Eagles

10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

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10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

We all pretty much knew Malcolm Jenkins would have another big year. We all pretty much knew Carson Wentz would improve dramatically, Zach Ertz would have a career season and Brandon Graham would have success getting after the quarterback.
 
Then there are the surprises. On this team, there've been a ton of them.
 
The Eagles, at 5-1, are already just two wins short of last year's total and have more wins than the rest of the NFC East combined.
 
Let's take a look at the 10 biggest surprises so far this year on this first-place Eagles team. (And don't look for Nelson Agholor on this list. His performance may be surprising to some people but not to me!)
 
1. Patrick Robinson
Honestly, Robinson's career looked like it was over this summer. He was with his fourth team in four years, and he was so bad early in training camp and the Eagles had so many promising young corners you had to wonder if there was even a roster spot for Robinson. But not only did he make the team and earn a starting spot when Ronald Darby got hurt, he's played at such a consistently high level you can make a case he's been the Eagles' Defensive MVP so far. He's got a team-high nine knockdowns, two interceptions and he's just been consistently solid in coverage.
 
2. LeGarrette Blount
Maybe it's not a huge surprise Blount has been so productive because he did score 18 touchdowns for the Patriots last year. But the surprise is his 5.6 yards-per-carry average — second-best in the league and tops in the NFC among regular backs (at least eight carries per game). Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year and hasn't been over 4.5 since 2013. And he's 30 now. That 5.6 figure is fourth-highest in NFL history by a running back in his 30s after six games. With Darren Sproles out, Donnel Pumphrey struggling throughout camp and now on the shelf and Wendell Smallwood out the last couple games as well, the Eagles have really needed Blount, and he's responded in a huge way. He's giving the Eagles way more than anybody expected.
 
3. Rasul Douglas
Injuries forced the Eagles to use Douglas in Week 2 after he was inactive on opening day, and he's been starting ever since. Douglas has given up some plays — what rookie cornerback hasn't? — but despite less than world-class speed he's shown an ability to cover, tackle and support the run. Douglas needs to be more consistent, but he's got two interceptions in five games — the first Eagles corner with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen — and he's only going to get better.
 
4. Jake Elliott
What a story. The Bengals draft Elliott in the fifth round, risk losing him by placing him on the practice squad, then Caleb Sturgis gets hurt, the Eagles sign Elliott, and he proceeds to make three kicks of 50 yards or more in his first five games — including a game-winning 61-yarder, the third-longest walk-off field goal in NFL history. Despite not playing on opening day, Elliott is fourth in the NFL in scoring, with 49 points. He's 12 for 14 overall, including 10 straight makes. He's already one of the most accomplished long-range kickers in Eagles history. And he's played five games. 
 
5. Mychal Kendricks
Kendricks' once-promising career seemed to fizzle out the last couple years. Check out his playing time his first five NFL seasons: 88.5 percent in 2012 (under Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles), then 82.6 percent, 65.5 percent and 51.6 percent in 2013 through 2015 (under Bill Davis) and down to 26.7 percent last year under Jim Schwartz. A downward spiral. But Kendricks forced the Eagles to play him with a fantastic preseason, and he's backed that up with some really solid play so far this year. Kendricks had his best game in years Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 15 total tackles, a tackle for loss and two special teams tackles. He played 55 snaps — his most in two years — and is now at 52 percent for the season. It's been a long time since we've seen Kendricks play at this level, and it's safe to say few people saw it coming.
 
6. Tim Jernigan
Hard to believe after watching these first six games that the Ravens didn't want Jernigan back. From what he's shown so far, he's a big-time player. Why would the Ravens give up on a 24-year-old defensive lineman with this much potential? Apparently, they felt he wasn't consistent enough. But if he's able to continue delivering the type of play that he has so far, it was a steal for the Eagles. Jernigan already has six tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and four hurries, not to mention stout play against the run all year. He's been way better than advertised.
 
7. Chris Long
Any notion the Eagles just brought Long in for leadership and emergency depth was quickly dispelled when we started to see him play. Long has a lot left. He's averaging 28 snaps, is tied for second on the team with 2.0 sacks and played a season-high 41 snaps in a big way Thursday night down in Charlotte. Long, now 32 years old, can still play.
 
8. Mack Hollins
When training camp began, Hollis was probably behind Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner, Shelton Gibson and maybe even Bryce Treggs. So he was eighth-team. Now the rookie fifth-round pick is working his way up the Eagles' wide receiving hierarchy. He hasn't played a lot — about 10 snaps per game — but he's got five catches on five targets for five first downs, including a big 20-yarder Thursday night against the Panthers. Keep an eye on Hollins. He's going to be a good one.
 
9. Jason Kelce
Kelce's performance hasn't been a surprise to everybody, but there was certainly a large contingent of people who felt the veteran center should be released this offseason or preseason after his level of play dropped last year. But Kelce has been terrific in the middle of the NFL's No. 4-ranked offense and No. 5-ranked running game. So far a resurgent year for the two-time Pro Bowler.
 
10. Corey Clement
Down three running backs — Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood — the Eagles have asked a lot of Clement, and the undrafted rookie has made some nice contributions, including a 15-yard touchdown run against the Giants, a 22-yard catch and run against the Cards and a 35-yard kickoff return against the Giants. It's rare to get much of anything from rookie tailbacks, but Clement has done a nice job taking advantage of his opportunities.

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out to me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.