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Eagle Eye: Defense progressing
Mike Glennon threw for 193 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals in his NFL debut in Week 4. (USA Today Images)
Earl Wolff spent enough time around him to know how effective a quarterback Mike Glennon can be.
He also spent enough time around Glennon to know that’s not always the case.
Wolff, the Eagles’ rookie safety, and Glennon, the Buccaneers’ rookie quarterback, will be on the field together Sunday when the Eagles and Bucs meet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
They were teammates for five years at North Carolina State, sharing a red-shirt year in 2008 and then playing together the last four years in Raleigh, N.C.
“When he’s on, he’s on,” Wolff said Tuesday after practice. “But I feel like when he’s off, he’s kind of off, until he gets back on rhythm, and it’s kind of hard for him to get back on rhythm.”
The Buccaneers (0-4) had a bye this past weekend. The Eagles (2-3) are seeking their second straight win after a three-game losing streak.
Glennon, 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, was a third-round pick this year, the third quarterback taken overall. Wolff was a fifth-round pick.
“Honestly, let’s start out with the positives,” Wolff said when asked about Glennon.
“He has a great arm. I really thought he had the strongest arm in the draft. Playing with him for five years, you always see it. He can make throws a lot of guys can’t, especially in college.
“I feel like if we get pressure to him, we’ll definitely win this game. Just overall, he’s a decent quarterback. But Mike will only get better as time goes on.”
The Eagles have faced plenty of rookie quarterbacks over the years, including three last year -- Brandon Weeden of the Browns on opening day and Robert Griffin III twice.
Under Andy Reid, the Eagles were 11-6 vs. rookie QBs with the losses coming to Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, Bruce Gradkowski and Vince Young in 2006, Joe Flacco in 2008 and RGIII twice.
Going back to 1980, they’re 22-13 vs. rookie starters, not including those they faced during the 1987 player strike.
As for Glennon, he’ll make his second career start Sunday. He threw for 193 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions last week against Arizona in his NFL debut after replacing Josh Freeman, who was benched and ultimately released and now with the Vikings.
“He's a good pocket passer,” Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. “He's got a great presence. He's very tall. At 6-7, he can really see the field. And that's where that height really comes in to play with a lot of these pocket quarterbacks. And throws a nice ball. He sees the field well for a rookie.”
It’s been a tough enough adjustment for Wolff, going from NFL novice to starter as a safety. He said the transition at the most important position on the field must be even tougher.
“I couldn’t imagine how difficult it is, honestly,” Wolff said. “I couldn’t imagine playing quarterback at this level, especially as a rookie, so I can only imagine what he’s going through. But I wish him the best. Not against us, but I do wish him the best.”
Griffin’s 14-for-15, 200-yard, four-TD effort against the Eagles last November is the greatest single passing performance in NFL history by a rookie.
Before that, another Redskin, Pat Ramsey, turned in the best performance by a rookie QB vs. the Eagles. In December 2002, he completed 23 of 35 passes for 213 yards with three TDs and no interceptions in a 34-21 win over the Eagles.
The most passing yards ever by a rookie against the Eagles is 255 by Cade McNown of the Bears in a 20-16 loss in 1999.
The worst outings ever by rookie quarterbacks vs. the Eagles?
Neil Lomax was 11-for-26 for 129 yards with no TDs and three interceptions in the Eagles’ 38-0 win over the Cards in 1981, Troy Aikman was 7-for-21 for 54 yards and three TDs before being relieved by Steve Walsh in a 27-0 loss in 1989, and Weeden last year hit on just 12 of 35 passes for 118 yards with four INTs as Reid’s Eagles beat Pat Shurmur’s Browns.
Shurmur, now the Eagles’ offensive coordinator, actually scouted Glennon this past offseason and liked what he saw.
“We liked him quite a bit,” Shurmur said. “You know, he's one of those rookie quarterbacks that's probably going through what all rookies [do], and I've had a chance to be around a few of them, but he's a guy that’s going to be able to win games in this league.
“I'm sure he's learning a lot every time he steps on the field. But he's a good player.”
Glennon threw 63 touchdowns and 31 interceptions at N.C. State, where he spent his first two years backing up Russell Wilson.
“I used to talk junk to him at practice and he took it personally,” Wolff said. “So I’m going to talk some junk and I’m going to tell other guys to talk some junk and kind of get in his head. But it’s going to be great.”