Eagles

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: No big egos fueling NFL-best

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: No big egos fueling NFL-best

You've probably heard a lot about how balanced and unselfish the Eagles are this season. They're 9-1 and haven't had a receiver go over 100 yards in a game. 

In a way, it's what makes them such a dangerous team. 

Opposing defenses can take away Zach Ertz. Or they can take away Alshon Jeffery. Or they can take away Nelson Agholor. 

They just can't take away everyone. 

And Carson Wentz has been comfortable throwing to all of his receivers all season. That balance has been key for the Eagles, but if Wentz doesn't trust his teammates, it doesn't happen. 

"Trust is never just given right away. It's got to be earned," Wentz said this week. "I think we've earned that throughout OTAs. We talked a lot about it, but going to North Dakota this summer, getting that bond with some of those receivers, training camp and everything. I think we've really developed a lot of trust with each other, the whole offense, receivers and tight ends especially. The more games, the more guys get thrown in, I don't really think twice about who's in there. I just kind of know the progression, know the read and just trust those guys." 

Whoever gets open, gets the ball. 

Wentz doesn't care if it's Alshon or Marcus Johnson. That trust has helped the Eagles become one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. 

It also wouldn't work with selfish players who demanded the ball. The Eagles haven't had a problem with that all season. Even Jeffery, who is in a contract season, hasn't caused a problem. In fact, Wentz said he's the perfect example of a team-first guy. When a teammate scores, it's Jeffery who gets to the end zone to help orchestrate the celebration. 

"I think it's really cool for me to see how excited guys get when other guys score," Wentz said. "Maybe another guy was open on the play, but his buddy scored and we're all celebrating together. I think that's just a sign of a really close team and I think we are."

Answering the Qualls
During training camp, rookie Elijah Qualls missed a few weeks with an injury, but when he came back, he looked much better and made the 53-man roster. Upon his return, Qualls said his time away gave him a different perspective and helped him improve. 

He's hoping that will be the case now. 

Qualls hasn't been active since the Arizona game. That's five straight games without suiting up. But that's likely going to change this weekend. Beau Allen (knee) is officially listed as questionable but after missing practice all week, it seems unlikely he's going to play. That should mean Qualls will be up. 

"I'm still learning how to be a professional," Qualls said. "And being able to watch how the group handles each week, both physically and mentally, as far as preparing for each team and recovering for games and everything like that and progressing each week. Being able to see that and how they do that and how people go about it with different approaches, I'm just taking all that and implementing it myself in a way that when it's my time to start playing, I can be as efficient as possible. 

"There's definitely things you can take from every experience. I'm not looking at this one as a bad one."

The last time Qualls was active he played 14 snaps against the Cardinals. That was the last game of a four-game stretch where he's seen his only game action. 

"I'm always looking forward to playing," he said. "I'm just excited to go out there and contribute. Obviously, it's a special team we have, so to be able to say I helped contribute, it's awesome." 

Two-point stance
After Jake Elliott went down in Dallas, the Eagles were left without a kicker, which changed normal procedure. Most notably, they went for two-point conversions after all four of their second-half touchdowns and converted thrice. 

So instead of four extra points, the Eagles walked away with six points. And over Doug Pederson's tenure in Philly, the Eagles are 10 for 13 going for it on two; that's 20 points instead of 13. 

Given their success on two-point conversions, it might make some sense to buck conventional wisdom and start trying it more often. Pederson has thought about it. 

"Yeah, I have," he said earlier in the week. "Of course, you always go into a game with a few in your pocket." 

He even cited the numbers, saying if the team is around 95 percent on extra points, the two-point conversion rate needs to be around 48 percent to work. 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said the team has around 15-20 two-point conversion plays. While defenses obviously differ, Reich said there are a handful of coverages teams will use in that part of the field. 

While the Eagles have had success, it might stand to reason that if they started going for two more often, opposing teams would have more film of what types of plays the Eagles prefer in those situations, which could hurt the percentage. 

Aside from that, looking at the overall numbers sometimes discounts the importance of a single game. For instance, if a team goes 10 for 15 on two-point conversions, it doesn't mean much if they lose a game when they go 0 for 2. 

Still, it's food for thought. 

"It's something we'll look at going forward," Pederson said. 

Quote of the Week I: 
"I texted him right after the game. I was like, 'look at you with the golden toe.'"

— Chris Maragos about Kamu Grugier-Hill, who was forced to kick off against the Cowboys.

Quote of the Week II: 
"I honestly didn't even know that. I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

— Wentz on leading all players in Pro Bowl voting 

Quote of the Week III: 
"I don't know. We've got good tacklers."

— Jim Schwartz on why his defense has found success tackling 

Random media guide note: 
Alshon Jeffery's favorite movies are "Friday" and "The Notebook."

Can Eagles afford to keep surging Trey Burton?

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Can Eagles afford to keep surging Trey Burton?

He doesn't get that many chances. When they come, he never fails to produce.

Welcome to the world of Trey Burton, who is essentially the Eagles' third tight end but is talented enough that he could probably start for a lot of teams out there.

With Zach Ertz out with a concussion, Burton had a career day Sunday, with five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Burton's previous high was 65 yards against the Redskins last year, but Sunday's game came on the heels of a 4-for-42 performance a week earlier in Seattle. Two weeks before that, he was 2-for-41 with a touchdown against the Broncos.

Here's a list of previous Eagles tight ends with 70 yards and two TDs in a game in the last 50 years: Charle Young vs. the Saints in 1973, John Spagnola vs. the Saints in 1985, Chad Lewis vs. the Giants in 2000 and Ertz vs. the Cowboys the last day of last season.

"I just did whatever needed to be done," Burton said. "Zach was out, which we don’t like, we love having Zach in there, he makes so many plays. But somebody needed to step up and Brent and I both did what we needed to do."

Brent Celek caught a touchdown pass and Burton caught two, making this the first game in four years in which Eagles' tight ends caught three TDs. In early December 2013, Ertz had two TDs and Celek had one against the Cardinals.

Burton is a remarkable story.

Undrafted out of Florida. Didn't catch a pass until his 26th NFL game. Didn't have a touchdown until his 32nd NFL game. Didn't surpass 50 receiving yards until his 38th NFL game.

But in 20 games since Week 8 of last year, Burton has 42 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns.

That's awfully good production for a third tight end. And he still plays fewer snaps than Celek.

"We're probably the only team in the league that can have one of the best tight ends go down and not play in a game and feel the degree of confidence that we have in the guy that's stepping up for him as far as a route runner with Trey and then with the things Brent can do," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

"Trey deserves a lot of credit. He's got a great skill-set and is a great playmaker."

Despite averaging only 20 snaps per game on offense (along with 20 more on special teams), Burton is 12th in the NFL among all tight ends with four touchdown catches.

Nobody on the roster has better hands than Burton, who in recent weeks has made challenging catches seem routine.

“Celek and I are just good players," Burton shrugged. "I think Zach would do the same thing if he (played vs. the Rams)."

Burton could start for a lot of teams. But he said he doesn't get frustrated at his lack of playing time or targets.

“Can’t control it," he said. "I can’t pout, I can’t be angry. I’m sitting behind one of the best in the NFL right now. Love that dude to death, extremely happy for him and Celek, all the opportunities that they get. Couldn’t be happier for them."

Then there's his contract.

Burton is playing on a one-year, $2.746 million deal he got this past offseason.

It's a deal that really reflects his value on special teams as well as a situational tight end. And it's an unusual amount of money for a backup tight end.

But the way he's played so far this year, Burton would be in line for a long-term deal worth much more this coming offseason.

Will it be here? Will it be elsewhere? Will the Eagles cut ties with Celek — who's been here since 2007 — in order to free up money to keep Burton? Releasing Celek would clear $4 million in cap space the Eagles desperately need. Or can Howie Roseman squeeze all three tight ends under the Eagles' 2018 salary cap?

Celek turns 33 next month and is still a capable blocker and receiver, but Burton just turned 26 and keeps getting better.

It would be tough to let Burton go.

Whatever is going to happen, Burton says he isn't even thinking about it.

“No, not at all," he said. "I can’t control that right now.”

The Eagles have a few months before they have to make these decisions.

And there's a first-round bye and home-field advantage to clinch at the moment.

"Trey’s a tremendous athlete," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He works extremely hard. He’s a core special teams player for us. Really, Trey hasn’t probably gotten a lot of offensive plays this year, but when he has … he’s made the most of his opportunity.

"He did that (against the Rams). Real proud of the way Trey played."

Why Bryan Braman? No Wentz means smaller margin of error

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Why Bryan Braman? No Wentz means smaller margin of error

With Carson Wentz out for the season, the Eagles don't have much margin of error. That probably explains why the club brought Bryan Braman back on Tuesday.

That and the Eagles' special teams hasn't been so special for a while. In fact, breakdowns have become an almost weekly occurrence.

Over the last five games alone, the Eagles have allowed a kick or punt return of 39 yards or more three times. We can safely assume a blocked punt returned for a touchdown against the Rams on Sunday was the final straw based on the addition of Braman, a long-time special teams ace.

Braman spent three seasons with the Eagles from 2014 to 2016, playing almost exclusively on special teams. Ordinarily an anonymous role, he gained a reputation for frequently being the first man down the field on the coverage units.

It's no secret what the Eagles were looking for when they reached out to Braman this week.

"They need help on special teams," Braman said Wednesday after his first practice back. "They know that I'm a pretty high energy guy, and they're looking forward to having some help on coverage and bringing a little bit of energy — things that I've been known for."

Braman recorded 16 special teams tackles with a fumble recovery and a blocked kick in three seasons with the Eagles. He became a free agent and signed with the New Orleans Saints in August, only to wind up on injured reserve with a hurt shoulder before the season began, then released.

Listed as a linebacker, Braman typically doesn't play on defense at all, and he's 30, so there's not much upside beyond his niche. However, the seventh-year veteran is familiar with Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp and should be ready to play immediately.

"That's one of the biggest reasons they brought me back is because I know the system," Braman said. "Been in it for three years, so it's not something that they would expect to have to bring me in and let me sit on inactive."

The Eagles needed somebody to help turn around a unit that has been uncharacteristically shaky.

Since Fipp was hired in 2013, the Eagles have consistently fielded one of the top special teams units in the NFL. That's not been the case in '17, largely because of injuries to return specialist Darren Sproles and captain Chris Maragos.

Obviously, the Eagles have suffered a drop-off in talent as a result. But there's also been a certain confidence or swagger missing, as the team has been forced to rely on more inexperienced players.

"I don't know if it's more so for the attitude, kind of give the young guys direction, let them know how things are supposed to be done," Braman said.

The Eagles could maybe get away with having less than stellar special teams when Wentz was leading the offense to 30 points every week. Now, the formula for winning changes — the Eagles will likely be more reliant on running the football, sound defense, and most importantly, eliminating momentum-altering plays.

In other words, the Eagles can't afford to let special teams beat them. And with Wentz landing on IR, a spot opened on the 53-man roster, so why not address arguably the biggest problem area?

Whatever the circumstances, Braman is glad to be back in the league.

"You kind of feel homeless when you don't have a team to play for," Braman said. "I'm just happy to finally have a place to call home."