Doug Pederson’s ‘pressure’ message to Eagles misses the mark – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — What was organic last season seems forced this time around.

In the wake of the Eagles’ collapse against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, coach Doug Pederson said his message to his players in the locker room was that the “pressure’s off of us.”

“Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything,” he said. “Pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun, relax.”

The Eagles famously rode the “underdog” theme all the way to a Super Bowl championship in 2017, complete with dog masks the players broke out following each upset win in the postseason — an image the Panthers used to troll Philly following Sunday’s meltdown.

During his epic parade-day speech on the Art Museum steps, center Jason Kelce rattled off a long list of players and execs who had been counted out, capped by a rendition of the chant, “No one likes us. We don’t care.”

It was an easy, natural identity for the Eagles to embrace, considering they were in fact underdogs in every playoff game they played.

It’s more difficult now that they’re the Super Bowl champs. This isn’t a team that is being discounted — not even after it blew a 17-0 lead to Carolina to fall to 3-4. The NFC East is still up for grabs. Most believe the middling division will come down to the wire and the Eagles will be right in the mix for the crown.

Pederson went on to offer some context around his messaging.

“Number one, I think no one has really given us a chance anyway,” Pederson said. “Whether we’re putting pressure on ourselves to perform, to play, whatever it is, live up to a certain expectation, I think that’s the point where I think that no one has given us that type of — maybe with the amount of injuries or whatever it is — given us much credit going into games.

“And I think sometimes we force issues. We try to press just a little bit instead of just — we don’t have to go searching for plays. When the plays come, let’s just make the plays that come to us, and right now, we’re not doing that. So I think that’s the pressure that’s off of us, and we just have to get back to playing and executing better.”

It’s a sharp pivot from the “embrace the target” mantra that he has been pushing since the offseason. Pederson stressed that this group is not going to sneak up on anyone and, as defending champs, will get the opponent’s best shot every week. It’s hard to sell that the Eagles are being dismissed now — injuries and slow start aside — when they’ve been favored in every game they’ve played to this point.

What stands out when you get past the fact that the message doesn’t fit are some of the phrases Pederson used in his explanation: “we try to press,” “we don’t have to go searching for plays,” “we force issues.”

“Sometimes I think players and coaches just put added pressure when they don’t have to, and that’s something that we’ve got to — it starts with me there, just to make sure we’re doing everything, even during the week, getting ourselves in position to win games,” he said.

What seems clear is that Pederson believes his team is trying to do too much and needs to find a way to relieve some of the pressure that is keeping them from performing freely.

It actually seemed like the joy and swagger the Eagles played with last season had returned last week against the New York Giants, and it spilled over for three quarters Sunday. The celebratory touchdowns were back. During one TV timeout, the Eagles’ kickoff unit formed a dance circle, with each player getting a chance to jump in the middle and show off his moves. The fun-loving, dominating squad was back … until everything evaporated in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday, followed by games against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Five division games remain, as does a trip to Los Angeles to play the loaded Rams.

As quarterback Carson Wentz said, the Eagles are “at make-or-break time, almost.”

They are entering their most critical stretch of the season. The pressure isn’t off the Eagles, as much as they might like it to be. If anything, it’s about to ratchet up.

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Gronk? Kelce? Right now, NFL’s top tight end may be Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — It was Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz versus New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and it was no contest.

With the Eagles facing a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line late in the second quarter of Thursday’s game, Ertz sold an inside route to get Jenkins’ body turned and then broke for the corner in one fluid, defender-shedding motion.

Suddenly wide open, Ertz easily secured the touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Wentz and then celebrated by pointing to the back of his own jersey once, and then again, with authority.

The name on that jersey doesn’t get as much attention as others at the position: Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. But Ertz is making a case for why he deserves top billing.

Through six weeks, he leads all tight ends in targets (66) and receiving yards (480) and is second in the NFL in receptions (48) behind only Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen. His 48 receptions are the most by a tight end through six games since 1999. He’s on pace for 128 catches, which would shatter Witten’s record of 110 for most catches in a single season by a tight end.

During Weeks 4 and 5, he became the first tight end to post 10-plus receptions and 100-plus yards in consecutive games since Tony Gonzalez turned the trick in 2005.

While on pace for a career year, Ertz isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere. He owns the most receptions (369) by a tight end since entering the league in 2013 as a second-round pick out of Stanford. If there was any anonymity left, it was erased when he scored the game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in February.

But he doesn’t get the same pub as some of his peers. Perhaps that has to do with style. Gronk jumps off the screen with his freakish ability and 1,000-watt personality, and Kelce is a big play waiting to happen — he led all players at his position in yards after the catch (441) and plays of 20-plus yards (19) last season. Ertz is more surgical in his approach, using refined route running and a deep knowledge of the game to spring open with regularity a la his idol, Jason Witten.

“He really does understand defenses, and he can kind of diagnose a defense right away,” Eagles tight end coach Justin Peelle said, “and then he’s got the ability to process where he can see something and then be able to make the subtle route adjustment.”

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ertz’s average separation gained is 3.6 yards, compared to 2.9 for Gronkowski and 2.6 for Kelce. In other words, what happened between he and Jenkins Thursday was rather routine.

Ertz, 27, is starting to become a bigger factor in the red zone. He doubled his previous single-season high by scoring eight touchdowns in 2017, helping the Eagles to the No. 2 red zone ranking in the NFL. Now back in a flow with Wentz, who returned from ACL/LCL surgery in Week 3, Ertz has found the end zone in each of the past two games.

“We’re a team when myself, Nelson [Agholor] and Alshon [Jeffery] are all playing well, we’re a team that defenses really have to pick who they’re going to try and stop,” he said.

Often, the focus is on Ertz. As offensive coordinator Mike Groh said: “If you’re preparing for the Eagles, you’re aware of where Zach is.”

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Buffalo Bills unlikely to trade RB LeSean McCoy back to Philadelphia Eagles

A trade that would reunite Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles looks increasingly unlikely because of the spots that both teams are in, league sources tell ESPN.

The Eagles believe that they have the running back depth they need, and they wouldn’t make a trade unless it was similar to their deal last year that sent a fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Jay Ajayi, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the Bills are not looking to deal McCoy, whom they still consider one of their best players, and likely wouldn’t move him unless it was for the type of strong offer that the Eagles would not make for the six-time Pro Bowler, sources said.

That doesn’t mean that another team won’t make a run at McCoy; sources around the league expect other teams to make trade inquiries on McCoy, who has two years remaining on his contract, before the NFL’s Oct. 30 trade deadline.

But the Eagles, who are thin at running back because of Ajayi’s season-ending knee injury, and the Bills had only one preliminary conversation, according to sources.

Bills coach Sean McDermott would neither confirm nor deny that Buffalo had received a call from Philadelphia about McCoy, saying earlier this week that “we get calls all the time — incoming calls happen all the time.” McDermott acknowledged that he was aware of rumors connecting McCoy and the Eagles, but said that the veteran running back is “a valuable member of our football team, and I’m gonna leave it at that.”

The Eagles expect to have injured running back Darren Sproles return in the next two weeks, they like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, and they believe they have the type of talent they need at running back.

McCoy, 30, is coming off back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 rushing yards with the Bills but has gotten off to a slow start this season, rushing for just 170 yards on 45 carries in four games. He spent his first six seasons with the Eagles and was a three-time Pro Bowler during that stretch before being traded to the Bills in March 2015.

ESPN’s Mike Rodak contributed to this report.

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Philadelphia Eagles optimistic on RT Jason Peters’ biceps injury while awaiting test results

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles coach Doug Pederson struck an optimistic tone when discussing the biceps injury to standout left tackle Jason Peters, while cautioning that all of the test results are not yet in.

“Early indication, I don’t want to speculate too much, is positive,” he said. “Kind of a day-to-day [situation] and I’ve just got to wait and make sure that all of the information is accurate.”

Peters left the game early in the second half against the New York Giants Thursday after extending his arms to try and block a defender who was shooting the gap. The NFL Network reported that he tore his bicep, but that it’s an injury he should be able to play through.

The 36-year-old Peters suffered a season-ending ACL and MCL injury last year, and this season has been playing through a quad strain. He was replaced in the lineup Thursday by Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Right tackle Lane Johnson had to leave early as well after re-aggravating a high ankle sprain sustained last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Isaac Seumalo slid from guard to tackle when he went down.

Slot cornerback Sidney Jones, meanwhile, exited with a hamstring injury. Pederson described him as “week-to-week,” a designation that typically means a player will miss time.

Rookie Avonte Maddox, who has been playing safety the past two weeks, is a candidate to replace Jones in the slot.

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Eagles’ offense grounded while Carson Wentz keeps taking punishment – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — The NFL is a fickle beast, isn’t it?

One season your biggest concern is picking a touchdown celebration, and the next you’re being twisted into knots and getting run over by the wheel instead of looking like the one who invented it.

Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles‘ 2018 season.

An offense that ranked second in points per game last season at 28.6 is currently 25th at 20.6. The Eagles have failed to hit the 24-point mark through five games — something they did an NFL-high 12 times during their Super Bowl run in 2017.

Unable to get their offensive engine humming, they have fallen to 2-3 on the season and face a critical game Thursday night at the New York Giants (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). Per ESPN Stats & Information, Philly is the fifth reigning Super Bowl champion since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 to be under .500 through five games. Only one of the previous four such teams — the 1996 Dallas Cowboys — rebounded to make the playoffs.

Most of the central cast members returned and they are still led by the same aggressive, offense-minded head coach in Doug Pederson. What has changed? How much falls on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Wentz? And is there reason to be hopeful about a turnaround?

Let’s dive in.

Decoding the RPO

Pederson’s mantra heading into the season was “Embrace the Target.” He wanted to drill into his players that they would get the opponent’s best shot, week after week, as defending champs.

It goes for coaching as well.

“Each year you’re going to study the team, whether it’s an offense or defensive structure that had success the year before,” Pederson said. “Everybody wants to see what worked and see if it fits for them. Obviously, studying us and looking at some of the things we did, they’ve had a whole offseason to prepare, a training camp to prepare.”

One key component to the Eagles’ offense is the run-pass option, or RPO. Opponents had few answers for it last year. If the defender they were keying dropped into coverage, the quarterback would hand it off to exploit the numbers advantage on the ground. If he committed to the run, the QB would pull it and throw it behind his ear to the open receiver. All day. Nick Foles rode them through an improbable playoff stretch that ended with him being named Super Bowl MVP.

Though they seem to be less present in the Eagles’ offense this season, Pederson says he is still calling them quite a bit, but most are resulting in runs now due to adjustments defenses have made.

“Teams are just defending it a little bit better,” he said, “and we just continue to evolve a little bit and find answers moving forward.”

There are a few methods that are proving effective in combating the RPO. One is moving cornerbacks tight to receivers at the line of scrimmage. If a defensive back is playing off coverage, it’s much easier to connect on a quick slant or stop route. But if they’re playing press, there’s less of a window. The counter to that would be to hit defenses over the top, but the Eagles are short on vertical threats since Mike Wallace went down because of a fractured leg, compounding the issue.

According to one high-ranking offensive coach, teams are blitzing the gap — often vacated by a pulling guard — to hurry the decision-making process. And coaches are teaching backside defenders to stay home and take away the quick pop pass rather than chasing the run away.

“Don’t give them the open window, because that is what the RPO is designed to do,” former defensive back and ESPN analyst Matt Bowen said. “What you tell them is, we’ll take away one from the run front, we’ll sacrifice that, so we don’t give up the backside pop pass because it’s such an easy throw for quarterbacks.”

The first play of the game last week against Minnesota was an RPO. Alshon Jeffery was blanketed at the line of scrimmage, Wentz had nowhere to go and nearly threw an interception trying to zip it in to Jeffery.

“It’s still something that we’ll always have in every week, it’s just whether we’re calling them so much or not,” Wentz said. “It’s a big part of what we do. It’s just throughout each game, sometimes we use it more if it’s working well, and sometimes we get away from it.”

Wentz and a concerning hit rate

Left tackle Jason Peters made an interesting comment following Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Vikings, in which Wentz absorbed three sacks and eight quarterbacks hits.

“Right now we’re struggling on the offensive line because we have to block longer,” he said. “We have a quarterback that’s coming off of an injury and he wants to make a play. We just have to block longer in order for him to make a play. We just have to be better in pass protection.”

The eye test and the film backs that up to a degree. There are definitely plays when Wentz holds the ball longer than he should, or goes for extra bases when the right decision is to check down and take the single. Wentz doesn’t dispute any of that.

“It definitely happens. It’s kind of the nature of my game that I think I bring,” he said. “You’re always trying to weigh the pros and cons of doing that, and sometimes it gets you, sometimes it ends up being big plays as well. I would say that’s a fair statement.”

The numbers, though, show that Peters’ theory doesn’t fully hold water. Wentz is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to hanging onto the ball. He is averaging 2.76 seconds to throw this season, according to NextGen stats, which ranks 14th in the NFL. The average time across the league is 2.73 seconds. Wentz’s numbers are up only slightly (2.72) from last year.

Nick Foles, meanwhile, averaged 2.98 seconds per throw in relief of Wentz this season, which is fourth highest.

And yet Wentz is getting crushed. He has been sacked 12 times and has taken 27 hits in three games since returning from a serious multiligament knee injury.

So what gives? The line, for one, needs to own its part in this. Regarded as one of the best units in the league, the line’s play has been down across the board. Right tackle Lane Johnson‘s dip in play is a microcosm of what’s ailing this entire team: He was impenetrable last year but has given up strip-sacks in back-to-back games, including one last Sunday that was returned 64 yards by 330-pound defensive lineman Linval Joseph.

Pederson, though, has not been doing Wentz or that offensive front any favors. Wentz is averaging 41 dropbacks per game. The pass/run ratio has been 85-39 (69 percent pass) over the past two weeks.

“Carson is still a young quarterback and he is still developing,” said Seth Joyner, the former standout linebacker for the Eagles and current analyst for NBC Philly. “Doug can do him a world of good by just running the football, establishing the run, and when he does that, it’s going to open up a myriad of things in the playbook for Carson, for his true talents to be realized, and it’s going to help his development.

“There will come a time in his career when you can lay the entire offense on his shoulders and on his arm and say, ‘Go out there and make it happen.’ But I think he’s still developing to that point. Until we realize that we’ve got to use the running game and use the strength of our offensive line, which in my opinion is the running game, to do that, he’s going to have brilliant moments and he’s going to have moments of struggle.”

That’s exactly what it has been for Wentz through three games. He’s completing 67 percent of his throws (up from 60 percent in 2017) with five touchdowns and an interception, and has shown good mobility despite wearing a large knee brace around his surgically repaired left knee. He has also had moments where he has looked rusty, and with defenders coming over the walls, he has been charged with too many negative plays.

Jay Ajayi also wondered why the Eagles aren’t running more after only five run plays in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

“With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

“Super Bowl brain drain,” but reason for hope

When reporting that the Minnesota Vikings were hiring Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo to be their offensive coordinator back in February, ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote, “Super Bowl brain drain underway in Philadelphia.” A few days later, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was hired to be head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Mike Groh replaced Reich and Press Taylor took over the QB room for DeFilippo. Both are highly thought of around the league, and their arrows are pointing up. But it is fair to wonder whether losing two coaches who were so critical to the operation last season has hurt the 2018 Eagles in the early going.

“You’ve got a guy with great credibility in DeFilippo and a guy who’s lived the game and coached the game at the highest level in Frank Reich. I just don’t believe that those two guys can walk out of that organization without their being some residual effects to losing those guys,” Joyner said. “I think that Frank Reich has always been a voice of reason in the ear of Doug Pederson on game day. Does Mike Groh and Press Taylor really hold that cache in Doug’s ear? Is he listening to what they say? Are they saying the right things? Are they advising along the same lines as John and Frank did last year?”

One of Pederson’s greatest strengths is that he empowers his assistants. Reich and DeFilippo were given responsibilities over different parts of the offense related to situational football. DeFilippo, for instance, had a hand in tailoring their red zone offense.

The Eagles ranked second in red zone efficiency last year (64 percent touchdown rate) and are 18th through five games this year (53 percent). It’s a similar story on third down. They were second in 2017 (45 percent conversion rate) compared to 23rd this season (38 percent). There’s much more to it than a change in a couple of offensive coaches, but it’s probably fair to say there has been an adjustment period.

That goes for the whole team. The Eagles went from underdogs to the hunted in the blink of an eye. They switched quarterbacks three weeks in. Wentz is reacclimating to the game post-op. Defenses are playing them smarter. And the Eagles are fighting to regain the same level of mental focus they sustained through their championship run, even though their bodies and minds had less time to refresh than most.

The Eagles also have suffered several injuries with Ajayi (torn ACL), Wallace and Mack Hollins (groin) being put on injured reserve. Running backs Darren Sproles (hamstring) and Corey Clement (quadriceps) also have been unable to stay on the field, and Jeffery has played in only two games after returning from shoulder surgery.

But the system is not broken, and there’s reason to believe this once high-flying offense will get back on track.

“The scheme is fine. The scheme is the same thing Matt Nagy is running in Chicago. The scheme works. There is no doubt about it,” Bowen said. “Right now you want a coach calling plays who is a part of the Andy Reid coaching tree or the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree based on what I’m seeing on film. Those are the most prolific offenses and the toughest to defend.

“The talent is there. And Carson is fine … You have to give him more clean-pocket throws. If there’s clean-pocket throws, that offense is going to take off with Coach Pederson. It’s not the scheme, it’s a lack of efficiency right now from the players, in my opinion.”

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Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott doesn’t dismiss report on Philadelphia Eagles interest in LeSean McCoy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott did not dismiss a report Wednesday that the Philadelphia Eagles have inquired about trading for Bills running back LeSean McCoy.

“LeSean is one of our better players,” McDermott said to begin his news conference. “I thought he had a good game [in Sunday’s 13-12 win over the Tennessee Titans]. Really, we’re just looking forward to playing the Houston Texans [this Sunday].

“We get calls all the time. Incoming calls happen all the time. [General manager] Brandon [Beane] and I talk a lot. I won’t go into any more detail than that. Really, again, this is a big week for us. Another opportunity to get better. Another opportunity for us to develop as a football team against a very good opponent, in particular down there in a tough place to play.”

WIVB reported Tuesday that the Eagles (2-3) had called the Bills (2-3) about McCoy’s availability after placing running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve.

Asked specifically Wednesday if the Eagles had contacted Buffalo, McDermott said, “I’m not gonna go into any more detail than I said.”

Then, asked if McCoy was available in a trade, McDermott responded, “Men, this is why I came out and started where I started [in the news conference]. If you just want to hear the same reply, I’ll give you the same reply. I respect where you’re coming from and the jobs you have to do. Respect where I’m coming from. He’s a valuable member of our football team, and I’m gonna leave it at that.”

“I heard about it [trade rumors], ” McCoy told reporters Wednesday. “I kind of just stay focused on the job, the task at hand. I’ll let that stuff work itself out. We’ll see what happens.”

The NFL’s trade deadline is Oct. 30, the day after the Bills host the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 8.

McCoy, who missed the Bills’ Week 3 win over Minnesota because of a rib injury, ran a season-high 24 times for 85 yards in Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans. In four games, McCoy has 170 rushing yards on 45 carries, as well as 10 catches for 64 yards. He has not yet scored a touchdown.

“I should have never gotten traded [from Philadelphia] anyway,” McCoy said. “I was killing stuff, you know? But I don’t ever really pay too much attention to it. This week we got the Texans. I’ll worry about that. Good defense, lot of big-name guys on that defensive line. I got my hands full this week. Last week was my first week of really getting out there running, try to get some rust off and actually get going play after play. Really felt good.”

The Eagles drafted McCoy in the second round of the 2009 draft and traded him to the Bills following the 2014 season.

McCoy is being sued by his ex-girlfriend in Georgia, who accuses him of being involved in a July home invasion in which she was beaten and robbed of jewelry. McCoy’s ex-girlfriend Delicia Cordon also accuses McCoy of physical abuse against her, against his son and against his dog.

Police in the Atlanta suburb of Milton, where McCoy owns the home in which Cordon was allegedly attacked, said last month that their investigation is ongoing but that McCoy has not cooperated.

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LeSean McCoy, other options for Eagles to replace Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles lost lead running back Jay Ajayi to a torn ACL this week, stripping an already sputtering offense of one of its primary weapons. Led by one of the most aggressive personnel men in the business in Howie Roseman, and with hopes of a Super Bowl repeat still alive in Philly, speculation is running wild as to whether a trade for a running back is in the cards between now and the Oct. 30 deadline.

Let’s take a look at some of the big names being thrown around, as well as some under-the-radar options provided by our NFL Nation reporters.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (26 years old)

The big fish. It’s easy to see why the Eagles, or any team for that matter, would be interested in perhaps the best back in the NFL. He’d instantly improve the ground game and the passing game, both as a receiver and in pass protection, while adding an explosive, dynamic back who would open things up for his teammates and instantly lift this offense off the ground. Roseman and Co. are always on the lookout for market anomalies: How often does a player of this caliber become available? From that perspective, a talent like Bell has to be intriguing.

The Eagles recently restructured Fletcher Cox‘s contract to create cap room, but according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, they have not pursued a trade for Bell and do not have plans to do so at this time. The Eagles will need a portion of that cap space to re-sign some of their in-house players over the next couple of seasons — Carson Wentz is going to get a massive contract before long — and it would be difficult to re-sign Bell, who is in the last year of his deal, to a massive new contract given their financial situation.

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (30 years old)

Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Eagles have checked in on McCoy’s availability since news of Ajayi’s injury came down. That makes sense, given McCoy’s familiarity with the Eagles organization (he spent his first six seasons in Philadelphia) and experience in systems similar to coach Doug Pederson’s. McCoy is 30 years old, and perhaps the Buffalo Bills want to get some value for him as they look to replenish the roster. The flip side is that McCoy is currently one of the Bills’ top players. Sitting at 2-3, they probably aren’t looking to throw in the towel on the 2018 season. The asking price might not match the level of interest. The Eagles would also have to be comfortable with their research into off-the-field matters surrounding McCoy of late.

Under-the-radar backs

We asked our fellow NFL Nation reporters for backs on their teams who could potentially be available Here’s what came back:

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions (25 years old)

“The Lions’ starter last year, Abdullah has yet to have a carry in a game this year and was inactive the first four weeks of the season. He can be a multi-purpose back and has returner value. Also in the last year of his contract.” — Mike Rothstein

Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks (25 years old)

“He’s been Seattle’s No. 2 back for the last few weeks behind Chris Carson and ahead of top pick Rashaad Penny. Had 101 yards and two TDs two weeks ago with Carson out. Seahawks are about to have a bit of a logjam at RB with J.D. McKissic set to come off IR, and you figure they’ll want to get Penny more work than he’s been getting. Davis is 25 and playing on a one-year deal worth $1.35 million. Not a bad special teams player either.” — Brady Henderson

Detrez Newsome, Los Angeles Chargers (24 years old)

“Newsome is on the Chargers practice squad, but made the active roster out of training camp. He also can return kicks.” — Eric Williams

Other names to consider

ESPN’s Dan Graziano posted a list of backs the Eagles could take a look at:

Tevin Coleman, 25, share carries in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. He is in the final year of his rookie contract. LeGarrette Blount, 31, was the Eagles’ top rusher last season (766 yards, 2 TDs) during their Super Bowl run. He fit into the locker room well and would be able to acclimate quickly.

Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears and Seattle’s C.J. Prosise Jr. were also recently floated as possibilities.

In-house options

With three weeks remaining before the trade deadline, the Eagles can take some time to see how their own backs perform before making a move if they wish. It will likely be a committee approach between Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, when healthy, with rookie Josh Adams sprinkled in. Sproles has been sidelined since Week 1 with a hamstring injury and did not practice on Tuesday. Clement (quad) has returned to action after sitting out the last couple of games.

From a fantasy perspective, Clement would be the most appealing option, followed by Smallwood, though it would probably be best to wait and see how things shake out over the next couple of weeks.

The search for help likely won’t be limited to running back. The Eagles could use help at receiver and in the defensive secondary as well. Roseman will be working the phones to see if there are deals out there that make sense.

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How Philadelphia and Minnesota became instant rivals – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — There are two working theories as to why a 1,000-pound bronze statue of a Viking was toppled off its base and into the nearby Schuylkill River early Tuesday morning in the popular Fairmount Park section of Philadelphia.

The first — the one being pursued by authorities — is that it was done by anarchists to counter white supremacists’ claims to the Icelandic voyager. Naturally.

The second is it was the work of Philadelphia Eagles fans to (disturbingly) mark the beginning of Vikings week. Philadelphia plays host to Minnesota on Sunday (4:25 ET, Fox).

However off target, the latter is perhaps the most widely accepted explanation in the public sphere, which says plenty on its own about how far this rivalry has come in a short amount of time.

It’s an unlikely squabble between two fan bases that represent teams in distant regions and different divisions. And frankly, it’s hard to picture placid Minnesotans getting into a dust-up with anybody. But a very unique set of circumstances over the course of a few weeks last winter stoked the embers and led to a beer-tossing, name-calling, service-revoking mini-feud that makes Sunday’s rematch of the NFC title game in South Philly all the more intriguing.

It all started early on Sunday, Jan. 21, just a stone’s throw from where the statue of explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni took a tumble into the river and, actually, losing its head along the way. A group of Vikings fans made a pit stop before heading to Lincoln Financial Field for the NFC Championship game, gathering on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps — sacred ground to locals — to perform a massive “Skol” chant. The nearby “Rocky” statue was even dressed in purple and gold attire.

The images spread like wildfire on social media and throughout the tailgating scene around the stadium, which already was in full swing hours before kickoff.

“I kept having that image of them doing the ‘Skol’ chant shoved into my face: ‘Did you see what they did on the Art Museum steps? Did you freakin’ see this?'” remembers Eric Emanuele, better known as EROCK, a longtime season-ticket holder, podcast host for NBC Sports Philadelphia and recognized as a leader in Eagles Nation. “I think the reason why the Vikings fans had such a miserable time at the game is because the people at the game were acutely aware of where they just came from and what they just did on the Art Museum steps and felt disrespected.”

This, mixed with a high-stakes game and drinking — lots and lots of drinking — led to a volatile scene in the parking lot. We’re not talking about the Thunderdome here — most fans behaved themselves and offered a ribbing at most to their purple-clad visitors as they passed by — but there is video of Vikings fans having beers thrown at them as they walked toward the stadium, and others of Eagles fans being rather aggressive in their heckling. And, oh yeah, a police horse got punched (allegedly).

Then-Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum said that when it came to the treatment of his family at the game, there were “some situations that were not good,” and he had some friends there “to intercede.” On their way out, the Vikings bus was pelted by beer cans.

Some Minnesotans who had made the trip were shocked by their experience and vowed never to never set foot on Philadelphia turf again.

“You’ve got to understand. If you’re making that flight out from Minnesota, you’re talking about upper-middle class to upper class, disposable income, because those tickets weren’t cheap, that flight wasn’t cheap, and I guarantee you it was hard to find a hotel room and you were paying premium to go get there,” Emanuele said. “So you’re talking about a bunch of individuals — Levi’s jeans-wearing, I-want-to-talk-to-your-manager, haircut-having soccer moms that are not used to a 19-year-old kid who has been drinking in the parking lot all day going up to them and screaming, ‘Go Birds!’ You just have a clash of cultures both from Philadelphia and Minnesota, and then, I feel, like an age or a socioeconomic bracket, as well.

“When the Vikings fans got there, having done what they’d done on the Art Museum steps, they were not expecting the kind of cultural backlash from a fan base that was absolutely pissed off, ravenous and ready to watch their team go to the Super Bowl, let alone the fact that alcohol was involved — heavily.”

The Eagles crushed the Vikings 38-7 to advance to Super Bowl LII, which, as fate would have it, was held in Minneapolis. Bitter about the loss and soured by tales fellow Vikings fans brought back from Philadelphia, the region exacted revenge — in a very Midwest sort of way.

The term is “Minnesota nice,” which in this instance is code for passive-aggressive behavior. Residents were outwardly courteous, as always, but found ways to poke the bear.

There were stories of locals canceling Airbnb’s on Eagles fans and plots hatched in which locals signed up as Uber drivers just so they could drop Philadelphians off at the wrong place. A sign outside one bar/restaurant read, “Eagles fans: Stop in and have a FREE BEER … thrown at you.”

“I just know that anywhere that I hear of, nobody wants to help them,” Chad Waldon, identified as a manager at one of the top eateries in Minneapolis, Butcher & the Boar, said of Eagles fans and players. “I think we’re far more civilized than that [regarding reports of violent celebrations from Eagles fans], but we’ll do it in our own passive-aggressive Minnesota way; we just won’t let them eat dinner in our restaurants.”

Eagles safety Chris Maragos said it took him a day and a half to find a restaurant that would accommodate him and his teammates.

“Usually, a lot of times you can’t get in a place and then maybe I can explain to them that my teammates and I are coming in and maybe that’ll help, but no dice there for a while. It was pretty funny,” Maragos said. “We had a hard time. We got in, though.”

The Eagles got the last laugh by securing their first Super Bowl title on Minnesota soil.

The meeting between the Eagles (2-2) and Vikings (1-2-1) is different this time around. Both are trying to shake off early loses and regain their footing as NFC elites. Eagles players are well aware they are not only facing a desperate Vikings team, but one with revenge on their minds.

“There’s no doubt there will be some added motivation this week for the Minnesota Vikings,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “You’d be foolish not to think that.”

The memories are fresh, both for the respective teams and fan bases. It should make for an intriguing scene come Sunday.

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Michael Bennett, of Philadelphia Eagles, calls new role ‘a test of character’

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett acknowledged that adjusting to his new role in Philadelphia has been a “test of character” but made it clear during his first interview in weeks that he is putting team first.

“I think it’s always a test of character when you have to reinvent yourself or do something that you’re not comfortable with or find a way to find some comfort in it when you’re not comfortable, but to find a way to contribute in any type of way,” he said. “When you’ve got great leadership like Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Chris Long, all these great players, you just have to find a way to contribute on the team.”

One of the things Bennett is getting used to is playing fewer snaps. He has been on the field for just under 55 percent of the defensive plays so far in 2018, compared to about 85 percent last season for the Seattle Seahawks, which was tops on the team among defensive linemen.

He notched his first sack of the season Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. That puts him on pace for four sacks for the season, which would be his lowest output since 2011 if it holds. He had 8.5 sacks for Seattle last season. He was traded along with a seventh-round pick to the Eagles for a fifth-round pick and wide receiver Marcus Johnson in March.

It was suggested during the broadcast of the Eagles’ opener against the Atlanta Falcons that Bennett was not pleased about being a backup, but Bennett, who has declined to speak with reporters for the past several weeks, said Thursday he was just happy to be in a situation where the team was capable of having success.

“You always want to play more, but in this situation you just want to win,” he said. “When you have a good quarterback, a good running game, you just want to win the game. We have a great defense, and I think for me it’s just wanting to win a championship. Playing with some great players, and the opportunity to play here is always a blessing.”

The other big adjustment for Bennett is that he has been moved to the right side of the line after spending much of his career on the left.

“It’s like writing with your left hand for 10 years and then they tell you to write with your right hand,” he said. “It’s harder, right?”

But he feels like in time, he’ll get it down. Bennett, who has operated both from the edge and interior at times this season, has been effective despite the reduced role. He is tied for second on the team with 13 quarterback pressures behind only Cox.

Coaches say that they are focused on keeping the 32-year-old Bennett fresh so that he’s at his best late in the year.

“We’re 2-2 so the most important thing is not my individual stats or individual playing time, it’s really about the wins,” he said. “To me, it’s just about winning. That’s the true test of character is how many W’s you can get.”

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Philadelphia Eagles facing early crossroad in title defense – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

PHILADELPHIA — The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles find themselves at an early crossroad.

The dreamlike state that fell upon this city following the first Super Bowl championship in team history has been replaced by the harsh reality of a new season in which nothing is guaranteed and everyone is coming for the crown.

Coach Doug Pederson warned as much, even pushing the mantra “Embrace the Target” beginning early this offseason to drill home that they are going to get their opponent’s best shot week after week.

That theory has largely held up through four games. The Eagles haven’t always been ready for it, or maybe equipped to handle it, and sit at 2-2 as a result. Next up is a desperate Minnesota Vikings team with revenge on their mind following the 38-7 pummeling in Philly in the NFC Championship Game.

“First of all, we have to understand that we are champions, and you have to play, you’re expected to play a certain way,” Pederson said. “When you don’t live up to that expectation, we need to just zero down on it and figure out why. The sense of urgency from players and coaches needs to heighten just a little bit. It’s not a panic mode, but it’s a heightened awareness of who we are as a football team, where we want to get to.”

Right now, the Eagles are a .500 football team with an offense that ranks 26th in points per game (20.5) and third in penalty yards (343). The offensive line, touted as one of the best in the sport, has been leaky at times and was partly responsible for the 11 hits and four sacks Carson Wentz absorbed last week in an overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. The defense has been unreliable on the road and is coming off a performance in which it allowed three fourth-down conversions on a single drive in overtime.

Injuries are piling up. The loss of safety Rodney McLeod (knee surgery) arguably cost them the Titans game (his replacement, Corey Graham, was out of position on the defining fourth-and-15 conversion) and leaves them vulnerable on the back end. He is the fourth Eagles player to hit injured reserve this season, joining wide receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins and tight end Richard Rodgers. Jay Ajayi has a fracture in his back, and his running mates, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, haven’t been able to stay on the field consistently.

Add the fact that Wentz (ACL/LC), defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) and receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) are just getting back onto the field/rounding into form, and you can see where some of the issues are stemming from.

On the bright side, some of those key players such as Wentz and Jeffery are now back in the fold, and with the arrow pointing up. That’s the way right tackle Lane Johnson chose to look at it while discussing the state of the team on Tuesday.

“We’re starting to get everybody back,” he said. “It was only Carson’s second game. We’re getting Jordan Matthews back, getting Alshon Jeffery back, so it takes time for a cohesive group to get back into a rhythm. Sometimes it’s not pretty, and that’s the way it is.

“Around here, we expect to win, the people demand us to win, and when we don’t we have to go back in the mirror and look at ourselves.”

Long playoff runs come at a price. Surgeries are delayed, as they were with Jeffery and Graham. Injuries have less time to heal, and minds have less time to refresh. Opposing teams become hyperaware of what you’re doing, and they dig hard into the tape to figure you out. Every game is a measuring stick game for the team you’re playing.

The Eagles are dealing with all of that, all at once. And there isn’t much give in a schedule that still includes tilts against the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.

The champs are being tested, and it might be exactly what they need.

“I’ve been here six years. Usually when stuff is not going good, that’s when we probably get the most motivated, and that’s when you can learn the most about yourself and about your team,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to be humble and excited when things are going good. I think it really identifies the character you have, your teammates have when things aren’t going good to see if we can get it back on track.”

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