5 minutes with Roob: Nate Gerry, track superstar?

5 minutes with Roob: Nate Gerry, track superstar?

Roob: Hey everybody, welcome to 5 Minutes with Roob. We’re here today with Eagles’ — well, we’ll call you linebacker/safety Nate Gerry. Before we started this, I made a list of the five greatest Eagles ever from Nebraska. So, I just wanted to bounce this off you.

No. 5: Dave Rimington, the great center who I believe was your interim AD over the last couple months.

No. 4: Correll Buckhalter, the great running back.

No. 3: Irving Fryar, who I think should be in the Hall of Fame, a tremendous wide receiver.

No. 2: Bob Brown, who is in the Hall of Fame. Offensive tackle.

No. 1: Nate Gerry. You gotta go No. 1 because we’re doing this, so that’s why the list. But a lot of great Nebraska Cornhuskers came to the Philadelphia Eagles over the years. Welcome to Philly and you’re back on the active roster now, what’s the practice squad like? What was that experience like for you? Is it any different than being on the 53, other than on payday, I guess?

Gerry: No, when you’re at this level, every day you’re trying to work on your craft no matter the level, no matter the term you’re under, I guess. For me, still transitioning to a new spot, I’m just trying to get better every day at the new position. So, I think being on the practice squad, it helped me progress a little more, but I think that I still have the tools to be a very good linebacker, so just being able to work every day is the same.

Roob: Now, I’m a big track and field guy and I seem to remember 10.54 (seconds) in the 100m and 21.52 in the 200m, I believe were your (personal records). Two-time state champion and threw the shot put 47 feet in one meet that you were asked to throw the shot put. How much of a track guy were you growing up in high school, and how much did you love doing that?

Gerry: To be honest with you, I wasn’t a track guy at all. That was my dad and my brother, they were the 400-meter runner guys. I was a baseball player, actually. After my freshman year, playing school ball, I wanted to be a college football player. Coming from South Dakota, it’s tough to get recruited and things like that, so I sat down, talked to my coach, and an easier way to get your name out there was with track. I didn’t really know or understand how fast I was until, I think I won the first meet in the 100m, and I was in like Heat 3. So, it was kind of an eye-opener for me, so after that I kind of put a lot of work into it. But a lot of that work was just because I wanted to be a football player. 

Roob: What was life like in Sioux Falls and Washington High School, I guess, kind of out of the way, like you said. It’s tough to get noticed and then coming to Philadelphia is a little bit different. What was your life like growing up there?

Gerry: I love Sioux Falls, I love South Dakota. The people there are great. On our license plates, it says ‘Great Faces, Great Places’ and that’s exactly what it is. There’s a lot of great people there. It’s not very big, but it’s big enough. You’re able to do your own thing. It was a great place for family, very safe. So I loved everything about it. I’ve had a lot of support from South Dakota and I’m very honored to be one of the only guys to come out of South Dakota. So, to have the support of the whole state means a lot to me and my family. It’s a little different coming out to Philly but I’m still transitioning a little bit.

Roob: What’s been the biggest thing to adjust to in this city?

Gerry: Probably all the traffic, man. That’s one thing they’re not lying about. Philly traffic, it’s the real deal. 

Roob: I still haven’t adjusted. It took me an hour and a half to get down 95 to work yesterday. Now, you actually started as a linebacker in college, right? You started out at linebacker and then moved to safety as a sophomore?

Gerry: I started as a safety, kind of lack of depth. Coach asked me if I could move and I told him I would. So, I guess I could say I started …. but I went through a whole summer playing safety and I got through the transition, but throughout the whole year, my safeties coach was still trying to pull me away and he always told me at the end of the year that I was going to get moved back to safety. It worked out in the long run.

Roob: It did, and you have knowledge of two positions. There’s guys like Malcolm (Jenkins), who’s a safety, but he plays linebacker in some defenses. How has it helped you to have kind of the background of both positions?

Gerry: I think it helps with both run and pass. Safety, you gotta do a little bit of both. And same with linebacker, you gotta do a little bit of both. So being able to know run fits as a linebacker helped me as a safety and vice-versa. Then playing safety helps me as a linebacker with coverages and stuff like that. When I was playing safety, I knew where the linebacker should’ve been. So me playing linebacker, I know where the safeties and stuff are at. So they go hand-in-hand together.

Roob: Now, there’s a lot of people — I think you lost three games in high school, Nebraska has always been a powerhouse. I covered Mike Rougier in high school, great Nebraska running back. So to come here and be a part of what this team is doing, how cool is it to start your pro career — team is 7-1, won six straight and everything is just rolling. It’s a great locker room and a great bunch of guys. How cool is it to start this way?

Gerry: It’s great, It’s like you said, especially being a rookie coming in, there’s a lot of things on your plate. It helps having a lot of wins, but I think a lot of it has to do with the players inside of this locker room and the coaches who brought us all here. I think they did a tremendous job of getting the right people. I think that’s one of the reasons for our success; our locker room, and how close everybody is and how everybody works together. There’s a lot of credit that goes upstairs, too, but we put it together on the field. 

Roob: Well we appreciate a few minutes, Nate Gerry. And by the way, the Penn Relays, the biggest track meet in the world every April in Philadelphia, if you decide to run, if you wanna run the 100m, the 200m, the 4x200m or something, I can get you a spot in there.

Gerry: I’m going to have to save my hamstring after football season. I don’t know if I can get it to do that anymore.

Roob: Probably a good idea. Thanks for your time.

Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

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Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

The Eagles may boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL these days, but that ranking will be put to the test Sunday by the Chicago Bears (see matchups to watch).

“If we can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long day,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said this week. “Let’s not get that mistaken.”

Few teams are as committed to the ground attack as the Bears, and even fewer are more productive. Since rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky became the starter in Week 5, Chicago ranks seventh in the league in rushing attempts. For the entire 2017 season, the offense is fifth with 131.8 rushing yards per game.

The Eagles are limiting opponents to nearly half that total at 71.0 yards per game. They’ve also faced only a smattering of backfields as talented as Chicago’s, if any. Plus, many offenses have abandoned the run — a strategy the Bears aren’t likely to attempt regardless of the score.

“We know they’re going to run the football,” Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “They even run the football a lot of times on third-and-long. It’s something they’re going to do.

“There’s a reason why they’re fifth in the league in rushing.”

Given the nature of their passing attack, the Bears’ best shot at pulling off an upset at Lincoln Financial Field is to keep the Eagles' offense on the sideline.

“Even if it’s not getting you a whole lot," Jenkins said, "if you can slowly move the chains and control the game, I think that’s something that they’ll continue to do.”

Trubisky, selected with the second-overall pick in the draft, has begun making strides in recent weeks. He completed 60.0 percent of his passes and avoided throwing an interception in each of the last two games, both one-possession losses. In fact, the Bears haven’t lost any of Trubisky’s six starts by more than eight points, and are 2-4 since he’s taken over.

Trubisky wasn’t asked to throw the ball much in those two victories, either — a combined total of 23 pass attempts. Instead, Chicago was able to lean on running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

“It’s kind of like a thunder and lightning situation," Bradham said, "kind of what we had here at the beginning of the season with (LeGarrette Blount) and (Darren Sproles).”

Howard is the workhorse back and is often overlooked as one of the NFL’s bright, young stars due to the quality of his team. The 23-year-old was the runner-up to the rushing champion as a rookie in 2016 with 1,313 yards. Ten games into his second season, he’s up to 841 yards with a 4.4 average and five touchdowns.

A fourth-round pick from FCS school North Carolina AT&T in 2017, Cohen has immediately emerged as one of the league’s scariest change-of-pace/receiving backs. The 5-foot-6, 181-pound ball carrier has 537 total yards from scrimmage and leads the team with 33 receptions.

The duo is featured prominently in just about everything the Bears do on offense.

“They put both backs on the field at the same time a little bit, too,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “Sometimes it's two-back sets, sometimes it's one.

“Traditionally there's a fullback back there in two-back sets, but not so much with the Bears. They can put two guys back there. It spreads you a little bit thin. You have to be very assignment-sound. It'll test us in the run game.”

Cohen, in particular, has caused defenses some problems because, much like Sproles for the Eagles, he can line up all over the formation. Some teams have even opted to roll coverages to his area of the field, though that might be as much about Chicago’s dearth of receivers as it is respect for the 22-year-old.

Whatever the case, Jenkins doesn’t expect the Eagles to roll coverages, adding that’s not something they’ve done all season. Regardless, with three run or pass plays of 35 yards or more this season, Cohen is a home run threat — although the Eagles aren't giving up many home runs (see story).

“He’s definitely a matchup issue, and they put him all over the place,” Jenkins said. “He’s at receiver, he’s in the backfield, he’s in the slot. Everybody is going to have to hold up. Whether he’s on a linebacker or a safety or a corner, we’ve seen him make plays at every position.

“He’s running post routes on corners and making the play. Then they’re able to line up and run the ball at pretty much anybody, so we’ll have our hands full with that.”

Howard is a threat to rip off long gains on the ground as well, with three runs of 50 and over. Then Trubisky is capable of taking off, too, with 163 yards rushing.

“His ability to make plays with his legs has been a positive,” Jenkins said. “He’s a mobile guy. When all else fails, he can escape the pocket and extend the play.

“Whether it’s scrambling for a first down, or scrambling to get somebody open, that’s always tough on the defense.”

Up until last week, it was beginning to look like there may not have been a running game in the league that the Eagles needed to fear. Then the Dallas Cowboys posted 112 yards last Sunday — tied for the most the Eagles have allowed all season and the most since Week 2. And Dallas was without All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is suspended.

Then again, if the Bears are only able to muster 112 yards rushing this week, the Eagles might consider that a victory in itself.

To put those numbers in perspective, exactly half of the league is allowing more than 112.0 yards rushing per game this season. In other words, the Bears are probably going to have to fare a lot better than that to knock off the Eagles.

“I think we set that bar awful high,” Schwartz said. “Some people might get a pat on the back for that.

“It's a tribute to the players in the locker room that that's a poor performance for them, and they consider it a poor performance.”

Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

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Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

After signing with the Eagles about a week and a half ago, Will Beatty has been working hard to catch up. 

He's learning a new offense, new terminology, new teammates. 

And a new building. 

"I'm still trying to figure out where everything is here," Beatty said. "A lot of the doors here are not labeled, so it's like 'where does this door lead?'"

Eventually, the 32-year-old offensive tackle finds where he's going. For the most part, he just tries to follow his teammates. When he's the only player around, he begins to worry and checks the schedule to make sure he's not missing something. 

Beatty isn't alone. He was brought in last week a day after the Eagles signed veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Both players are veterans over 30. Both players have won a Super Bowl. And both are playing catch-up. 

How has it been going? 

"Really good," head coach Doug Pederson said. "In both cases, picking up the offense with Will and the defense with Dannell. Dannell has probably gotten a couple of reps with our defense in the past couple of weeks. Both of them are doing really, really well."

While Ellerbe has gotten some practice reps, don't expect him to have a role with the defense just yet. Pederson on Friday morning said Ellerbe's role is still to get comfortable with the defense. 

While Jim Schwartz said Ellerbe was going to learn all three linebacker positions, Ellerbe has been focusing more on MIKE and SAM. The former Saint said he likes to learn the entire concept of the defense. The biggest hurdle is learning the new terminology. 

"I've been sitting out since OTAs, so it's been a while," Ellerbe said. "It's like riding a bike. Just repetition."

Both players were inactive against the Cowboys, less than a week after their arrivals. It is yet to be seen if either will have roles down the stretch. 

When Beatty eventually finds his way to the practice field, he has been working with the Eagles' second-team offense, which means he's going against the Eagles' first-team defense every day. That's a good way to shake off some rust. 

For now, second-year player Joe Walker has been playing the MIKE position in the Eagles' base defense. If Ellerbe were to ever get on the field, it would likely be in that spot. But Walker has been playing OK since Jordan Hicks went down. 

During meetings, Beatty pretty much stays quiet when he has questions. He writes down what he doesn't understand and then brings it to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland afterward so he doesn't slow down the entire group. It's basically like seeing a teacher after class for extra help. 

One of the tough parts about joining a team in the middle of the season is everyone is already settled into a routine. Beatty and Ellerbe are working just to catch up. 

"It's a little different, but would much rather be doing this than anything else," Beatty said. "This is a great organization. Everyone welcomed me with open arms."