Eagles

The irony in Eagles' intense practices

The irony in Eagles' intense practices

Updated: 7:09 p.m.

For a couple hours, it was August again. It was training camp again. And the Eagles were getting back to basics.

The pads went on, the starters faced the starters, there was plenty of trash talking, and the Eagles on Wednesday began the process of trying to rediscover some lost magic with what the players said was a very physical, intense practice.

Rare or even unprecedented for this time of year.

"That was a very intense practice," Jason Kelce said. "We haven’t had one like that since training camp. On the verge of too intense.

"No fights, but whenever you go really, really hard, guys fall down, and you never want guys on the ground because you can get guys hurt, but I think we got a lot of really, really good work in."

The Eagles go into the playoffs having not played a complete game on both sides of the football in a month.

Since their nine-game winning streak, they lost by 14 to the Seahawks, won three games despite a bad day by either the offense or defense in all three, then lost, 6-0, to the Cowboys Sunday, when many of the starters either didn't play or were limited.

They still finished with 13 wins, the best record in football. But in an effort to get their mojo back, the Eagles got back to basics Wednesday and the players said they expect to again Thursday before taking three days off.

“It was intense, for sure," Zach Ertz said. "Most intense practice we’ve had probably in a long time. Full pads, 1’s against the 1’s. Since the season started, we’d only have a couple plays here and there during Wednesday and Thursday practices, 1’s against the 1’s whereas today the whole practice was.

"We did a lot of situation work, trying to get those situations with Nick (Foles), give him the opportunity to go through them with us. I thought it was a great practice. It was really intense. A lot of trash talking, as you would expect when the guys are heated like that."

Doug Pederson said Tuesday his so-called player's council — a group of veterans he meets with regularly — requested tougher practices this week.

There's an irony the Eagles worked all year to earn a bye week, and they're using it for some of their toughest practices of the year.

But they all believe this is what they need.

“We’ve had a little bit of time to rest," Lane Johnson said. "Even last week, we had a few walkthroughs compared to what we normally do in a regular week, and I think it was time to get a good practice in the bank, and that’s what we need, man.

"Get the physicality back so when the game comes, it’s not foreign to us.

"This is the second wave. This is what the whole season boils down to, so we want to be ready. We weren’t happy with our performances and, believe you me, we’re working hard to fix it. Just try to simulate a game and make it as hard as we can on ourselves."

It says a lot about this team that they preferred to work during the bye rather than go through a couple light workouts or even have days off.

But this is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2013 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2008.

It embraces the work.

"We’re eager," Ertz said. "We haven’t tasted postseason success yet, and we’re just eager for that first postseason win since I’ve been here. We haven’t had postseason success really since Brent (Celek) started playing.

"The guys are hungry."

The Eagles open postseason play at the Linc at 4:30 p.m. a week from Saturday against either the Panthers, Falcons or Saints. If they win, they'll host the NFC Championship game Jan. 21.

And if they're still playing, they'll likely look back to this week as a turning point.

"I think it’ll help all of us," Johnson said. "It felt like training camp out there. It was good. That’s what we need. Not getting the performances that we wanted, so that’s what we needed to do."

Signings
The Eagles on Wednesday evening signed four players to reserve/futures contracts: P Cameron Johnston, TE Adam Zaruba, CB Elie Bouka and WR Marquess Wilson. These players don't count against the 53-man roster and aren't eligible to play in the playoffs, but they can be with the team in OTAs and next training camp. They will count against the next 90-man roster. 

Zaruba and Johnston were with the team last offseason. Zaruba is the former Canadian rugby star, who tried to make the Eagles as a tight end. At 6-5, 260, he's a pretty good athlete, but is still learning the game. He's a name to watch.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro contributed to this story.

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

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Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

Rasul Douglas made a huge play during the special teams portion of Wednesday's practice. Going 1-on-1 against veteran special teamer Najee Goode, the Eagles' rookie plowed through him and sent Goode to the turf inside the practice bubble. 

Goode bounced up and locked down the next rep, but for a few seconds, there was pure exuberance on the practice field. A bunch of Douglas' teammates ran toward him and celebrated, while coaches gave him kudos. 

A couple hours later, Douglas didn't even remember it. 

"What play?" the rookie asked. 

After making sure he was serious, out came an iPhone to show Douglas this video: 

"Oh, I don't even remember that," he said. 

While Douglas might have been locked in and focused enough to forget about the most exciting play during the open portion of Wednesday's practice, it was the kind of play that got the whole team going. 

Without remembering the specific instance, Douglas rightly guessed that it was his defensive back teammates, who ran over to congratulate him and celebrate. 

"We get so happy when one of us makes a play because we work hard and we know our goals in our room," Douglas said. "And we know our energy transforms and just passes along to other people. You can get somebody energized and they get somebody else energized." 

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to have his team in pads Wednesday in an effort to keep the team's intensity and physicality high as the team gets ready for the NFC Championship Game. 

That play helped. 

"I think Coach Pederson talks about it all the time; match his intensity," linebacker Nate Gerry said. "So when you see something like that, I guess that's matching the intensity. It just kind of sets the tone for practice."

During the Eagles' first-round bye, the team's players council went to Pederson and asked for an extra day in pads. Pederson planned on one leading into the divisional round game against the Falcons, but his veteran leaders didn't want to go an extra week without that intensity, so the Eagles strapped on their pads. 

They did it again last week and they did it again Wednesday. 

All season the Eagles have believed they're going to play the way they practice, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker. Pederson and the Eagles — despite all the hoopla around the championship — tried to treat Wednesday like any other Wednesday. In part, that meant getting the pads on and going through a tough practice. 

"We ain't going to play on Sunday without pads, so you just have keep in tune with what you do," Douglas said. "I think pads are good." 

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

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Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has moved into the top 10 in NFL jersey sales this week, according to national sales figures from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

This week’s Dick’s Jersey Report shows Ertz making the biggest jump in the top 10, moving up 22 spots from No. 29 last week to No. 7 this week.

“There must have been a lot of women’s soccer fans buying jerseys this week,” Ertz said jokingly, referring to his wife Julie, a member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

Could be. It’s not like Ertz had a huge game Saturday. He caught three passes for 32 yards in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Falcons in the conference semifinal playoff round at the Linc. But he did make his first Pro Bowl this year and finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the miracle last-second pass from Case Keenum to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, also made a huge jump, moving from No. 23 to No. 4.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz remains in the No. 2 position in jersey sales, despite not playing since he tore his ACL Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Only Tom Brady’s jersey sold better over the past week.

The rest of the top 10 is Rob Gronkowski third, Antonio Brown fifth, Leonard Fournette sixth, T.J. Watt eighth, Julio Jones ninth and Le’Veon Bell 10th.

Wentz remains the top-selling jersey this year, according to Dick’s after finishing last year at No. 3. Tom Brady, the top-selling jersey last year, is No. 2, followed by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Gronkowski.

There are no Eagles other than Wentz and Ertz in the top 50.