. The team went 3-1 on that stretch drive to make the playoffs as a wild-card entry. He then started the playoff loss to Dallas as well.

After the team acquired weakside linebacker Ernie Sims in a three-team trade this offseason, Akeem Jordan moved from the weakside to the strongside and Fokou headed to the bench.

"I just rolled with the punches," he said. "This is the NFL. Things like that are going to happen. We went out and got a guy and I got bumped down."

And now they're happening again.

Fokou will replace Jordan at strongside linebacker when the Eagles (2-2) travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers (0-4) on Sunday.

"They're both good football players," Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "But right now, I feel like we need a physical presence inside and Moise brings that to the table. He's worked extremely hard on the field and off the field and he kept the right attitude. He played well on special teams and that physical play he brings to the table is what we're looking for from him."

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At the quarter-pole of the season, the Eagles rank 12th in overall defense, but are 27th against the run. They have allowed an average of 138.8 yards rushing per game and 4.4 yards per carry. The next three weeks, they face San Francisco's Frank Gore, Atlanta's Michael Turner and Tennessee's Chris Johnson, all Pro Bowl running backs.

"It's not a problem we haven't gone through in the past," McDermott said of stopping the run. "We're going to get it fixed, number one. And number two is, in the run game specifically, it comes down to technique and toughness, and we can work on both of those. Technique needs to be right in order to play the run game the right way, and then we've got to have a physical presence up front with our front seven."

So, Fokou is in and Jordan is out ... at least for now.

"You always prepare as if you're going to start, because you never know," Fokou said. "So, I'm preparing the same way. I plan to go out there and jam the tight end and attack the run. Those are the strengths of my game.

"We have to be physical. We have to find out where the dogs are. We have to see who's going to step up and make it work."

For now it's Fokou's turn. McDermott, however, admitted it might not be the last change. Jordan could resurface on the weak side, if Sims were to struggle.

"The best three are going to play," McDermott said. "Akeem's a good football player. It's right now, I feel like what our defense needs is for a physical presence to be inserted and that's Moise."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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