Eagles

Mills a media star, the Pederson effect, and more in Roob's observations

Mills a media star, the Pederson effect, and more in Roob's observations

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Jalen Mills and Chris Maragos singing an Enrique Iglesias song, Trey Burton learning ballet, Harold Carmichael's rocket launcher and the Nick Foles-Carson Wentz-Nate Sudfeld Mind-Boggling Stat of the Day lead the way in Tuesday's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles Super Bowl Observations!

Don't go anywhere ... 10 more to come tomorrow! 

1. Mills has very effortlessly and comfortably and naturally settled into a role this week as one of the Eagles' media stars. It's not too surprising. The second-year cornerback has a great personality, he played very well this year and he's got a compelling story — seventh-round pick last year, Super Bowl starter this year. The green hair doesn't hurt. Mills embraced all the weirdness of media day Monday night, earnestly reading a cue card about the Chinese New Year in Chinese for a Chinese TV crew, eagerly singing an Enrique Iglesias song for a Hispanic TV crew (along with an unfortunate duet with Maragos) and then growing serious and talking about the challenges he overcame as a kid growing up outside Dallas while 30 microphones crowded him. The thing about Mills is that you never worry he'll say the wrong thing. He's colorful, funny, a tremendous storyteller. But he's also smart enough to know how to entertain the media without saying anything controversial or disrespectful. Pretty impressive for a 23-year-old kid.


Reuben Frank/NBC Sports Philadelphia

2. I just heard the Eagles are underdogs Sunday! Whoa! 

3. I'll tell you what, it's been impressive watching Doug Pederson in action this week. You never know how a young, inexperienced coach is going to handle the intensity of the Super Bowl spotlight, but Pederson has just been himself. He's been incredibly patient, answering the same questions over and over and over and over and over about the Eagles being underdogs throughout the postseason, about Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, about Foles and Wentz. He's thoughtful and insightful on the podium, good-natured, funny, relaxed. When you watch him in action, you realize why his players share those same qualities. They really are a reflection of him. I think it's a great sign for Sunday. If a coach is uptight and uncomfortable, his team is likely to play that way. Pederson is anything but, and neither are his players.

4. One of the more remarkable things about this team is just how different it is from the 2016 Eagles. There are 25 players on the 53-man roster who weren't on last year's team? Almost half the roster. Of those 25, eight signed as veteran free agents during the offseason, seven are rookie draft picks, five are veterans who joined the team since the start of training camp, three were acquired in trades, one is an undrafted rookie and one was promoted from the practice squad. To have a team this together, with this sort of chemistry when half the roster wasn't even here last year is remarkable. It really speaks volumes about Pederson's ability to take all these kids from different teams, different places, different backgrounds and different schemes and quickly and seamlessly blend them all together into a cohesive team: "It is a little bit of a challenge," Pederson said. "But you know what? You embrace the leadership of the football team, the veteran players who have been here, and they kind of understand my philosophy and the way I coach. So they can kind of embrace the new players and bring them into the fold. And then it's just up to that player. It's just how do they fit into the scheme offensively or defensively?"  

5. Foles was asked who his favorite quarterback is, and his answer was not what you might expect: "I'm going to say Harold Carmichael. He was a wide receiver, but he probably had the best arm in Eagles history. He said he could throw the ball 100 yards."

6. It was great to catch up with Dion Lewis at media night. What a remarkable story of perseverance. Lewis was the Eagles' fifth-round pick in 2011 but got only 36 carries with three catches in parts of two seasons before unsuccessful bids to make the Browns and Colts. Lewis was hurt in 2013 and out of the league in 2014. Any NFL team could have had him for minimum wage. Belichick specializes in reclamation projects and signed Lewis before the 2015 season. He played well in a reserve role in 2015 and 2016 but this year — his seventh in the NFL — he finally blossomed with 896 rushing yards, a 5.0 average and 30 catches. He's the first player in Patriots history to average 5.0 yards per carry (minimum 160 carries) with 30 or more catches. Here's my story on Lewis.

7. The Philly media hasn't seen much of Halapoulivaati Vaitai lately. "Big V" is never in the locker room when the media is allowed in, so when a few of us spotted him milling around at media night, we quickly cornered him to talk about how well he's played at left tackle down the stretch after a rocky start. Here's how the convo started:

Beat guy: "Hey, Big V. Where've you been? We haven't seen you in a while."

Big V: "Stretching."

Beat guy: "You've been stretching since October?"

Big V: "Yeah. Pretty much."

Then Big V laughed.

But he did have a cordial chat with us, and my story on Big V will be posted on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com on Wednesday.

8. Then there was the time Burton was learning ballet at media night:


Reuben Frank/NBC Sports Philadelphia

9. The first game of Donnie Jones' career was a Seahawks preseason game against the Packers at Lambeau Field on Aug. 16, 2004. The Packers' quarterbacks that day? Tim Couch, Brett Favre and Doug Pederson.

10. And the obligatory Nick Foles Mind-Boggling Stat of the Day is actually the obligatory Nick Foles-Carson Wentz-Nate Sudfeld Stat of the Day: Eagles quarterbacks have gone 20 straight games without throwing more than one interception. That's the ninth-longest streak in NFL history, according to Pro-Football-Reference. 

Eagles might lose backup defensive back

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USA Today Images

Eagles might lose backup defensive back

Jaylen Watkins' time in Philadelphia might just be coming to an end. 

The Eagles don't plan to tender Watkins, who is a restricted free agent, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Watkins, 26, played a decent role with the Eagles in 2017. He came into the summer as a safety, but when the team needed him at corner, he began to fill in there. He offered them a backup at multiple spots. 

So why won't the Eagles tender him? 

Well, if the Eagles did place a tender on Watkins, it would have been an original-round tender. He was drafted in the fourth round back in 2014. So teams could have negotiated with Watkins as a RFA but if the Eagles didn't match the offer sheet, they'd get back a fourth-round pick. Sounds great, except for one thing. 

The problem with the original-round tender is that it would bring back Watkins on a one-year deal worth just over $1.9 million. That's a projection after last year's number was just under $1.8 million. 

Watkins proved to be a valuable backup for the Eagles in 2017, but $1.9 million is probably just a little too pricey, especially as the Eagles are sitting around $9 million over the cap and have to trim that number down. 

And the Birds should have plenty of younger depth at corner in 2018. 

Not tendering Watkins doesn't necessarily mean he won't be back. What it does mean is he'll be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He will be able to negotiate with any team freely, but that will also include the Eagles, who might be willing to bring him back for a lesser price. 

Darren Sproles doesn't look ready to retire

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USA Today Images

Darren Sproles doesn't look ready to retire

Darren Sproles seems well on his way to a full recovery.

Just five months after tearing his ACL and breaking his forearm, Sproles posted this video in his Instagram story.

The 12-year veteran back and return specialist has been saying that he's not quite ready to retire. 

"I don't have to play next year, but I'm leaning towards coming back," Sproles said back in December. "I can't end like this."

The Eagles will have an interesting decision to make regarding Sproles who will be a free agent this offseason along with veteran LeGarrette Blount. With Jay Ajayi locked in for 2018 and the emergence of undrafted back Corey Clement, the Super Bowl champions face some tough choices.