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Brian Dawkins talks Eagles fast start, defensive success and X factor for Super Bowl run

The Philadelphia Eagles are a front-runner to win Super Bowl LVII, as they currently own a league-best 11-1 record. The addition of star wideout A.J. Brown has paid huge dividends for quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is developing into one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks right before our very eyes. However, the Eagles defense deserves some credit as well.
Howie Roseman has made several big additions on the defensive side of the ball. He signed pass rusher Haason Reddick in free agency, cornerback James Bradberry after his release from the rival New York Giants, traded for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, traded for Robert Quinn, drafted Jordan Davis and added Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh once the rookie went down with an injury. Offenses score points, but defenses win championships.
This week, CBS Sports caught up with Eagles legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins. In preparing for Saturday’s special Army-Navy showdown, he and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten teamed up with USAA, Official Salute to Service partner of the NFL, to gift two vehicles, one to an Army veteran, one to a Navy veteran, the day prior to the game in USAA’s “Recycled Rides Vehicle Gifting Ceremony.” Dawkins spoke to CBS Sports about the Eagles’ hot start, what the X factor for a Super Bowl run is and a couple current NFL players that remind Dawkins of himself.
Tell me about this project you got going on with Jason Witten and USAA?
Dawkins: I’m blessed to be a part of it, first of all. To represent the Army side of things. My nephew served in the Army, so that’s why I’m on the Army side. But it’s also about battling with one another, but at the end of the day coming out as friends, and that’s what me and Jason are going to do. During our time together, going against one another for how many years we played against one another — Dallas and the Eagles. But when it’s all said and done, us two coming together to celebrate and to bless some individuals with “Recycled Rides” and the program that is sponsored by USAA.
What was it like having to cover that Jason Witten guy back in the day?
Jason reminds me a lot of how they talk about Tim Duncan. Like he’s a fundamental dude. He wasn’t the fastest of guys, wasn’t the quick twitchiest of guys, but he just found a way to be consistent over all the years that he played. He’s a very hard-working dude, very competitive dude — which I loved about him as well. So he was definitely one of those matchups I looked forward to when we played the Dallas Cowboys.
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Your Eagles are off to a fantastic start. The headline is of course Jalen Hurts and the offense, but what have you seen from this defense?
The defense has been very consistent in taking the ball away. That’s one of the things that I love, getting sacks early on, taking the ball away. But I think the thing that has surprised me the most is how much the front four can have success without blitzing. And that’s one thing that you saw this past week against Tennessee, that basically the front four to five that they had every once in a while just basically took over the game. So if they can keep that type of momentum up, dominating from up front, it makes the job of those behind them so much easier.
What do you like about this Eagles secondary compared to the great secondaries that you played with?
The thing that I was shouting from the mountaintops this offseason is you have to take the ball away. That’s the bottom line. You can get off the field in many different ways, interceptions are not the only way to get off the field, but we had to have more individuals out there like that that can take the ball away, and they got that. They went out and grabbed some individuals that can take the ball away or prevent the ball from being caught. Obviously we’re missing C.J. (Gardner-Johnson) and hopefully he will recover a lot sooner than later to be back on the field, and he’s one of those additions that I’m talking about in the secondary. Being able to take the ball away. Again, PBUs are great, third-down stops are awesome, but to be able to take the ball away, that makes you a great defense.
You’ve played in the Big Game before. What do you think is needed for a team to make the Super Bowl. What’s the X factor?
Usually the X factor are those individuals that you don’t necessarily pay attention to. Usually there’s a young guy or some guy that you don’t expect is going to be “the guy” that all of a sudden steps up and has a tremendous game. So that means that individual throughout the year has been learning, and they have been doing a good job of pouring into this person — whomever that may be — and then all of a sudden they get to that game and they become one of the X factors that you’re not counting on seeing. Obviously you expect your stars to be stars, but it’s usually someone that you don’t pay attention to that has perhaps their best career game, in the Big Game.
Is there a safety out there in the NFL today that you see a little bit of yourself in?
So the way that I played the game was a mentality. And not everybody can do it. Some people pretend and some people it’s a part of who they are. And so as you watch guys play the game and you look at how they love the game — the passion behind what they do is not a show, it’s who they are. Certain guys that jump out to me. Before C.J. came to the Eagles, he was a cornerback. Basically the way that they played him — they played him in the slot at the Saints. So you didn’t see what he can do. But all of a sudden, he gets with the Eagles and they use him as a chess piece now. He plays safety all over the field and does a whole bunch of things. That’s what I see. I see that chess-piece mentality in him. I see another chess piece is in Pittsburgh with Minkah (Fitzpatrick), like he’s a chess piece type of guy. Again, I know people want to talk about my big hits and all those things. All of that is wonderful, but it’s not just affecting the game in one area. To be able to intercept the ball, cause fumbles, get a stop on third down by tackling the dude in the open field or breaking up a pass. Again, you’re talking about affecting the game in every statistical category.
One of my favorite videos I see on Twitter every now and again is you coming out of the tunnel before a Sunday night game or something. You’re telling yourself ‘The time has come, the time has come.’ Then you get out onto the field and just go berserk. You played the game with such energy. Where did that energy come from?
It’s me. I didn’t do that to get hyped. I didn’t do that to make me be anything other than myself. I did that because I was hyped. Because I was ready to do what I was about to do. I had already envisioned myself having success in that game in different aspects of it, so I was ready to unleash that on the field. People just didn’t know ahead of time what I knew ahead of time where I was about to dominate at some point in that game. That’s a part of me. That’s me. I’m not pretending to be anything other than myself. When I touched that field, I played the position of safety the way that Brian Dawkins did it.

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