PHILADELPHIA -- Terrell Owens has gone embarrassingly over the top with his latest rant challenging the Eagles to cover him one-on-one when they oppose the Cowboys Monday at Texas Stadium.

This just in -- you were manned-up more in the last meeting and wound up with two receptions for 37 yards, slugger. Your Cowboys lost 10-6. The guy that covered you was the NFC defensive player of the week. Does the name Lito Sheppard ring a bell?

A couple of weeks ago Owens shipped a T-shirt to Sheppard, who showed it off to the media Friday. It was lettered "I Compete T.O. Win." Nice look, idea and gesture. No one is questioning T.O.'s will to compete.

Seriously now, how can a 34-year-old guy in his 13th season that couldn't get away from Sheppard in the last meeting think it will be different this time around, much less verbalize it?

Moreover how can Owens even suggest the Eagles doubled and triple-teamed most of the time last year when it just wasn't the case unless the Donovan McNabb hater maybe watched the wrong game tape? It's nothing but another round of excuses from an all-pro excuse-maker and world class victim who helped tear the Eagles apart three seasons ago.

"I heard the comments," Eagles veteran safety Quintin Mikell said Friday. "There have been plenty of times there was one-on-one coverage. I don't know what he means by that. Tell him we're going to play man-to-man zero coverage every play of the game just to appease him."

The Eagles won't do zero coverage every play, of course. That's not the way coordinator Jim Johnson plays defense. Throw nothing but fastballs and you know where it ends up.

No, the Eagles will mix it up. That's just playing smart.

Owens is delusional if he thinks it's going to be easier to get open this year whether he's single-covered, doubled or tripled. These aren't the Cleveland Browns, who let him run free for a 35-yard touchdown reception in the opener. Take away that catch and the mighty T.O. had four catches for 52 yards.

The Eagles have three shutdown-type corners. The two Owens will see most Monday are Sheppard and Asante Samuel. Johnson's curveball is cornerback Sheldon Brown but he also has changeups in linebackers Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither, who can clog the passing lanes, and safety Brian Dawkins. Dawk on Owens; now that's a classic matchup.

This is the cold hard reality Owens must accept before he can hope to take over another game against the Eagles: It doesn't matter which side of the field he motions to, just that he recognizes he has to do it a lot these days.

Ripped or not, beach body or not the legs are among the first things to wear out in a football player and Owens isn't getting any younger.

The proof is that the Cowboys are doing everything they can to make it easy for Owens to get open, whether it's sending him in motion or dumping him into the middle of some pretentious Princeton-type formation fresh out of the oven of Cowboys coordinator Jason Garrett.

Sure, teams are more likely to double Owens with a safety basically because they're not scared about getting beat deep by his teammates. Patrick Crayton shows flashes but is a work in progress. Tight end Jason Witten is effective in the seams yet isn't going to run past anyone. Running back Marion Barber can put a hurting on would-be tacklers with screen passes but he's not going to break a long one.

At the same time if Owens could get open by himself Garrett wouldn't have to get so exotic with the game plans. How Garrett is keeping all of that a secret from Owens will be discreetly revealed at his next interview for a head coaching position.

This isn't to say Owens is washed up. The guy still has some very productive football seasons remaining providing he's utilized properly.

He's just not the Owens of old, though, not even with the mouth.

It's possible Owens challenged the Eagles to come at him in single-coverage purely because he wants to strike fear into them.

It's not going to work. They know he's a competitor, know what he's about and above all know how to keep him from killing them. If Owens goes off Monday night, it's on the Eagles. And the players know that -- all of the players who will be in his shirt Monday.

"We all will find ourselves covering him at times," Mikell said. "I mean Dawk was covering him one-on-one (in their last meeting) and he made a good play. I understand what (Owens is) getting at but at the same time it's football. And he knows that. He's just saying stuff. He's a good guy. He's just trying to get into our heads."

Bob Grotz covers the Eagles for the Journal Register News Service.

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