Even without Carson Wentz, Eagles have enough to reach Super Bowl

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Even without Carson Wentz, Eagles have enough to reach Super Bowl

It's been a couple days now since Carson Wentz got hurt, and it's taken a couple days to kind of sort out exactly where I feel the Eagles are right now.

I asked myself two questions:

1) Could Carson Wentz have won a Super Bowl? The answer was an unequivocal yes.

2) Can Nick Foles win a Super Bowl? The answer I honestly came up with was no.

Then I added another question:

3) Can the Eagles win a Super Bowl with Nick Foles at quarterback?

This is a different question and a more relevant question, and you know what? I think the answer might be yes.

I think back to a conversation I had with John Harbaugh in the parking lot at the NovaCare Complex the morning after Donovan McNabb broke his ankle against the Cardinals in 2002. McNabb had thrown four touchdowns and led a 38-14 win at the Vet hobbling around on what was believed to be a sprained ankle but turned out to sideline McNabb for six weeks.

The Eagles were 7-3 but were faced with a stretch run with Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley as the quarterbacks.

Harbaugh was as passionate then as an unknown special teams coach as he is now as a Super Bowl-winning head coach, and I can hear his voice clear as day 15 years later.

"You know what? This is not a knock on Donovan because he's a great quarterback. A great quarterback," Harbaugh said Nov. 18, 2002. "But we're going to go 6-0 the rest of the way. Do you know why? Because the strength of this team isn't Donovan McNabb. The strength of this team is the team. It's the team."

I never forgot those words.

And you know what? He was very nearly right. The Eagles won their next five games, the first in San Francisco on a Monday night with Detmer at quarterback and then the next four with the unheralded former fifth-round pick Feeley at the helm. They would have won 'em all if David Akers hadn't missed a 35-yard field goal against the Giants at the Meadowlands with a minute left on the final day of the season.

McNabb came back for the playoffs, and the Eagles wound up losing to the Bucs in the NFC Championship Game.

But Harbaugh's point was spot on, and I think it's just as relevant today as it was back in 2002.

This is a team, and it's a terrific team, and Wentz was a huge part of it. He had a magical season. He was dazzling. He may have been at his best Sunday afternoon in L.A. before he got hurt.

But they are 11-2 for a lot of other reasons, and there are 52 other guys in that locker room who have been working incredibly hard since the spring building a team with a tremendous amount of spirit and determination and togetherness, and that's not going to just go away because Wentz got hurt.

Fletcher Cox isn't going to stop being a monster at defensive tackle. Jay Ajayi isn't going to stop trampling people when he gets the football. Jalen Mills isn't going to stop covering wide receivers with confidence and swagger. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson aren't going to stop burying opposing defensive linemen that try to get through the wall on the right side of the offensive line.

If there's one thing we've learned these last few months, it's that this is a true team, with guys who believe in each other and more than anything, believe in their coach.

When you have that — and good players — anything is possible.

So when I consider the question … Can the Eagles win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles … I look at it differently.

First of all, can this football team beat the Giants? Sure. Can they beat the Raiders? Definitely. Can they beat the Cowboys at home (if they even need the game)? Why not?

And then can they win two playoff games at home? Can they beat, say, the Falcons and Vikings with a former Pro Bowl quarterback who's won his last eight starts at the Linc and played pretty well in the playoffs a few years ago when he had the chance?

Yeah. They can.

Then what? Can they beat the Steelers or Patriots in Super Bowl LII?

You know what? If they're good enough to get to Minneapolis, they're good enough to win.

Am I overrating what the Eagles have with Wentz out of the lineup? Who knows. Maybe. 

But being around this team every day since the summer, I know one thing: It's a mistake to doubt them. It's a mistake to say they can't accomplish something.

They can do this.

Eagles careful to maintain team culture through NFL draft

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Eagles careful to maintain team culture through NFL draft

Measuring their speed, strength and verticle jump, that’s the easy part.

The far more difficult aspect for NFL teams preparing for the draft or free agency is finding guys who can fit into what they want to do on the field, but who can also fit into a team’s culture.

And for an Eagles team coming off a Super Bowl championship, it’s one of the big challenges of the offseason.

The Eagles have built a powerful chemistry and culture over the past two years that was pivotal in their drive to the franchise's first championship in 57 years.

It was a remarkably close team, a remarkably unselfish team. And now the Eagles are in the process of trying to add talent without ruining that unique chemistry.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said Thursday the Eagles’ scouting department spends a tremendous amount of time and resources not just evaluating players’ physical attributes but trying to determine whether they’re good fits for what the Eagles have built.

“I think that’s one of the conversations that we probably have the most,” Roseman said. “Background’s really important. We’ve had some guys who’ve come here, who’ve maybe had a (bad) reputation and fit really well, and there’s also the flip side of that.

“So you try to balance all of those and really rely on coach (Doug) Pederson and his leadership council and the ownership he gives them.”

Roseman revealed that he, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas and Pederson actually involve players already on the roster in the decision-making process.

“We talk to our players about a lot of things, and we talk to them about guys that we’re going to potentially bring in,” Roseman said. “We try to pick their brain.”

It’s not a perfect process. Every team has been burned by a Darryl Worley. But the Eagles clearly are doing a better job than most teams getting 53 unique individuals to mesh together.

“I accept responsibility for the mistakes we made, that’s on me,” Roseman said.

“But we try to get a lot of information and then also talk to our players so a lot of these moves that we’ve made the last two years … and that’s probably not the norm in the National Football League, but that’s really from the leadership of coach Pederson and what he wants us to do.”

Roseman mentioned something called the “Co-habitation Matrix,” devised by Douglas and Eagles director of football administration Jake Rosenberg — "and Keanu Reeves," Roseman joked. That’s basically a way to connect anybody in any role within the organization that has had any previous experience at a previous spot with potential new additions.

It’s all a part of minimizing the risk of shattering the franchise’s powerful culture.

“That’s something that we work so hard to build and it could be the hardest thing to build and it could be the easiest thing to lose and that’s something that we have been working hard on,  is just pinpointing the guys that can come in and just add to our culture,” Douglas said Thursday.

“Chemistry really isn’t a thing you can quantify. It’s not an objective thing, but you know when you’ve got it and obviously for us to do what we did last year we had it. So now it’s us trying to keep adding to it.”

Eagles-Jaguars London game time and date set

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Eagles-Jaguars London game time and date set

Now, everything is official.

After finding out in January the Eagles are headed to London, the NFL on Thursday morning confirmed the time and dates for its three regular-season games overseas this season.

The Eagles will square off at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 28. Kick off is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

It will be the Eagles' first London game. Jacksonville has been playing in London in each of the past five seasons.

The other two games are the Titans and Chargers, played on Oct. 12, and the Seahawks and Raiders, set for Oct. 14. 

The NFL will announce its 2018 schedule Thursday night at 8 p.m.