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News » Philadelphia Eagles Inside Slant 2008-08-07


Philadelphia Eagles Inside Slant 2008-08-07


Philadelphia Eagles Inside Slant 2008-08-07
Veteran defensive end Darren Howard has been one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp so far for the Eagles. Howard, 31, signed a six-year, $32 million contract with the Birds before the '06 season, but gave them little return on their investment the last two years.


Playing little more than a handful of snaps a game last season, Howard, who twice in his career has registered double-digit sacks totals, recorded just 10 tackles and one sack. When the Eagles released defensive end Jevon Kearse, another major free agent disappointment, in the offseason, many observers expected Howard to be joining him in the unemployment line.

But the Eagles hung on to him and it may turn out to be a very smart move. A slimmed-down Howard showed up at training camp in excellent shape and has played himself back into the defensive end picture, particularly after second-year man Victor Abiamiri went down with a dislocated wrist.

"He's had a great camp," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "He's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. He looks quicker and he looks very focused. He's an important part of our nickel package, but he'll play a lot of first- and second-down packages too."

When Howard did play last season, it was usually at tackle in the Eagles' nickel package, a la the Giants' Justin Tuck. But Howard wasn't anywhere near as effective inside as Tuck.

With Abiamiri out indefinitely, Howard could end up being one of the four people Johnson will rotate at end, along with Pro Bowler Trent Cole, Juqua Parker and newcomer Chris Clemons.

"I think this is going to be a good year for him," Johnson said. "He was a good role player for us last year. We expect more out of him this year. He just looks like a different player to me right now."

Howard, who has been as heavy as 290 in his career, has dropped his weight to about 255. He looks much quicker than he did in his first two seasons with the Eagles.

"I came off last season really fresh, and I realized at the same time, heavy defensive ends, that's not something we have here anyway," he said. "If I had any times to do it (lose weight), it was this offseason. I didn't really feel heavy last season (he played at about 270). But I feel better now."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Eagles will be at Lehigh until August 13, then return to their training facility in south Philadelphia.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 7, 2008

Omar Gaither Name: Omar Gaither
#96
Position: LB
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: Tennessee
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