Eagles

Pressure's on for Eagles' rookie kicker

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Pressure's on for Eagles' rookie kicker

Nervousness comes with uncertainty.

As the Eagles drive down the field in key situations, kicker Jake Elliott tries to ready himself on the sideline. He has a routine. The rookie takes a practice kick before every first and third down. In between peeking over his teammates to see game action, the 5-foot-9 kicker tries to visualize his kick. If he thinks it might be a right hash kick, he moves the ball ever so slightly on the tee before booming it into the net.

The Eagles move the ball down the field, Elliott kicks into the net. The whole time the pressure continues to build and build. When will they call on him? How far will the kick be? What is the wind like?

Until it's his time to get on the field.

Then the nervousness fades away.

"As the kick's approaching, there's obviously a little nerves," Elliott said. "With every uncertain situation, there's going to be some nerves that come into play. You don't know what the yard line is going to be, you don't know this and that. Once you're jogging on the field, everything is kind of set."

The life of an NFL kicker is pretty much all pressure situations. They just get magnified in the playoffs.

As a rookie, this is obviously Elliott's first time in the postseason. The 22-year-old has had a wild rookie year. He was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round but lost a competition and landed on their practice squad. The Eagles signed him when Caleb Sturgis suffered a serious hip injury and in his second game with the Birds, Elliott drilled a franchise-record 61-yard kick to beat the rival Giants. He's now the Eagles' kicker.

And he's ready for the playoffs.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "I'm just going to approach it like any other game. Obviously, the atmosphere is going to be a little more intense. I think I'm prepared for that. As long as I approach it like I have all season, I don't think it's going to be a problem."

Elliott is a pretty calm guy. You might even call his demeanor boring. He's not very excitable, which is probably an advantage as a kicker. Never get too high or too low.

He admitted that he doesn't even think about breathing techniques anymore. Elliott acknowledged that he'll take a few deep breaths to calm himself before a big kick, but it's no longer part of a conscious progression. It's built into his routine.

Sturgis has been impressed with Elliott all year long. He can't offer his younger teammate any advice about the playoffs because he's never been there either. But Sturgis just knows routine is the basis for comfort. He likened it to swinging well on a driving range, so when you get on the course, you're good to go.

"[Elliott's] been unbelievable," Sturgis said. "Especially the year he's had with how much success the team's had. Every game is so big for us and he's come out. Obviously, the Giants kick to start his time here and then the Oakland kick was huge. He's hit a lot of big kicks."

There's a good chance Saturday's game could come down to a field goal. The Falcons are favored by 2.5-3 points and playoff games always seem to be close.

On the other sideline this weekend will be a 16-year veteran in Matt Bryant, who has made 13 of 14 field goal attempts in the playoffs over his career. Bryant, of course, is the kicker who made that 62-yarder as time expired against the Eagles back in 2006 to give the Bucs a 23-21 win. This is Bryant's ninth season in Atlanta.

With all that experience, Bryant has been through these situations before. Heck, he kicked in the Super Bowl last year. Elliott is a fresh-faced rookie, but really, the life of a kicker is all pressure. He's built for this.

"It's a lot of not making the moment bigger than it needs to be," Elliott said. "I've done it a million times, whether it's in practice, in a game, whether it's in the fourth quarter, whether it's in the first quarter. I've done it enough so it's muscle memory and not make it bigger than it is."

Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

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Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

The Eagles will be at a disadvantage on April 26, when the first round of the 2018 draft begins in Dallas. Thanks to winning the Super Bowl — remember that? It wasn’t a dream — they have the 32nd and last pick of the first round. 

It’s a disadvantage they hope to have every year. 

“Yeah, that’s the goal,” Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas said on Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll be picking in the late 20s and early 30s [every year].” 

There’s an art to hitting in the second half of the first round and it’s obviously harder to find success there than it is in the top half. The good news for the Eagles is that Douglas learned under Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, who is one of the best general managers in the NFL. Newsome’s team has often picked late in the first round and he’s often been able to find some great talent in that range. 

Ed Reed was picked at No. 24, Todd Heap at 31, Ben Grubbs at 29. There are more too. 

“Ozzie is patient,” Douglas said. “Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Browns and he should be a Hall of Famer for the Baltimore Ravens as a GM. He’s the absolute best. His first two picks (Reed and Terrell Suggs) are first-ballot Hall of Famers. He was able to have great success in the 20s. Those players you specifically named, they were not a move up or move down guys. Those were guys that Ozzie was patient and he let the board come to him. Some of those picks were met with greater fanfare than others.”

They can’t all be hits, of course. In 2013, the Ravens took safety Matt Elam, who played in 41 games for Baltimore in three seasons, but was out of the league by 2017. Many consider him a bust. It happens. But it’s hard to argue with the Ravens’ body of work. 

The Eagles haven’t been nearly as consistent picking in the 20s in recent years. Nelson Agholor was No. 20 in 2015 and finally fulfilled his potential last season. But before then, Marcus Smith was 26 in 2014 and Danny Watkins was 23 in 2011. The last time the Eagles came off a Super Bowl appearance, they picked DT Mike Patterson with the 31st pick in 2005. A decent player, never a star. 

Douglas thought there were a lot of hits late in the first round of last year’s draft, but admitted it “varies year to year.” 

For now, the Eagles own the 32nd pick, but they’re definitely not ruling out a possible trade. On Thursday, de facto GM Howie Roseman said the team is “open for business.” 

There’s also plenty of appeal for other teams who might want a specific position with No. 32 because of a possible fifth-year option in their contracts. A few years ago, the Vikings traded for No. 32 to get Teddy Bridgewater. This week, the groundwork for possible draft day trades will happen, Roseman said. The Eagles will have contact with other teams to gauge their interest in moving up or down around their area of the first round. 

If the Eagles don’t move up or down, they feel comfortable at 32. 

“I guess when you’re picking, any number you’re picking, whether it’s 14 last year or 32, you’ve got to have 32 guys to be excited to take,” Douglas said. “Right now, we have 32 guys we’d be fired up to get. How it plays out, we’ll find out.”

Coming off first Super Bowl win, Eagles aim to crush complacency

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Coming off first Super Bowl win, Eagles aim to crush complacency

The Eagles on Monday released a short video montage of players returning to the NovaCare Complex for the start of the team’s offseason workout program, the first time the team has been back together since winning Super Bowl LII. 

Playing over the video is a snippet from Doug Pederson’s speech to the team, in which he talks about sacrifice and starting over at ground zero. 

The 30-second video then ends with a shot of the Eagles’ new Super Bowl champion banner hanging in the weight room, while Pederson delivers the message, “The new normal starts today.” 

The Eagles have finally won a Super Bowl, so now what? 

Well, now they have to battle complacency on their quest to make a parade down Broad Street an annual occurrence. 

“For me, when I hear the ‘new norm,’ I’m not thinking about the end result, the championships and the parades and all that,” veteran leader Malcolm Jenkins said on Tuesday. “I’m thinking about the work it took to get to where we were. How we started last year in April and grinded and competed throughout. For me, that’s kind of the new norm and the standard and the base that we’re trying to start from this year as we try to defend that title.” 

Unlike many of his teammates, this isn’t the first time Jenkins is coming off a championship. The year after his Saints won the Super Bowl during his rookie season, they were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. 

Being that this isn’t the first time Jenkins is in this situation, he said he knows some of the “pitfalls” that come with trying to avoid the Super Bowl hangover. Aside from the obvious month less of recovery time, the Eagles also need to shift their mindset from celebration back to work. Jenkins doesn’t think that will be a problem. He thinks teams get their attitude from leaders. He thinks these Eagles want to “create something special.” He thinks they know how to do it. 

One thing that should help is getting back several key players who weren’t able to play in last year’s Super Bowl because of injuries. Their drive will be there. 

“I know for myself and (Jordan) Hicks and (Chris) Maragos, Jason Peters, it didn’t sit well with them either,” Carson Wentz said. “As much as we love our teammates and we were excited to see it, we wanted to be out there. We know that will kick things into gear. I don’t think complacency would have been an issue regardless, but I think that will definitely help.”

Jenkins this week didn’t want to even talk about repeating yet because there’s so long to go before we even know what the team will look like. 

But repeating remains the ultimate goal.  

“We’re extremely hungry for sustained success in this city,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We’ve tasted it one time and that’s something you never want to give up. We’re hungry to repeat. … I don’t think we’ll ever have that mindset that we’ve arrived as a football team or as a city.”