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Eagles Practice Update: Shoring Up Special Teams

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By Joseph Santoliquito

Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — All Adrian Moten has ever wanted was a chance. On Tuesday, he received a little more than that with his second opportunity with the Eagles, after the team cut linebacker Brian Rolle.

The move was made to stabilize the Eagles’ shaky special teams, which was shredded Sunday night by Giants’ rookie David Williams for a 36.2-yard average per return on six kickoffs.

Moten, who with the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks in 2011, was one of the Eagles’ final pre-season cuts. He was resigned October 2. He’s familiar with special teams, playing 12 games during 2011 and recording seven tackles.

He knows what he’s here to do.

“I’m happy to be back working because I was sitting at home working out trying to make sure I stayed in shape,” said Moten, out of Maryland. “You see these stories about these guys that come back after being cut, and it’s a matter of being ready when you do get the call. I thought I was going to get called from another team. I was hoping to get a call sooner, and I can’t be frustrated over what happened.

“Of course the reason why I’m back is the ability to play special teams. I gave it my all when I was here before. I know it’s the biggest thing they brought me in for and you never know. I came in here to do whatever they need me to do. I consider myself to be a good special teams player.”

What makes a good special teams player?

“There is no key,” Moten said. “You have to go down there and cover and be a ball hawk on kickoff and kickoff return. Getting off blocks is very important. When you’re getting off blocks, that shows what you can do. I think I can play on Sunday.”

Moten knows Eagles’ special teams coach Bobby April’s system. He accepted a special teams role last year, after being a college star at Maryland. It’s a role that Rolle didn’t seem too happy with, after starting 13 games at linebacker last season for the Eagles and beginning this year as their starting weak-side linebacker.

Conversely, Moten is relishing his situation to help the Eagles’ shoddy special teams.

“Special teams is what I have to do to stay in the NFL,” Moten said. “You kind of get that vibe that you’re not a starter. They don’t just give out checks around here, you have to be good somewhere. I have to make a lot of plays on special teams to keep my job. I have to do whatever I have to do make a killing on special teams. It’s an attitude. You have to have an attitude. You have to have that inside you.”

Moten saw the Eagles-Giants game Sunday night on TV and saw the Eagles’ special teams breakdowns.

“We talked about what we can and a lot of guys made mistakes,” Moten said. “You learn from your mistakes. We all have to bounce back as a team. I’m not here as a savior, but I’m going to give it my all to help the special teams out.”

Reynolds Reaching Comfort Zone: Dallas Reynolds is reaching a comfort zone at center, after the Eagles’ offensive line came together in the second half of their 19-17 victory Sunday night against the New York Giants.

“I think everybody, when our run game wasn’t working in the first half, the second half we came out and our confidence started to build and build,” said Reynolds, who’s played well in two of the three games he’s replaced starting center Jason Kelce. “You can see how that improved in the second half.We’re focused on trying to take that second half momentum and trying to eliminate the up-and-down. It’s a matter of everyone being on the same page.”

Reynolds and the Eagles’ offensive line may have a good idea what they’ll see from the Steelers 3-4 front, having faced something similar in their 27-6 loss on September 23 to the Arizona Cardinals.
Eagles’ coach Andy Reid wants to build on the version of the Eagles’ offensive front that he saw against the Giants in the third and fourth quarters.

“We got a good mixture,” Reid said. “We were in rhythm. We got a good blend of the run and pass, play-action, movement, all of those things, and everyone just kind of settled down and played well.”

The hub of that attack is Reynolds.

“When I look at film, I see some good things I’ve done well, and some things I need to get better at,” Reynolds said. “I’m trying to get better every week. There are little things and that comes with experience and the flow of the game. [Arizona] has the same scheme stuff [as the Steelers], and having that experience is great going into this game.

“The game is getting slower, and slower for me. You try to get as much film and preparation as possible, and that helps. I wish the game would get even slower for me, but experience is a big part of that.”

Injury Update: Linebacker Akeem Jordan (hamstring) and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee) did not practice on Wednesday.

“He’s close, he’s close, he’s running but he’s not quite there yet,” Eagles’ coach Andy Reid said about Jordan’s progress.

Left offensive tackle King Dunlap (hamstring) got in some work and Reid wanted to see where he was in his rehab. Demetress Bell played well, Reid said, against the New York Giants so there is a chance

Bell would spell Dunlap again this week at left tackle against the Steelers.

“Bell played well, so that buys me a little time to see how King is doing,” Reid said.

Riley Cooper seems recovered from a broken collarbone. “He’s making progress,” Reid said. “He practiced full last week and we’ll see how he does this week. He’s getting confidence in it as we go. It’s a matter of him playing and feeling comfortable with it.”

Bird Seed Notes

Numbers crunching: Believe it or not, the Eagles have a 46-27-3 series edge on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Eagles have beaten their cross-state rivals in eight of the last 11 games, and Andy Reid is 2-1 against Pittsburgh, while Steeler coach Mike Tomlin is 0-1 against the Eagles.

The last time these teams met was on September 21, 2008, when Donovan McNabb connected on a 20-yard TD pass to Correll Buckhalter in an 18-6 Eagles’ victory. The Eagles held Pittsburgh to 33 yards rushing in that game.

The last time the Eagles traveled to Pittsburgh should be memorable to Eagles’ fans. It was the 27-3 blowout Pittsburgh won in the Eagles’ Super Bowl season. Jerome Bettis hammered his way for 149 yards rushing and Hines Ward scored twice, once rushing and the other on a TD catch.

Vick Is An AFC Terror: Michael Vick has a history of tearing up AFC teams. He’s 14-3 over his last 17 games against AFC foes and 7-1 over his last eight starts against the AFC. In his last start against the Steelers, on October 22, 2006, when Vick was with Atlanta, he torched Pittsburgh for four touchdowns, tying a career high.

Steelers After A Bye: Since 1990, Pittsburgh is 14-9 after a bye week. Under coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 9-1 at home versus NFC teams and right now the Steelers are an NFL-best 56.3-percent conversion rate on third downs. On the other hand, the Eagles’ defense is among the NFL’s best on third-down conversion, with opposing teams converting 12-of-42 third downs, for a 26-percent success rate.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.

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