Eagles

Nate Sudfeld, from unknown to turning Eagles' heads

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AP Images

Nate Sudfeld, from unknown to turning Eagles' heads

Last week was a bit different for Nate Sudfeld. As much as he tried to stay the same. 

While his normal film study and in-week habits stayed constant, there was one noticeable difference at practice. 

With Carson Wentz on injured reserve, Nick Foles is the new Eagles' starter and Sudfeld is the backup. So after spending most of his season without getting many reps in practice, Sudfeld took every scout team rep last week.

And apparently, he looked pretty good.

"To be honest, Nate was turning heads in practice," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Ask anybody what kind of practice Nate Sudfeld had last week. They'll tell you he was turning heads."

Head coach Doug Pederson agreed with Reich. He said it was probably Sudfeld's best week of practice, although that wasn't an extremely high bar to jump over; he got more work last week than ever before. 

But what seemed to impress Pederson about the way Sudfeld's week went was that he took the drill work he gets put through by QBs coach John DeFilippo and used it during practice. Pederson specifically mentioned Sudfeld's anticipation, ball location, accuracy, timing and movement in the pocket.

"So those things have begun to show up in practice last week," Pederson said. "It was a positive thing to see."

While Sudfeld might have turned a few heads, there were plenty of players in the locker room who have seen strong signs from him all season. Trey Burton has gotten scout team reps with Sudfeld before, so the tight end wasn't surprised when Sudfeld impressed everyone.

"He throws a really nice ball, extremely catchable, he's on time a lot," Burton said. "And he has poise back there."

As the scout team QB, Sudfeld's responsibility is to give the right looks to the starting defense. Those guys were impressed too, but Malcolm Jenkins didn't see anything different either.

"He's been getting reps all year," Jenkins said. "He's been giving us good looks all year, so nothing out of the norm. I know a lot of people are looking to see if he responded in any way, but for me, it would be hard for me to say anything has been different than since he's been here."

While some fans have been clamoring for the Eagles to go out and pick up a more experienced backup, it isn't going to happen. Earlier this week, Pederson said the biggest reason for not making a move is "time invested." Basically, it would take so much to get a new guy caught up in the offense and they've already been teaching Sudfeld since he arrived before the season opener (see story).

Because Sudfeld joined the Eagles off waivers after final cuts, he didn't even get to play a preseason game with them. He's an unknown to fans and even to some people in the organization. Last week offered him the first chance to get into a rhythm while taking every scout team rep.

As far as turning heads, does he sense that too?

"I feel very confident in what I can do," he said. "I feel like everybody around me has been great since I got here. As far as just getting more reps and letting them see what I can do, maybe a little bit. It kind of felt like what I can do. I just want to keep doing it one day at a time, one rep at a time."

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."