Eagles

Chris Long is loving his 1st season in Philly

Chris Long is loving his 1st season in Philly

It's been quite a year for Chris Long. He signed with the Eagles after winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots and has earned a significant amount of playing time and recorded five sacks and four forced fumbles in the defensive line rotation. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to fund scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, and he even got a shoutout from President Obama for his charity work (see story)

This week Long spent "5 Minutes with Roob."

Roob: Hey, we're joined today by Eagles defensive end Chris Long. Hey, Chris! What's this year been like for you?

Long: I really like the city, I like the fans, obviously came here because it fit me scheme-wise, and I’ve been enjoying being a part of a really good football team that hopefully is going to play here for a while.

Roob: You won 37 games in eight years with the Rams, and you've won 27 games the last two years with the Patriots and Eagles. How sweet is it to finally be part of a couple winning teams?

Long: It certainly helps. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make the eight years any shorter from that standpoint, but I think everything happens for a reason and it makes me value this winning a lot more. So just appreciate what it’s taken to get here personally and it makes everything worth even more.

Roob: You've put up solid numbers in your 10th season at 32 years old. How do you feel like you've played? 

Long: I’m excited to be a part of this defense. I expected more out of myself maybe as far as statistically. I was shooting for more. A couple plays here and there that if I make those plays or if there aren’t penalties, we’re talking about even more. But at the end of the day, I’d say you come into a situation like this — new city, new coaching staff, nobody’s going to expect much out of you at 32 years old. People put labels on you and I just tried to play my way out of that.

Roob: Where do you feel like you guys are right now, a few weeks after you lost Carson Wentz for the season?

Long: Nick (Foles) came in in L.A. against a tough defense and was able to help secure the win and the next week really carried us in New York when we weren’t at our best defensively. Gave us an opportunity to win that game by putting up big numbers. We played really well on defense last week. Maybe the offense wasn’t at its best, but we created some turnovers and that’s what a team is, we pick each other up. It can change from week to week. We want to put that together and play our best game on both sides of the ball this week and going forward.

Roob: What do you like best about this team?

Long: I think personalities. Unselfishness. I do think Doug (Pederson) does a great job of keeping everybody resilient and even-keeled and I think that shows in the locker room. There’s never panic among players. I think we’re just a level-headed group and unselfish and come to work.

Roob: How much longer do you want to play?

Long: I take everything year to year. Honestly, it’s all about the situation. Do I think it’s worth it to play, and I’m not talking about money, I’m just talking about just enjoying myself and playing football the way I want to. My body feels great and I feel like, God willing, I could go another four sometimes, but you’ve got to take things year to year.

Roob: You've gotten a lot of publicity for donating your salary to charity and the charity work you've done. What does that mean to you?

Long: Most of my career I’ve tried to do things under the radar in the community. I always thought it was more important if you didn’t publicize it, but I learned a valuable lesson when I formed my own foundation and my Waterboys Initiative that you need to publicize things and get people involved, and through that power, we’ve been able to raise over $2 million for clean water. That doesn’t include my own money and as far as my Pledge 10 for Tomorrow Initiative that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of, I’ve donated my salary, which isn’t a ton of money, but at the end of the day I’ve been pretty much able to double that with fan support, and without doing that stuff publicly I can’t get a return on my investment in those causes. We’ve got a lot of great fans in the NFL and a lot of great peers in the NFL that care deeply about causes and if we all pitch in together that’s the power of sports.

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

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AP Images

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

Bill Belichick didn’t win a playoff game until his fourth year as an NFL head coach and didn’t reach a conference title game until his seventh year.

Don Shula didn’t win a playoff game until his sixth year as a head coach.

It took Dick Vermeil four years to win a playoff game, Dan Reeves six years, Tom Landry eight.

Heck, Pete Carroll didn’t reach a conference title game until his third head coaching stop, and Marv Levy didn’t even get to the playoffs until his eighth year as a head coach.

Just a little context.

Pederson has been magnificent this year, and out of everybody we talk about who’s played a role in the Eagles' success — from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles, Howie Roseman to Joe Douglas, Fletcher Cox to Malcolm Jenkins, Jim Schwartz to John DiFillippo, Jason Kelce to Alshon Jeffery — Pederson is the common thread that’s tied all of it together.

We saw last year that Pederson had a rare ability to keep a team together when faced with adversity. Whether it was the whole Sam Bradford situation before the season, Lane Johnson’s suspension, a couple arrests, two players publicly speaking out about mental health, or just keeping the thing on the rails after three straight late-season ugly losses, Pederson won over his players by confronting each issue openly and professionally and treating his players like grown men.

By the time the team training camp ended this past summer, Pederson had earned the respect of the veterans by preaching discipline without being over the top about it and by constantly keeping the lines of communication open with his players. 

Here’s a young, inexperienced coach who had a long but undistinguished playing career and no real track record or resume as a head coach trying to convince a locker room of Super Bowl winners and all-pros that he knows what he’s doing.

But he did that. Just by being himself. Tough, smart, open, honest.

And once you get guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to buy in, the younger guys just fall in line. 

And that might be the biggest challenge any head coach faces. Getting guys to believe in his message. To believe in him.

But Pederson has tremendous instincts when dealing with people, a real natural, honest way of getting his point across, and it enabled him to seamlessly win over the locker room. 

Once that happened, this team was built to withstand whatever challenge it faced. To withstand whatever roadblocks stood in its way.

And as it turned out, there were plenty of them. 

We don't have to run down the littany of season-ending injuries the Eagles faced, but what this team has accomplished without its MVP quarterback, its Hall of Fame left tackle, its best linebacker, its all-pro returner and its top special teamer is nothing less than astonishing.

Nick Foles is their quarterback and they're in the NFC Championship Game.

Think about the last month.

They came from behind in Los Angeles to beat the Rams after Wentz got hurt. They beat the Giants on the road. They beat the Raiders to clinch No. 1 seed. They "upset" the Falcons in a conference semifinal playoff game. 

For this football team to be one home win away from the Super Bowl after all it has been through speaks volumes about Pederson. He's guided this franchise through adversity that would have crushed some locker rooms, and he's done it in his second year as a head coach above the high school level.

Pederson found a way to get 53 guys to believe in themselves even when very few other people did. And they returned the favor by consistently playing smart, physical, disciplined football for him no matter who the opponent, no matter what the score, no matter how long that Injured Reserve list grew.

This has been a masterful year for Pederson, and anybody who can't see that just isn't looking very hard.

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

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USA Today Images

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

Jay Ajayi wasn't hurt Saturday night. So why did he barely play after a huge first quarter?

Ajayi dominated the first quarter of the Eagles' 15-10 playoff win over the Falcons at the Linc with seven carries for 49 yards. But after a one-yard carry a minute into the second quarter, he didn't touch the ball again until the third quarter.

After his hot start, he didn't even get on the field on the Eagles' last two drives of the first half.

LeGarrette Blount actually had more carries than Ajayi after the first quarter, but netted only 19 yards on nine attempts, although he did score the Eagles' only touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter.

Ajayi never got into a rhythm after his long layoff. He had eight carries for five yards after the first quarter and finished with 15 carries for 54 yards along with four catches for 44 yards, including a 32-yard catch and run that was the Eagles' longest offensive play of the game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Monday he just wanted to get Blount some work. He also said he likes to go hurry-up after long plays and was unable to sub Ajayi while the offense was going with tempo. But there weren't any plays longer than 15 yards while Ajayi sat.

Pederson said the decision on which back to use rests with him and not running backs coach Duce Staley.

“I ultimately control the personnel," he said. "Duce doesn’t sub them. I’m the one calling the plays, so I call for those guys in particular situations, and a couple times when we broke off a long run or a pass particularly — it’s a good time to go a little tempo. So whoever the back is at the time on the field, I just kept him in there.

"And [Blount] was heating up a little bit and we wanted to get him going as well and it’s just the way it went."

Ajayi had 35 of the 86 net yards on the Eagles' only touchdown drive of the game.

After that second-quarter TD drive, the Eagles ran 15 times for 17 yards, not including three Nick Foles kneel-downs.  

Pederson said all the backs know all the plays, but he just prefers different backs depending on what the Eagles are doing offensively. 

Of the Eagles’ 67 offensive plays, Ajayi played 29, Blount 20, Corey Clement 16 and Kenjon Barner one (see Snap Counts).

"The way it is set up is by design, by scheme design, a particular back might be good at a certain run scheme so we put that back in for that particular play," he said.