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Eagles may have it all


They bear the look of the NFL's new power team. The Philadelphia Eagles have arguably the best young quarterback in the game, a powerful defense with a run-stuffing defensive tackle, a pass-rushing defensive end and two big-play cornerbacks.

Jacksonville will get a first-hand look at the Eagles this Sunday, when coach Andy Reid leads his 3-1 club into Alltel Stadium, fresh off three dominating performances.

"We are the NFC East champs and it has to come through Philly first. That's the way we approached things and we went out and executed," quarterback Donovan McNabb said following the Eagles' 37-7 win in Washington on Monday Night Football.

McNabb is clearly the Eagles' leader. Whatever chance the Eagles have of becoming a Super Bowl champion this season begins and ends with McNabb. That's also where the good news begins for the Eagles, because McNabb is playing at a level higher this season than he did in either of his first three years in the league.

As a rookie, McNabb proved his big-play ability and the potential to be a star passer. Since then, his efficiency has improved by leaps and bounds. After three consecutive easy wins, McNabb's passer rating stands at 92.2, third-best in the NFC, and he has thrown an NFC-high nine touchdown passes against three interceptions. He has also rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

"His competitiveness and his ability to make plays when the game is on the line is his best attribute. He takes the game over. That's what he does," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said in praising McNabb.

Campo's point was illustrated by a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, after Dallas had taken a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. McNabb capped the drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James Thrash. It was the turning-point play in what would become a 44-13 win by the Eagles.

"I'm watching every move he makes," Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter said.

Almost everyone in the league has their eyes on McNabb. How good is he? Or, more importantly, how good will he become?

That question also applies to the Eagles in general. They are seventh in the league in total offense and third in defense, but there are questions about the quality of McNabb's wide receiver corps. Thrash and fellow wide receivers Todd Pinkston, Antonio Freeman and Freddie Mitchell will ultimately decide the heights McNabb may reach as a passer this season. Also, the fall-off at quarterback beyond McNabb is frightening.

"I have no doubt about those guys," Reid said of his wide receivers. "I feel comfortable with the four of them."

"(McNabb) was part of the criteria I used to choose where I wanted to go," Freeman said of his decision to sign with the Eagles two weeks prior to the start of the regular season. "I saw a team that went to the NFC championship game last year; one that has a great opportunity to win it all. I knew they had Donovan; a great young quarterback who can lead a team."

McNabb has Duce Staley at running back, and Staley is backed up by former Packer star Dorsey Levens. Each would seem to possess the kind of versatility that fits Reid's west coast offense.

On defense, Corey Simon, who is nursing an ankle injury and may not play against the Jaguars, is one of the game's best tackles, Hugh Douglas is a true blind-side pass-rusher, and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor could be the best pair in the league. Safeties Brian Dawkins and Blaine Bishop are hard-hitting veterans.

All of the pieces would seem to be in place.

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