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‘Freak’ Kearse’s spot hard to fill

Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse is helped off the field during Sunday's loss to the Giants. Kearse's season-ending knee injury is tough for the Eagles.

Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse is helped off the field during Sunday's loss to the Giants. Kearse's season-ending knee injury is tough for the Eagles.

PHILADELPHIA – Replacing “The Freak” won’t be easy for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Even with unusual depth on the defensive line, Jevon Kearse’s season-ending knee injury is a tough loss to overcome for a unit that excelled in the first two games.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson’s unique eight-man line rotation has been a tremendous success with the front four producing 12 of Philadelphia’s 13 sacks. But losing Kearse could have a negative effect because the former three-time Pro Bowler is the most skilled and versatile player among the group.

Kearse, who officially went on injured reserve Tuesday, was off to his best start in three seasons with the Eagles, registering 3 1/2 sacks. He commonly drew double-team blocking, freeing his linemates to make plays.

Now the Eagles have to rely on others to draw attention and create some havoc.

“Obviously, he has been playing well,” coach Andy Reid said of Kearse, who signed an eight-year, $66 million contract in 2004.

Johnson has alternated the four starters – Kearse, Darren Howard, Mike Patterson and Darwin Walker – and the four backups – Trent Cole, Juqua Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley and LaJuan Ramsey. The rotation has kept the players fresh, giving them a better opportunity to generate a strong rush late in the game.

The Eagles had two of their eight sacks in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants in overtime, though quarterback Eli Manning had his best protection in the fourth quarter.

Andersen back in NFL
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Forty-six-year-old Morten Andersen is returning to the Atlanta Falcons after Michael Koenen flopped badly in his attempt to do all the kicking.

Andersen, the second-leading scorer in NFL history, returns to the league after last kicking with Minnesota in 2004. He will handle extra points and all field goal attempts – except those well beyond 50 yards.

“Morten Andersen is one of the finest field goal kickers in the history of the National Football League,” Falcons coach Jim Mora said. “His outstanding career speaks for itself, and we are excited to have him rejoin our organization.”

Koenen, who made just two of eight field goal attempts in Atlanta’s first two games, will continue to handle the kickoff and punting duties. A change was expected after he missed four field goals – all from 40 yards and in – in a 14-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Andersen is the leading scorer in Atlanta history and kicked the team’s most famous field goal, a 38-yarder in overtime to beat the Vikings in the 1999 NFC championship game. He played with the Falcons from 1995-2000.

James gets new deal
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys signed veteran linebacker Bradie James on Tuesday to a five-year, $20 million extension.

The deal includes an $8 million signing bonus.

James, a fourth-year linebacker who led Dallas in tackles last season, is the latest Cowboys veteran recently awarded a long-term extension by team owner Jerry Jones.

Tight end Jason Witten signed a seven-year, $29 million deal in July, and safety Roy Williams signed a four-year extension during training camp.

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