Eagles

From key roles to spectators for 3 Eagles

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From key roles to spectators for 3 Eagles

As the Eagles beat the Giants last week at MetLife Stadium, Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood and Rasul Douglas mostly watched. 

There are a few things those three players have in common. One, they're all young draft picks over the last two years. Two, they've all had big roles with the Eagles at some point this season. Three, they don't have those roles anymore. 

Seumalo, a third-rounder last year, began the season as the Eagles' starter at left guard but lost his job after two games. He's a backup now and played just four offensive snaps against the Giants. 

Smallwood, a fifth-rounder last year, was set to have a big role with the Eagles this season. After Darren Sproles went down, he was supposed to take over on third downs. But he's struggled to stay healthy and has been inactive for the last five games since Jay Ajayi got to town. 

And Douglas, a third-rounder this year, started and played well for the Eagles when Ronald Darby was out. But since Darby's return, Douglas has been on the bench. He was inactive last Sunday for the first time since the season opener. 

As a head coach, Doug Pederson is aware these three are in a tricky situation. It's his job to make sure they're staying invested now that they're mostly spectators. 

"Yeah, just having the open dialogue with them," Pederson said. "Still communicating with those three guys. As you've said, they’ve all had a little bit of a significant role this season already. But just making sure that they stay plugged in.
 
"Who knows what happens tonight obviously or next week where these guys might get a little more time. It takes everybody. They get good service team reps. Just make sure they stay plugged in from my standpoint and also their position coach."

Pederson said he has to treat younger players differently in these types of situations. Veterans who have been around the league seem to understand when these things happen. 

This is new for first- and second-year players. 

"They've come from college where they've been the starter and been the guy and now they're on a team where everybody is really good," Pederson said. "You have to kind of manage or massage that just a little bit."

Right in the action
On Monday night, when Lane Johnson takes his spot at right tackle, he'll have Khalil Mack staring back at him. 

Just the latest reminder of how tough the right tackle position can be. 

While teams have historically put their better tackle on the left side of the line to block the blindside of right-handed quarterbacks, there's a reason the Eagles didn't move Johnson over when Jason Peters went down this season. Johnson is the only right tackle to make the Pro Bowl this season. 

"I think the right tackle position needs to be reevaluated because you look at the guys we have to block," Johnson said. "Right tackles have to block key guys in the NFL now. I think left tackle, right tackle, the dilemma is changing. There's really nowhere to hide." 

Making the Pro Bowl has long been a goal for Johnson, but not just for him. He wants to kill the stigma of playing on the right side of the line. He hopes getting voted into this year's Pro Bowl could help others. 

"It feels good," Johnson said. "I hope this puts right tackles in the spotlight because there's a lot of good right tackles out there who are deserving as well. Maybe that will change now."

Out of the backfield
Since Sproles' season ended in Week 3, the Eagles have been missing an element of their offense. They just don't have a running back that's a huge threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. 

While Ajayi isn't Sproles — "No one could be Darren," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said — he has at least shown a little bit of pass-catching ability in the screen game. 

In five games with the Eagles, Ajayi has eight catches for 70 yards. During that same five-game span, the Birds' other three running backs have nine for 104. Corey Clement has six for 71, but just won't be on the field as much as Ajayi in the playoffs. 

"Jay pretty quickly showed that he had a knack for that," Reich said. "We feel comfortable mixing all of our backs in on the screens. Jay certainly did a great job. In the last couple games, he's had two really nice ones where the timing and the feel and his location. We talk a lot about exact spots to get to, adjusting. He's done a really good job."

Quote of the Week I: "It was just in my feelings." -- Darby on his mini Twitter rant

Quote of the Week II: "I'm not planning on playing." -- Malcolm Jenkins on making the Pro Bowl 

Quote of the Week III: "Kelce got snubbed so bad I'm starting to wonder if the voters are all trash cans." -- tweet from Chris Long about Jason Kelce, who did this last week

Random media guide note: Kenjon Barner's favorite meal is eggs, bacon and syrup.

Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

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Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

Mike Trout hasn't decided if he will travel to Minneapolis to watch his beloved Eagles play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Trout said he enjoys staying at home and watching the game on television with his family. (There's something cool about that.) He also digs the commercials.

Wherever baseball's best — and highest paid — player decides to watch the game, he will have one important accessory with him: his dog mask. The same one he wore at Lincoln Financial Field during the Eagles' trouncing of the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

"I will definitely be wearing that dog mask," Trout said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Gotta ride with it."

Eagles tackle Lane Johnson gave Trout the dog mask that has come to symbolize the Eagles' place as an underdog in the playoffs and again in the Super Bowl. The Eagles have come to relish that status.

"A lot of people doubted them," Trout said. "They lost the majority of their captains and starters (to injury), but they're still fighting. Next-man-up mentality."

Even some of Trout's teammates with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doubted the Eagles. But no more.

"They give me grief all the time," Trout said. "Now they're all rooting for them. Throughout the season, there were a lot of ups and downs. But now we're going to the Super Bowl."

Trout, of course, was raised and still lives in Millville, New Jersey, less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia. He grew up a fan of all the Philly teams and, in fact, was in the parking lot outside of Citizens Bank Park celebrating with friends the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Trout, 26, is a season-ticket holder with the Eagles and a close friend and hunting buddy of Carson Wentz. Trout, who saw his first Eagles game back in the Veterans Stadium days, was able to visit with several Eagles players after Sunday's big win over the Vikings.

"I told them to go get it," he said. "Obviously, there hasn't been a Super Bowl champion in Philadelphia. I told them to go get it."

Trout recalled watching Super Bowl XXXIX more than a decade ago. The Patriots beat the Eagles, 24-21, in that one.

Trout sees a different Eagles team in the rematch.

"This team is just a little bit different," he said. "They want to win and it's not just one guy carrying them. Every guy has a part in it."

Trout's buddy, Wentz, won't be playing in the Super Bowl. He may have been on his way to the NFL's MVP award hadn't he been knocked out by a season-ending knee injury in December. Nick Foles has taken over and been at the helm for two playoff wins.

In six spectacular seasons in the majors, Trout has won two American League MVP awards and finished second three times. (That's why he will make $34 million in 2018.) He finished fourth in the voting in 2017 and would have finished higher if he hadn't missed significant time with a thumb injury that required surgery. He feels for Wentz, who has to watch from the sidelines.

"It's definitely difficult," Trout said. "I went through it last year. It's tough for him. I thought he was the MVP. It was hard to watch when he went down. But he's working hard. He's walking. I'm sure he'll be ready for next season.

"What he did on the field this season was amazing, and now Nick has stepped up."

Tuesday's conference call was set up by the Angels' media relations department because of the large demand to speak with Trout, who has emerged as the Eagles' most visible fan, woofing and pumping his fist in triumph with the rest of the fans at the Linc. Trout said he'd never heard the place louder than it was as Patrick Robinson ran back that game-turning pick-six in the first quarter Sunday night.

Philadelphia fans dream of a day when they will be cheering for Trout rounding the bases in a Phillies uniform. He is signed through 2020. His free agency is not that far away.

As always, Trout deflected a question about whether he could see himself playing in Philadelphia someday.

"I'm an Eagles fan," he said. "Obviously, I grew up a Philly sports fan. I love playing in Anaheim. I have a couple more years on my contract. I love Anaheim and the West Coast."

That wasn't exactly a no.

Trout was more direct when asked about what he expected in the Super Bowl.

"It's going to be tough," he said. "Anybody that goes against Tom Brady is going against the best and maybe greatest of all time.

"I still think the Eagles will pull it out and they're going to win, 31-24."

And the decisive play will be?

"An interception of Brady," Trout said.

Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

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Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

After the Eagles celebrated their win in the NFC Championship Game, Carson Wentz limped off the field at Lincoln Financial Field with the help of a cane. He wore an Eagles NFC champions hat, T-shirt and a giant smile.  

Wentz didn't get to play Sunday night, but he still played a huge role in the Eagles' getting to the Super Bowl. 

That was the message offensive coordinator Frank Reich tried to get across to Wentz when he had a brief chat with him during the fourth quarter of the blowout win. Wentz was one of the main reasons the Eagles got a chance to play the championship game at the Linc. 

Wentz wasn't just happy for the Eagles on Sunday. He was happy for Nick Foles, the guy who took over for him. 

"To me, one of the greatest things about a person that you can say, is when you see him celebrating somebody else's success," Reich said. "Even when you know it's at the same position. I don't care; human nature tells you that's hard to do. And it's been fun to see those two do that. It's fun to see Carson truly have the maturity to celebrate Nick's success and understanding how he's helping this team, also with the frustration knowing that he wants to be in there." 

For the last couple of games, Wentz has progressed enough in his ACL rehab to be allowed on the sideline during games and that's meant a lot to the Eagles, especially Foles and Nate Sudfeld. The three have spent all year together so it feels more natural to be together during games. 

During Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Wentz was on the sideline but part of him was on the field. The second touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery came on a play Wentz brought with him from North Dakota State. A FOX camera caught his reaction after the score: 

"Every time we score on his play," Reich said, "the smile's gonna light up."

Reich has some experience with watching big moments. Spending most of his career as a backup quarterback, he had to watch Jim Kelly play in big moments and he knows how hard that can be. 

"It's absolutely human to wish you were in there," Reich said. "But the whole key, it's a very fine line. That fine line to me is that you can still not just be happy for the team winning, but to be happy for Nick, who could potentially be stealing another person's thunder. That's the pretty cool thing. Of all the great things he's done this year, (this) even more exemplifies the leader he is."