Eagles show why they're perfect for Super Bowl mania

Eagles show why they're perfect for Super Bowl mania

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Officially, it's called Super Bowl Opening Night. Monday night, it seemed more like a joyous Eagles office party.

They laughed together at some of the more absurd interview requests. They videotaped each other with their phones. They cracked each other up watching their teammates answer questions in other languages.

This Eagles team is so close, and it seems determined to enjoy every last second it has together as much as possible.

“What we have? It’s rare, man," Nigel Bradham said. "Honestly. And it really comes from … you know what? Honestly? It’s tough to say. I really don't know where it does come from. I wish I knew. If I knew, every team would have it. 

"But it’s a bond like no other, man. It's a bond like no other."

The entire franchise gathered Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Everybody on the active roster, the practice squad and the rather large contingent on injured reserve.

For the Patriots, it was just another media day. For the Eagles, it was incredibly special. A celebration of exactly what is possible if a bunch of people work together for a common goal.

And the fact that a couple thousand Vikings fans who paid a few bucks to watch booed every time an Eagles player was introduced wasn't going to ruin this party.

"This is my first year here, and it shocked me when I came here how close this team was," Corey Graham said. "Right from the beginning I saw how nice and how cool all the guys were. From Day 1.

"The day I got here, I'm walking down the hallway (at the NovaCare Complex) and you can't walk past someone without them introducing themselves and talking to you. From Carson (Wentz) to everyone else. 

"Little things like that mean a lot when you're with a new team. We do everything together. We hang out, go out to eat together, we go to our kids’ birthday parties together. 

"It’s crazy. It’s like a brotherhood here. It makes all of this sweeter because when all is said and done, that’s who we’re playing for. That’s who we’re fighting for. When you're closer, it means more because you don’t want to let your brothers down, so you really persevere to make sure you’re held accountable."

It really is crazy. The Eagles are one win away from their first NFL championship in 57 years. And they got there without half a dozen of their best players.

It really does show just how powerful togetherness can be in sports. It takes a lot more than a bunch of injuries to break this bond.

“I just think it comes from the caliber of person that’s in the locker room," vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. 

"When you get guys that fight so hard for each other and fight so hard for the city and guys who just love football, this is what you get. 

"I think the best teams every year have this kind of close-knit mentality. It’s something that Howie (Roseman) and I and Doug (Pederson) and Jeffrey (Lurie) talked about, just bringing in a certain type of person, guys with a lot of character."

This is Donnie Jones' 14th NFL season with five different teams (see story), and he said he's never experienced anything like he's experienced this year.

"From way back at the beginning of the year, we heard our coach was no good, our team, who knew if we were any good?" Jones said. 

"Even throughout the year, I don’t know about the respect factor for our team. I think the resilience of this team is really amazing. When I think about all the people we lost, all starters, all great players, and we lost them all and to have guys step in and fill their roles and be here now?"

He paused and gazed around the floor of the Xcel Energy Center and saw several of his teammates goofing around with the international media, all of them with big smiles on their faces.

"It’s just special, and that’s what a team’s all about," he said. "I’ve been on a lot of teams, played a lot of years, and this is a special group. The most special I’ve been around. I’m just blessed I was here this year to experience this with these guys and play one more game.”

And that's Super Bowl LII. Eagles-Patriots. Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"It’s really family to us and I think that’s the real reason this is so special," Bradham said. "Roomful of brothers. Imagine all your brothers in the Super Bowl? That’s what it is." 

Young guys. Old guys. First-round draft picks. Undrafted players. Guys from all over the country. East Coast. West Coast. Small schools. Big schools. 

Somehow, it all works perfectly.

"It’s just a great group," Graham said. "I can honestly tell you there’s not one bad apple on this team, and that’s rare when you have a locker room. That’s rare. 

"There’s not one person I can honestly say, 'Oh he’s a jerk.’ Special group. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Jones has been in the NFL longer than any of his teammates. He had been a part of only one postseason win before this year, and he seemed to be enjoying media night as much as anybody.

“When I first signed here, Mr. Lurie said he saw this as an extension of his family and I truly feel that way," Jones said. "It’s not like this everywhere.

"That’s why football really is so great. So many guys, from different places, different upbringings, different parts of the country, and you work together to achieve that one goal, which is to win games on Sundays. 

"Everybody has meshed and gelled better than any of us could have imagined. We’ve accomplished a lot so far but we still have one more game to go to finish this thing off.”

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

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Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Darby to Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

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Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.