Spikes confident Eagles are capable of turnaround

PHILADELPHIA -- Takeo Spikes knows all about losing.

The Pro Bowl linebacker bristles at the thought of his five dreary, loss-filled seasons in Cincinnati, followed by just one winning record in four years in Buffalo.

His move to Philadelphia was supposed to change all that.

But this season has been more of the same for Spikes, with the Eagles losing three of their first four games. But he isn't about to concede his first season in Philly is a lost cause.

"Even on the bad teams I was on, I've stayed optimistic," said Spikes, acquired from Buffalo in a trade in March

"This team is different. It's different from the aspect of the coaches leading it."

Spikes said the message delivered by coach Andy Reid after the team returned from its bye week gave the linebacker confidence the Eagles can turn things around.

"We've got to keep working and at the same time while we continue to work, let's turn up the urgency level a little bit," Spikes said Thursday, paraphrasing Reid. "As a group we have responded."

The Eagles aren't the only team trying to rebound from a poor start after a 10-6 season. Sunday's opponent, the New York Jets, have been just as disappointing.

"I had the opportunity to play them two times a year the past four years, and I know they're not a slouch team," Spikes said.

He was quick to praise Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who like Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, has come under fire from fans. Pennington has completed 84 of 118 passes for 811 yards and six touchdowns, with five interceptions in four starts.

But his success comes with whispers questioning his arm strength and ability to stretch defenses by throwing downfield.

"Most quarterbacks in this league love the deep ball," Spikes said. "Not saying Chad Pennington doesn't love the deep ball, but he's very efficient as far as 5 yards here, 6 yards there. ... We can't get frustrated as a defensive unit when they throw the little dink and dunk passes."

Pennington's favorite targets have been Laveranues Coles, who has 32 catches for 300 yards and four TDs, and Jerricho Cotchery, who has two 100-plus yard games in his 30 receptions for 414 yards.

The Eagles could still be without cornerback Lito Sheppard and safety Brian Dawkins, making the Jets' passing game even more dangerous.

"He puts the ball in the perfect spot all the time," said safety Quintin Mikell, who has racked up 18 tackles playing in place of Dawkins. "You can't worry too much about the short stuff, because if you start coming up for the short stuff, he'll put it over your head."

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson respects Pennington's ability to throw deep, but has been around long enough to know the quarterback's tendencies.

"Chad is a guy who will throw long, but most of his passes are going to be in that 15-25 yard range," Johnson said. "That's what he's good at."

Pennington's also been successful in the red zone. The Jets have scored nine of the 20 times they've been inside their opponent's 20-yard line, and Pennington has completed 9 of 13 passes with six TDs from close range.

With all that success, Spikes knows there is very little margin for error.

"You talk about urgency, attention to detail," Spikes said. "We want to be so good that when we line up in plays, whatever formation they give us, offensively and defensively we know all the possibilities of having a winning play before the ball is snapped."

Notes: Sheppard (knee), TE L.J. Smith (hernia), T William Thomas (knee), and RB Brian Westbrook (abdomen) practiced Thursday. S Brian Dawkins (neck) and WR Greg Lewis (ankle) did not practice.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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