Get ready to learn a lot about these Eagles

Get ready to learn a lot about these Eagles

We'll learn a lot about this Eagles team over the next few weeks and into the playoffs. 

This week we've already learned a little. 

It would be pretty understandable if the Eagles didn't have a very good week at practice. After all, they're down an MVP now. The team has overcome injuries to several key players throughout the season, but this is decidedly different. This time it was Carson Wentz. 

"It's tough," head coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "It's tough when you lose your starter. But the guys have really responded well offensively around Nick (Foles). And he's jumped in and commanded the huddle." 

There were probably a few downtrodden faces moping about through the NovaCare Complex this week. Really, it would be strange if there weren't. It's a lot, overcoming the loss of a guy like Wentz. But the way the Birds have handled this week should be encouraging for fans who were ready to pack it in and cancel Christmas. 

The overall excitement and cheerful attitude have come from Pederson. He won't let his players be depressed. And then it comes from Foles; as a veteran, he's taken over with confidence, which rubs off. 

Still, it's a pretty natural response for other guys to feel the need to step up when a key contributor like Wentz goes down. That's a good thing. The thing the Eagles have to make sure doesn't happen is guys trying to do too much. Pederson admitted there's a little bit of a fine line. 

"At the end of the day, I don't want guys to go above and beyond what they've been doing to help us win games," Pederson said. "They don't have to do anything more than just their job and their responsibility in whatever their role is in the game plan. That goes for Nick. It's been a while since he's been out there playing and you don't want him to press. You want to let the game unfold in front of you. The guys around him, I think as a team there's going to be that sense of rally. Let's support him, but let's support everybody." 

Several members of the Eagles' defense said this week that they don't feel any extra pressure going forward without Wentz. Again, it would be understandable if they did. Wentz was such a dynamic player this season that he could make up for mistakes. This team probably lost some leash when it comes to playing mistake-free football. 

But the Eagles' defensive players can't try to fill in for Wentz. They have to just play their role. 

"It's about everybody trusting the guy next to him and doing your job, not trying to do anything out of the ordinary," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "Not trying to be a superhero. Just go out there and do your job."

Pederson is happy his team already clinched the NFC East, but a win this weekend would earn a first-round bye. If the Eagles win and the Vikings lose this weekend, they can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

As of Friday, Pederson said he hadn't thought about if he'd rest starters in the season finale if things are already wrapped up. 

"You just have to stay the course, stay consistent," Pederson said of his message to the team. "We know what's ahead of us, we know what's in front of us. We still control a lot."

LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

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LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

A big piece of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season is moving on. 

Running Back LeGarrette Blount has signed with the Detroit Lions. Blount's deal will be for one-year, $4.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Blount, 31, was scheduled to visit the Lions on Friday and he didn’t leave without a new deal. He’ll reunite with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator in New England when Blount was there; the familiarity probably helped. 

Last offseason, Blount took his time deciding where he’d land. He didn’t sign with the Eagles until May and his contract was worth around $1 million. He apparently showed enough during 2017 to get a bigger deal this time around. 

After beginning the season as the Eagles’ primary runner, he eventually saw his role diminish after the Birds added Jay Ajayi through a trade. Still, Blount played in all 16 games and rushed for 766 yards during the regular season. More importantly, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Blount had a rushing touchdown in all three playoff games after having just two during the regular season. 

Perhaps more important than his contributions on the field, it was Blount’s unselfish nature that seemed to rub off on his teammates. When he and Alshon Jeffery were on board with that unselfish mindset, it seemed like the rest of the team followed. 

As recently as late February, Blount indicated he wanted to return to Philadelphia, where he really seemed to fit in the locker room and under running backs coach Duce Staley, whom Blount clearly respects. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there,” Blount said in February on NFL Network. “They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys.”

While Blount said he wanted to return to Philly, it was unlikely the Eagles could have (or would have) offered him the type of contract he’s getting from the Lions. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles still have Ajayi and Corey Clement under contract from last season. Kenjon Barner is a free agent. The running back position still seems up in the air, but the Eagles have a few months and a draft to figure it out. 

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

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Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate.