Although Brian Dawkins' contribution on the field was likely to continue to diminish, his impact in the locker room was not. Over his career in Philadelphia Dawk has been the unquestioned leader of the defense and in many ways the team as a whole.
So while his spot on the field might be filled by Quintin Demps, Sean Jones, or Quintin Mikell... he still leaves a gaping hole in the locker room. So who steps up to lead this defense? We've got a few candidates...
Sheldon Brown - At 29 going on 30 Sheldon is becoming the elder statesmen of the defense. If I remember correctly, Sheldon is the last guy left from defense that went to the superbowl in 2004. He's a soft spoken guy, but he's also a incredibly honest guy. Any regular reader of BGN knows I love hearing what Sheldon has to say after a game because he always speaks his mind. He doesn't give stock answers or sugar coat things... but that translate into a team leader? Is Sheldon going to fire up the team and inspire them? I wonder about that. As Foos5 previously pointed out, some members of the team already look Sheldon for leadership.
"I believe Sheldon can be a great leader. I've learned a lot from Dawk, but I've also learned a lot from Sheldon," Quintin Mikell said. "You don't have to be the oldest one on the team to be a leader. Stewart (Bradley) can step in and say something. That's how you put together a team that wins. You have everyone
Stewart Bradley - As the middle linebacker and the guy that makes the defensive calls, Bradley is a natural choice for leader. He's also very demonstrative and vocal on the field and seems willing to accept a leadership role.
"I felt that a lot of things went well for me last season, including my play on the field. But just as important, I felt that my role in the locker room was where it needed to me and that the guys looked to me for leadership. I felt good about that. I felt like it came naturally to me, and I embraced that role. I look forward to even more of that this season."
Asante Samuel - Speaking of guys that are demonstrative on the field... When Asante first came here he acted rather shy toward the media and was very reserved, but he really started to come alive as the season wore on. There was usually no player jumping around and celebrating more than Asante when something good happened on either side of the ball. Plus, with the fact that he's been a perennial pro bowler teammates are automatically going to look up at the guy.
Quintin Mikell - Mikell's comments sparked our last discussion on the next defensive leader.
"I feel like I'm ready to take on a bigger role as a leader. I have to be," Mikell said. "You will never be able to replace what he did. I feel like with us having a committee of people who can set examples, who can put people in the right place that we can get the job done."
Mikell took the next step as a player last season and as a former undrafted free agent that scratched his way to starter... he's got a very inspiring resume. When he talks about knowing what it takes to pull yourself up from nothing to become a winner, guys are going to believe him.
There are other possibilities on the roster. Key players like Trent Cole could step up, guys that we don't know much about yet could step up... Unfortunately, the guy I think really could have stepped up was Omar Gaither who lost his starting job last year. Anyone who has been to training camp over the past couple years can see what a presence Gaither is on the field. Unfortunately his play at times last year didn't really match his emotion. I'd really love to see OG win that job back and play well this coming here.