PHILADELPHIA (AP) -J.R. Reed and Chris Gocong have proven to be a patient pair for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Given a chance to show their worth against one of the NFL's toughest offenses, the safety and linebacker delivered breakthrough performances against the unbeaten New England Patriots on Sunday.
Reed, whose fumbled punt against Green Bay cost the Eagles the season opener, fielded his latest chance cleanly and made the most of it.
Making his first meaningful start because strong safety Quintin Mikell was sidelined with an injury, Reed had six tackles and two knockdowns in a 31-28 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Gocong rotated out of his usual linebacker spot into a defensive end position and recorded his first NFL sack.
Both players hope this is just the start of more meaningful contributions as the Eagles (5-6) continue their push for a postseason berth.
Reed's solid play is the high point of an extended turbulent run during which he was nearly knocked out of football by an injury in 2005. The Eagles' fourth-round pick in 2004 battled back only to play his way off the team following the gaffe against the Packers. He was re-signed to add depth to an injury-filled secondary.
Reed said he realizes just how lucky he has been to get repeated chances to prove himself.
``This was a good opportunity for me to go out and show what I can do,'' Reed said Thursday as the Eagles prepared for Sunday's matchup against NFC West-leading Seattle (7-4).
``My motivation was just waiting for my time. When my time came, it was a big time.''
Reed's performance against the Patriots' high-powered offense wasn't lost on Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
``He had an excellent game for the first time being in that kind of role that much,'' Johnson said. ``We counted on him against some good receivers. He's done well. If somebody asked me what his strong points are, he's got a lot of heart.''
Reed showed promise as a rookie. He averaged 23.1 yards on kickoff returns, with his longest return of 66 yards.
Shortly after playing in the Super Bowl, Reed cut the back of his knee while jumping over a fence and damaged a nerve that affects the use of his lower leg and foot. He sat out the 2005 season and went back to college, earning a degree in management information systems.
Last season, he spent six games with the St. Louis Rams, returning 17 kicks for 346 yards. He also spent two weeks with the Falcons, but was inactive for two games.
``For a guy to come back from what he did, and play like he did, was exceptional,'' Johnson said.
The same could be said about Gocong, a highly touted defensive player out of Cal-Poly, who holds the school's sack record with 42 in 41 games.
But his NFL career got off to a slow start, too, after a stinger landed him on injured reserve before the start of the 2006 season.
His role on the defense increased this season when he joined fellow linebackers Takeo Spikes and Omar Gaither. He ranks sixth on the team with 62 tackles and became the first Eagles linebacker to get a sack this season when he threw Brady for a 3-yard loss in the second quarter Sunday.
``I definitely have to be happy sacking Tom Brady,'' said Gocong, who lined up at both defensive end and linebacker. ``It felt good. It was nice to get that play where you're not just a step behind.''
Johnson said Gocong's development over the past three weeks convinced him it was time to use the 71st overall pick of the 2006 draft as the team intended.
``Originally, when we drafted Chris, we thought that he would be that joker-type package in our nickel, a linebacker rush guy,'' Johnson said. ``What happened ... was that he was still learning the base defense and he was struggling early on, so we didn't want to give him too much.''
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