A look into the Eagles' first practice at Angel Stadium in Anaheim

A look into the Eagles' first practice at Angel Stadium in Anaheim

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Eagles kicker Jake Elliott missed the first field goal he attempted at Angel Stadium on Wednesday afternoon in Southern California. 

Foul ball. 

It was a pretty unusual scene on Wednesday afternoon, when the Eagles took to the makeshift practice field in the middle of the Angels' stadium. The Eagles' offense was at the field for its walkthrough on Tuesday, but Jim Schwartz's unit got its first look at it on Wednesday, when the whole team practiced there beginning at 2:40 p.m. local time. 

The sod field in the middle of the empty stadium actually looked pretty good. It actually looks better than the fields at the NovaCare Complex, although the dead-looking grass in Philly is apparently just the type of grass. There was noticably the absence of video boards at the stadium; they're being worked on. By the time the afternoon practice rolled around, much of the field was already engulfed by shadows. 

"Gracious for the Angels for allowing us to practice there, and our grounds crew has done an amazing job over there when you see it today, with putting some sod down in the infield and just a great job," Pederson said this morning of their home for the week. "The field's awesome, yeah. Field's great. Great shape."

The Eagles have been planning this trip for a long time and even asked the league to schedule two of their three West Coast trips back to back so they could stay out here. 

The plan is to keep everything as normal as possible (see story). So as practice kicked off on Wednesday, the Eagles stretched, did special teams and went into individual drills, followed by team drills. That's their normal schedule. 

The quarterbacks worked out in the outfield. The running backs were in left field down the third-base line. The defensive backs were on the third-base line in the infield. Linebackers were just around where first base normally resides. Home plate was covered by a white circular tarp. 

At one point, as the defensive backs were working on a drill that had them backpedal before driving forward, safety Corey Graham ran past the edge of the green sod and onto the rock-hard dirt beyond the infield. He slipped but was able to keep his balance, avoiding disaster. 

"Don't run on that!" he yelled. 

Where the running backs were going through drills down the third-base line, they were joined by running back Darren Sproles, who has been on the IR since getting hurt in Week 3. Sproles, who lives in San Diego, spent the first portion of practice chatting with his position coach Duce Staley and teammates. 

He then held the giant orange dummy for drills, as his teammates went through them. 

The Eagles will practice at Angel Stadium again on Thursday and Friday, and will have their walkthrough there on Saturday as well. During the week, the team is staying at a hotel in Costa Mesa, about a 15-minute drive from the stadium.

They will play the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. 

Extra emphasis on special teams bails Eagles out

USA Today Images

Extra emphasis on special teams bails Eagles out

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles blocked three kicks Sunday, and they needed every one of them to secure a 34-29 victory over the New York Giants (see breakdown).

Derek Barnett blocked an extra point in the first quarter, a play that wound up putting the Giants behind the eight ball for the rest of the game. Kamu Grugier-Hill blocked a punt in the second quarter, which led to an Eagles touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter, Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal that could have given New York the lead.

It was, by far, the Eagles' best special teams performance of the season to date, one in which the unit had been preparing for all week.

"All week we knew we could do things here, pick apart them here," Grugier-Hill said, "so we went in with a really good plan and we executed."

It could've been the game plan devised by special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, or the hard work of the players in the film room and on the practice field (see Roob's observations). Or, as Barnett suggests, it might've been the Eagles finally playing to their capabilities.

“We executed," Barnett said. "That's about it. There's nothing else behind it.”

The Eagles' special teams had been uncharacteristically poor over the previous five contests. At one point, the coverage units allowed a kick or punt return of 39 yards or more in three straight games. But the biggest miscue of all came last week in Los Angeles — a blocked punt that nearly helped swing the outcome in the Rams' favor.

For a franchise that has routinely fielded some of the best special teams units in the league, the performance was unacceptable.

“Our standard is higher," Grugier-Hill said. "The last three or four years, we've been the top special teams in the league, so to have those down weeks, we've been really putting emphasis on everyone elevating their game and doing better.”

The emphasis paid off. The Eagles made a bit of history, becoming the first NFL team to block an extra point, a field goal and a punt in the same game since the Buffalo Bills did it in 1991.

More importantly, the Eagles were able to swing the momentum in their favor time and time again, and ultimately, they pick up the win as a result.

"We knew from some things that we saw on tape that we had a couple guys that we could attack," Jenkins said.

In addition to the game plan, the Eagles shored up their special teams this week with the re-signing of Bryan Braman. Furthermore, the Giants aren't exactly known for fielding in a quality unit in any phase of the kicking game.

The Eagles had a plan. They had the personnel in place. They were up against inferior competition.

But it all came back to execution (see report card).

“Just getting off the rock, playing physical, not stopping and just keep on going forward," Barnett said. "Schematically? I don't know the answer. That's a coach question. Whatever they do, we do up front, and if everybody executes it — it's all 11 of us, not just one — if we all execute, we'll get the outcome we want.”

Braman, who signed Tuesday and was back in action for the first time since 2016, gave a similar evaluation.

"Everybody comes off the ball like they're the ones that are going to be able to block it," Braman said, "and the scheme and everything ended up paying off."

The Eagles' stellar special teams performance also happened to be timely, as it was the first game without injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz.

Coming down the stretch, the club will be counting on contributions from all three phases to overcome the loss of a leader and an MVP-caliber player.

On Sunday, special teams held up their end of the bargain and then some.

“When a starter like Carson goes down, everyone needs to elevate their game," Grugier-Hill said. "It's not just defense, it's defense or even offensive guys, they need to individually pick up their game.”

Even after rough day against lowly Giants, 'sky isn't falling' for Eagles' D

Even after rough day against lowly Giants, 'sky isn't falling' for Eagles' D

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles drove up the New Jersey Turnpike on Sunday and won their second straight road game. With the 34-29 victory over the Giants, they earned a first-round bye and cliched a 12-win season for the first time since 2004.

That was the good news.

The bad news: Jim Schwartz's defense played what was arguably it's worst game of the season (see Roob's observations). Arguably its worst game since he became defensive coordinator.

"There's a lot of positive and a lot of negative," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Obviously, defensively, I don't anybody is happy with the way we performed."

It's not hard to figure out why. 

The Eagles' defense got off to a horrible start Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium and ended up allowing a two-win Giants team to score 29 points — the second-most the Eagles have given up all season and the most the Giants have scored all year.

The Giants also had 504 yards of total offense after the Eagles had given up 400 yards just twice all season.

The 504 yards of offense the Eagles gave up is the most in 30 games under Schwartz. The last time the Birds gave up 500-plus was the last game with Billy Davis in charge.

Despite all that, the Eagles didn't seem too worried after the game.

"The sky isn't falling," defensive end Chris Long said. "It wasn't falling when they scored 24 on us in the third week of the season. We're going to improve, we're going to get better. And we're going to be at our best."

Like they did against the Rams last week, the Eagles' defense improved as the game went on. After giving up 23 first-half points to the Giants, they tightened up in the second half, when they gave up just six.

And after bending in the fourth quarter, they didn't break. Corey Graham got a huge pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down with under a minute to play.

"We found a way to win," Fletcher Cox said. "That's really all that matters. As a defense, I know we'll come in and look at it and be critical of ourselves. We'll get it corrected next week."

It seems like the Eagles just struggle against the Giants. They gave up 24 points to them earlier this year. And three of the last four times the Eagles have given up 500-plus yards they were playing the Giants. 

On Sunday, the New York didn't use any kind of trickery to beat the Eagles. They used the same formula that has worked for them before. Slants, sluggos, Eli Manning getting the ball out of his hand quickly.

The common theme between last week's lackluster defensive showing against the Rams and Sunday's performance was that the opposing offense used no-huddle and tempo to get the Birds off balance. Jenkins said it's not surprising because of how much the Eagles like to rotate their defensive linemen and use different personnel packages, especially on third down.

When asked if it's concerning to see these types of defensive performances late in the season as the playoffs near, several Eagles players said it's not. Long said he's seen the team struggle and come back the next week with a solid performance.

So it's not concerning?

"No, it's not," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "You see the mistakes, you correct them, and you move on."