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Garcia looks to thrive in national spotlight

Signed in the off-season, Philly’s QB hopes to get his team back in the playoff hunt.

Jeff Garcia addresses a news conference at the NovaCare Center in Philadelphia after he signed with the Eagles in March. The Eagles signed the veteran as insurance for Donovan McNabb. Garcia will start today against the Panthers and help the Eagles stay in the NFC playoff picture.

AP Photo

PHILADELPHIA — Jeff Garcia has the perfect opportunity to showcase his skills for a future employer.

When Garcia lines up under center for Philadelphia against the Carolina Panthers on Monday night, a national audience will be watching. Teams looking for a quarterback next season ought to pay close attention to a guy who went to three Pro Bowls and seems to have plenty of game left for a 36-year-old.

Garcia is focused on helping the slumping Eagles climb back into the playoff race, but he also knows that he’s auditioning for his next job.

“Sure, let’s get one more big one,” Garcia said of a multiyear contract. “I know that’s a little less likely due to the fact that I’ll be 37, but I feel like I’m a young 37 next year. But it’s one of those things where I’m not so much caught up in that. Five weeks down the road, that’s when I’ll start to think about what’s going to happen for my future, but right now it’s living for the day.”

Garcia signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in March after playing five seasons in San Francisco and one each in Cleveland and Detroit. He became the starter when Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. In his first start at Indianapolis last Sunday, Garcia completed 19 of 23 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-21 loss.

The Eagles (5-6) need another solid performance from Garcia to have a chance against the Panthers (6-5). Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot in the mediocre NFC. Despite losing five of their last six games, the Eagles would thrust themselves into the playoff picture with a win over Carolina.

“My main thing is to let these guys know we’re still in it,” Garcia said. “Let’s have some fun. Let’s go out and let everything fly and not hold anything back and let’s make some positive things happen. Let’s not try to put too much pressure on ourselves to do the perfect thing, but let’s play the way we’re capable of playing and get back to where we were at the start of this season.”

On the other sideline, the opposing quarterback also is under the microscope. Jake Delhomme has underperformed this season a year after going to the Pro Bowl and leading the Panthers to the NFC championship game. Some fans in Carolina called for Delhomme’s benching after a disappointing loss at Washington last Sunday, but coach John Fox has no plans to go with backup Chris Weinke.

“It never even remotely crossed my mind,” Fox said of making a switch. “I’m going to play the best guy that gives us a chance to win and right now that’s Jake Delhomme.”

Delhomme, who led Carolina to a win over the Eagles in the conference title game three years ago, threw 24 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and had a passer rating of 88.1 last season, when the Panthers averaged more than 24 points per game. He’s thrown 12 TD passes, nine interceptions and has a rating of 78.7 this year, while the offense is ranked 27th in the NFL in scoring at 17.2 points a game.

“As a quarterback, when you don’t score enough points and get your team enough wins, you feel it’s your fault,” Delhomme said. “We’ve got to play better offensively and certainly as quarterback, you are the focal point of the offense.”

Considering how poorly the Eagles have played against the run in recent weeks, Delhomme might not have to do much other than turn and hand off to either DeShaun Foster or DeAngelo Williams.

Philly’s once-dominant defense has allowed more than 200 yards rushing three times in the last four games. Colts running back Joseph Addai ran for 171 yards and four TDs against them.

“We were not a physical football team,” defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. “I told the defense that, too. I said, ‘Hey, we were not good on the perimeter as far as attacking the run. We were not good up front. We got knocked off the ball.”’

Up Next

Panthers at Eagles, 8:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: WBSX (97.9-FM)

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