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AP:Eagles' Dawkins Having Another Solid Year


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PHILADELPHIA - Brian Dawkins still gets mad at himself when he thinks about the deep pass he allowed in Philadelphia's season opener.

Dawkins has made countless big plays since, including a few in that first game against Atlanta, but a perfectionist is never satisfied.

"If I have a good year, I think I can do better. If I have a great year, I think I can do better," Dawkins said. "There will never be a perfect year because I know there will always be plays I know I could have made."

Like the 58-yard pass from Michael Vick to Michael Jenkins that went to the Eagles 1 and set up a 1-yard touchdown run by T.J. Duckett, giving the Falcons a 14-0 lead en route to a 14-10 victory in Week 1.

"That still irks me," Dawkins said. "But for the most part I think I have been able to be consistent and make plays for this team to help guys out and get everybody in the right place, as well as getting this defense in the right direction."

A four-time Pro Bowl safety, Dawkins is the leader of a star-studded secondary that sent three players to the Pro Bowl last year - Dawkins, strong safety Michael Lewis and cornerback Lito Sheppard - and probably could be sending another - cornerback Sheldon Brown - this season.

The 32-year-old Dawkins came into this season in the best shape of his career and is playing with the energy of a rookie rather than a 10-year veteran. He has 42 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and is tied for the team-lead with 2 1/2 sacks.

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"He's exceptional. There's no question about it," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said.

Since cornerback Troy Vincent left for Buffalo after the 2003 season, Dawkins has taken on more of a leadership role. He isn't quite as vocal as middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, but leads by example on and off the field.

"Words can't describe what he means not just to the secondary but to this team," nickelback Rod Hood said. "He brings confidence, energy, faith. Anything you say about him is an understatement."

Dawkins certainly isn't a typical free safety. He covers like a cornerback, hits harder than most linebackers and hardly ever gets caught out of position.

His versatility and intelligence make him an ideal fit in Johnson's aggressive, blitzing defensive scheme. Dawkins is fifth on the all-time list for sacks by a defensive back with 18 1/2 and his 27 interceptions rank seventh in team history.

"He keeps getting better with age," Sheppard said. "He's an inspiration for all of us."

A second round pick from Clemson in 1996, Dawkins quickly moved into the starting lineup as a rookie on a team that went to the playoffs. He made the first of four trips to the Pro Bowl in 1999 and overcame a serious foot injury that sidelined him for nine game during the 2003 season.

"He's the best player in the NFL, period," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "He's an instant leader on and off the field. He's the type of person everyone strives to be."

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I'd say that again about his positioning. I've heard countless times other teams fans scream because he makes it look so easy when he gets an interception. He never seems to make an INT because of athleticism. Its always, I guess by luck to them, because of being in the right play at the right time.

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