First-timers headline Eagles named to Pro Bowl

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First-timers headline Eagles named to Pro Bowl

In the middle of the NovaCare Complex, there's a hallway the Eagles walk through every day to get from the team auditorium to the locker room. 

On one side of the long hallway are photos of every Eagle to ever make a Pro Bowl, with the years listed next to them. 

There are going to be some new faces in that hallway pretty soon. 

Because of the six Eagles to be named to Pro Bowl rosters this season, four are first-timers. It should come as no surprise the Eagles, sitting at 12-2, will be pretty well-represented in the annual all-star game. Only the Steelers (eight) have more Pro Bowlers. 

Carson Wentz (more on him here), Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are first-year Pro Bowlers, while Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins are veterans, heading back to the game. 

This is the first time since 2004 — Ike Reese, Brian Westbrook, Michael Lewis and Lito Sheppard — the Eagles have four first-time Pro Bowlers. 

• Can we finally call this a breakout season from Ertz? The 27-year-old has 63 catches for 719 yards and a career-high eight touchdown catches in just 12 games this season. Even after missing two games with injury, Ertz has doubled his previous career high in touchdowns and was clearly one of Wentz's favorite targets. While fan voting is just 1/3 of the entire procedure, Ertz finished with 486,011 fan votes, more than any other NFC tight end. 

“It's rewarding," Ertz said in a statement released by the team. "I think any person wants to see the 'hard work' pay off, but at the end of the day I've had catches and yards and touchdowns before but I've never had a team like this. The ultimate goal is to win football games in this league. If you don't win, nothing really matters. That's what's been so rewarding this year. I've been a really big contributor on a really good football team. I think that whole process has been really fulfilling.”

• This season, Johnson has been on a mission to prove himself after serving a 10-game suspension for a second PED violation last year. What he's proven is he's one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. It's a little rare for right tackles to get this type of recognition, but Johnson, 27, certainly deserves it. Playing on the right side has made him go against some of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, like Von Miller, Ryan Kerrigan and Demarcus Lawrence. Johnson hasn't been shy about his ambition to be named to the Pro Bowl this season. With his selection, Johnson hit a $250,000 escalator in his contract. 

“It’s been one of my goals to be called one of the best in the world at what you do, so it’s pretty special,” Johnson said. 

• Brooks, 28, came to the Eagles as a free agent last season and has really proven his worth in 2017. He's been an absolute rock for the Eagles at right guard. After missing two games in 2016 with what ended up being anxiety issues, Brooks has very publicly talked about his problem in an attempt to de-stigmatize them. On the field, he's been tremendous. The most impressive thing about him might be his athleticism as the biggest player on the roster. With his selection, Brooks hit a $250,000 escalator in his contract. 

“I was excited but I come from a unit where we all are straight brothers," Brooks said. "So it’s not like an individual accolade. It’s (offensive line coach Jeff) Stoutland coaching me up, getting me right, refining my technique and things like that. Playing alongside Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce helps tremendously and Carson playing well and making plays. So although it’s kind of an individual honor, I wouldn’t be able to do it without playing in between these two guys and guys making plays in the backfield, too.”

• While he doesn't pile up a ton of stats at his defensive tackle position, go ask a bunch of offensive guards about Cox. They'll all say the same thing. He's still an absolute beast. Now, is he worth $100 million? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Cox is a huge part of the Eagles' defense and an absolute game-wrecker inside. The 27-year-old has 5½ sacks and is heading back to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. 

• It's hard to quantify just how important Jenkins is to the Eagles' defense. He barely ever leaves the field on defense and even contributes on special teams. He plays safety, nickel corner and even plays linebacker at times. He's one of the most respected veterans on the team. This is his second Pro Bowl after making it through after being an alternate in 2015. This year, Jenkins has two interceptions and eight passes defensed. With his selection, Jenkins hit a $100,000 escalator in his contract. 

While six Eagles made the Pro Bowl, there were a couple pretty obvious snubs. Defensive end Brandon Graham and center Jason Kelce were certainly deserving. Special teamer Kamu Grugier-Hill also had a pretty strong case. 

Graham, who leads the team with 9½ sacks, deserved to make his first Pro Bowl roster. Aside from those 9½ sacks, he's been the Eagles' most disruptive defensive lineman and has been a force every week. 

Kelce has been playing at a higher level than he did in 2016, when he went to his second career Pro Bowl. He was one of the players offensive coordinator Frank Reich praised when asked about Pro Bowl-worthy players. 

And Grugier-Hill seemed to have a real shot at making the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace. He leads the Eagles in special teams snaps and has made some really big plays this season. 

This year's Pro Bowl will take place on Jan. 28 in Orlando, Florida. The Eagles hope none of their Pro Bowlers will be available for the game. They hope to be preparing for the Super Bowl that weekend. 

Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

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Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

The Eagles will be at a disadvantage on April 26, when the first round of the 2018 draft begins in Dallas. Thanks to winning the Super Bowl — remember that? It wasn’t a dream — they have the 32nd and last pick of the first round. 

It’s a disadvantage they hope to have every year. 

“Yeah, that’s the goal,” Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas said on Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll be picking in the late 20s and early 30s [every year].” 

There’s an art to hitting in the second half of the first round and it’s obviously harder to find success there than it is in the top half. The good news for the Eagles is that Douglas learned under Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, who is one of the best general managers in the NFL. Newsome’s team has often picked late in the first round and he’s often been able to find some great talent in that range. 

Ed Reed was picked at No. 24, Todd Heap at 31, Ben Grubbs at 29. There are more too. 

“Ozzie is patient,” Douglas said. “Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Browns and he should be a Hall of Famer for the Baltimore Ravens as a GM. He’s the absolute best. His first two picks (Reed and Terrell Suggs) are first-ballot Hall of Famers. He was able to have great success in the 20s. Those players you specifically named, they were not a move up or move down guys. Those were guys that Ozzie was patient and he let the board come to him. Some of those picks were met with greater fanfare than others.”

They can’t all be hits, of course. In 2013, the Ravens took safety Matt Elam, who played in 41 games for Baltimore in three seasons, but was out of the league by 2017. Many consider him a bust. It happens. But it’s hard to argue with the Ravens’ body of work. 

The Eagles haven’t been nearly as consistent picking in the 20s in recent years. Nelson Agholor was No. 20 in 2015 and finally fulfilled his potential last season. But before then, Marcus Smith was 26 in 2014 and Danny Watkins was 23 in 2011. The last time the Eagles came off a Super Bowl appearance, they picked DT Mike Patterson with the 31st pick in 2005. A decent player, never a star. 

Douglas thought there were a lot of hits late in the first round of last year’s draft, but admitted it “varies year to year.” 

For now, the Eagles own the 32nd pick, but they’re definitely not ruling out a possible trade. On Thursday, de facto GM Howie Roseman said the team is “open for business.” 

There’s also plenty of appeal for other teams who might want a specific position with No. 32 because of a possible fifth-year option in their contracts. A few years ago, the Vikings traded for No. 32 to get Teddy Bridgewater. This week, the groundwork for possible draft day trades will happen, Roseman said. The Eagles will have contact with other teams to gauge their interest in moving up or down around their area of the first round. 

If the Eagles don’t move up or down, they feel comfortable at 32. 

“I guess when you’re picking, any number you’re picking, whether it’s 14 last year or 32, you’ve got to have 32 guys to be excited to take,” Douglas said. “Right now, we have 32 guys we’d be fired up to get. How it plays out, we’ll find out.”

Coming off first Super Bowl win, Eagles aim to crush complacency

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Coming off first Super Bowl win, Eagles aim to crush complacency

The Eagles on Monday released a short video montage of players returning to the NovaCare Complex for the start of the team’s offseason workout program, the first time the team has been back together since winning Super Bowl LII. 

Playing over the video is a snippet from Doug Pederson’s speech to the team, in which he talks about sacrifice and starting over at ground zero. 

The 30-second video then ends with a shot of the Eagles’ new Super Bowl champion banner hanging in the weight room, while Pederson delivers the message, “The new normal starts today.” 

The Eagles have finally won a Super Bowl, so now what? 

Well, now they have to battle complacency on their quest to make a parade down Broad Street an annual occurrence. 

“For me, when I hear the ‘new norm,’ I’m not thinking about the end result, the championships and the parades and all that,” veteran leader Malcolm Jenkins said on Tuesday. “I’m thinking about the work it took to get to where we were. How we started last year in April and grinded and competed throughout. For me, that’s kind of the new norm and the standard and the base that we’re trying to start from this year as we try to defend that title.” 

Unlike many of his teammates, this isn’t the first time Jenkins is coming off a championship. The year after his Saints won the Super Bowl during his rookie season, they were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. 

Being that this isn’t the first time Jenkins is in this situation, he said he knows some of the “pitfalls” that come with trying to avoid the Super Bowl hangover. Aside from the obvious month less of recovery time, the Eagles also need to shift their mindset from celebration back to work. Jenkins doesn’t think that will be a problem. He thinks teams get their attitude from leaders. He thinks these Eagles want to “create something special.” He thinks they know how to do it. 

One thing that should help is getting back several key players who weren’t able to play in last year’s Super Bowl because of injuries. Their drive will be there. 

“I know for myself and (Jordan) Hicks and (Chris) Maragos, Jason Peters, it didn’t sit well with them either,” Carson Wentz said. “As much as we love our teammates and we were excited to see it, we wanted to be out there. We know that will kick things into gear. I don’t think complacency would have been an issue regardless, but I think that will definitely help.”

Jenkins this week didn’t want to even talk about repeating yet because there’s so long to go before we even know what the team will look like. 

But repeating remains the ultimate goal.  

“We’re extremely hungry for sustained success in this city,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’ve tasted it one time and that’s something you never want to give up. We’re hungry to repeat. … I don’t think we’ll ever have that mindset that we’ve arrived as a football team or as a city.”