Eagles

Remarkable what Eagles' D-line has been through together

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Remarkable what Eagles' D-line has been through together

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — There are six players on the Eagles' active roster who've been here since 2012.

Three of them are Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.

Which goes a long way toward explaining what makes this Eagles defensive line tick.

They've been through everything together. Reid's firing. Chip's hiring and the Eagles' ascent to playoff team, then the ensuing collapse and Chip's firing. Doug Pederson's arrival and another ascent, this time to Super Bowl team.

Through it all, Cox, Graham and Curry have been together, stuffing the run, rushing the quarterback and forming the nucleus of a team that on Sunday will play for the NFL championship.

"We've all been together so long, and we've all been friends for so long, and we have fun out there," Graham said. "And it's not fake. We all enjoy each other, we respect each other as far as our personalities and what we each bring to the team.

"When you can embrace a guy like that and your trust is based on so many years together, in moments of adversity we already know how to deal with each other, how to stay focused on what we're trying to do."

Graham was the Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2010 and Cox and Curry arrived in the first and second rounds in 2012. The only other guys on the roster who got here during Andy Reid's tenure are Brent Celek in 2007, injured Jason Peters in 2009, Jason Kelce in 2011 and Mychal Kendricks in 2012.

There are only 29 active defensive linemen in the NFL who have played 80 or more games all for the same team. The Eagles have three of those 29. 

"I think it's great when you've got guys that have been around for a long time," Cox said. "The chemistry that we have, the communication that we all work on. I think having been here for so long that on the field it just helps us play that much faster knowing where each guy will be.

"It's a blessing. Me being able to play besides B.G. for so long, man, it's, I mean, there is just so much stuff that we do together. The little things that people don't see, like timing. We're running 3rd and long, I may be outside, he may know I'm outside, and he comes inside and makes the play. I think the little things right there have got us to where we are right now."

Beau Allen arrived in 2014, so he's in his fourth year with this group. Chris Long, Tim Jernigan and rookie Derek Barnett arrived this past offseason.

"Being together this long? It's rare and it's a big positive," Graham said. "It just goes to show you how much the organization values their draft picks and values players that work well together.

"That continuity is big. And me and Vinny both went through adversity early on. Fletch, he didn't go through any adversity, he just jumped right into it.

"But it's cool to be able to stay together this long and overcome adversity. It makes it this much sweeter."

Cox is a two-time second-team all-pro and three-time Pro Bowler and Graham made second-team all-pro this year and should have been on the Pro Bowl team. Curry's stats don't show it, but he had his most consistently productive season this year.

"The biggest art of it is their ability to want to help one another," said Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who coached Cox at Mississippi State in 2010 and 2011.
 
"There's power in helping each other, and they complement each other very well in that regard, and that's really been their mantra since I've been here: How do we improve and get where we need to.

"The biggest thing is they all have the potential to get sacks, to get turnovers, to make a big play at any point in time."

There are a lot of reasons the Eagles reached Super Bowl LII and will face the Patriots Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

One of the biggest is the dominant performance of this defensive line. The Eagles finished No. 1 in the NFL in rush defense and No. 4 in total defense, takeaways and scoring defense.

"When you've been together as long as we have, we all know what each other is thinking," Curry said. "If we run a crazy stunt, it's natural. You know that guy, how he rushes, where he's going to rush. Fletcher's on my side, I know what he's going to do even before he knows what he's going to do, so I know what I can't do.

"And if I'm wrong, I'll wait till he bitches on the sideline."

Like the Eagles' last great defensive line led by Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons, this group is as competitive as it is close-knit.

"It's a competitive room," Wilson said. "From who's the best dressed to who can bench the most or who can make the most shots in the Pop-a-Shot game in the back of our locker room. And I think that's necessary. These guys really push each other."

Cox, Graham and Curry have been at the bottom of the football world … two different times, in fact.

So leading this team to within one game of a championship is incredibly special to them.

"Just the chemistry, it's unbelievable," Curry said. "At any given moment any player on this d-line can get hot, you know? That's the sweet part about it. It's almost like Golden State. Anybody on that team could make the All-Star team, and they could be, 'Me, me, me, me, but they're not.' They play together.

"And that the one thing about us. We play together. It's bigger than us. It's about getting to the point where we'll be next Sunday. That's all it's about."

Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

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Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

At some point this summer, Carson Wentz will be cleared to play football.

And Nick Foles will pick up a clipboard and go back to the bench. The Super Bowl MVP will once again be a backup.

“It is a crazy situation,” Nick Foles said this week. “I don’t know how many times it’s happened.”

It’s never happened. No quarterback has ever been a Super Bowl MVP and began the next season as a backup.

But this is a unique set of circumstances. Wentz remains the unquestioned Eagles quarterback of the future. And Foles, as long as he’s here, is his backup.

“It’s not easy, because part of you wants to be able to lead a team and stay in the huddle,” Foles said Tuesday.

“But I’ve been very blessed to have experienced so much in my career so whenever those thoughts sort of hit you, you have to home back in and take what I learned early in my career, when I went to St. Louis, when I went to Kansas City, when I came here, that I really just need to worry about today, because tomorrow’s not guaranteed. This moment is. And I’m going to enjoy it and do it to the best of my ability.

“And it really makes everything a lot easier. Because whatever is going to happen is going to happen. A lot of it I have no control of it. If I’m traded, it’s really not my decision, so why would I even worry about it?”

Wentz was having a record-setting season when he tore up his knee Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Foles responded with a record-setting postseason.

But Wentz is 25 and Foles is 29. When Wentz is healthy, he will start.

“My (role) right now is to help this team in practice while Carson’s getting healthy, which I’m excited for,” he said. “I want him to get back out there and get healthy and get back to (being) Carson Wentz.

“I want him to (pick up) off where he left off. That excites me from a friend’s perspective and a teammate’s perspective.

“My mindset won’t change. There’s definitely times where I’m tempted to look at the future, like any of us are. I’d be lying if that wasn’t the case. But you have to reel back in and stay in the present because that doesn’t do you any benefit.”

Foles said he’s had people tell him he should have demanded the Eagles trade him so he can start now.

And after his record-setting postseason, it would be understandable if he did.

“I’ve seen both sides of it,” he said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Do I want an opportunity to run a team again? Absolutely. But am I trying to run away and do it right now? Well, I’m grateful to be here.

“There’s so much here that I really enjoy and I love it here. So I’m not banging on the table. I’m really grateful to be in this moment.”

Some people made a big deal about Foles telling an Austin television station that he would like to be a starter again, but anybody who knows Foles already knew that.

“All I’m telling y’all is what y’all already knew and everyone knew,” he said. “I can’t believe that I had to actually come out and say that I want to be a starter again. Because I’ve always believed your actions speak louder than words. I shouldn’t have to come out and say that I want to be a starter again.

“The key is to go out on the field and lead your team and show people, ‘This guy is a good guy in the locker room, he can lead a team, he did it on the field, and he’s shown it.’

“Right now, I’m a part of this team, I’m a piece of the puzzle, I’m going to help this team win in any way possible, and whatever my role is, do it to the best of my ability and do it with a lot of joy. Because I’ve seen the other side of it, and I have a lot of joy going to work here.”

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

More than two months after Jason Kelce gave that now-famous and impassioned vulgarity-filled speech on the steps of the art museum, the emotions that led to it haven’t dissipated. 

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia folk hero got choked up trying to explain the impetus of his words for the first time since he spoke them. 

“I found myself literally [after] the Vikings game in the shower, like,” Kelce said before pausing. 

He choked back tears for a full five seconds. 

“Goddamnit,” he said under his breath, cleared his throat. Another three seconds passed. 

“You get pretty emotional, you’re crying,” said Kelce, recomposed. “And all of that, after the Super Bowl, after the game is finally over, I’m running on the field and I still can’t believe it happened. And it all hits you all at once. I think that’s what the whole speech was. It was the culminating of all the stories I’m thinking about at night, I can’t go to sleep, of how I got there. Then you start thinking about how everybody else got there. Then you start thinking about how the city got there.”

Kelce said he didn’t know how much his speech would resonate with fans and that’s not why he gave it anyway. He delivered his speech because in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, he began thinking about all the adversity he had overcome. He didn’t get a scholarship coming out of high school, needed to prove himself at a new position, and not long ago even questioned his own ability to still play at a high level. 

Then he realized it wasn’t just him. He thought about all of his teammates and what they went through. Then he thought about the city’s waiting to get a Super Bowl. 

The epic speech was born. 

“The whole speech was a realization of myself, realizing that I’m not the only person that’s been through something,” Kelce said. “I’m not the only person that’s had to go through [something]. Literally everybody has had something that they’ve overcome. Everybody’s pushed through. Everybody’s persevered through some sort of adversity and that was kind of the mantra the whole season. We had so much adversity, injuries, all these things happening. It just seemed like nothing could stop us.”

Since the Super Bowl and the speech, Kelce has become a wanted man. Everyone wants a photo and everyone tries to get a mic in his hand. A lot of people expect Kelce to be a great speaker, but what he said at the art museum that day had been building for years. He won’t always have that magic. 

While Kelce has spoken to some of the other local teams and his face appeared on beer cans with proceeds going to charity, Kelce has turned down most offers. Because of added fame, Kelce said just going out for breakfast is more difficult these days; and we all know what happens when Kelce doesn’t eat breakfast. 

He understands the new level of fame, though. It comes with the territory of helping the city achieve its dream. There are too many stories to list of fans telling him how much it meant to them and he understands the Eagles are glue for families in the region. He remembered one teammate walking up to him at the parade after a fan poured the ashes of their grandfather into his hands. The teammate didn’t know what to do and Kelce didn’t have any answers either. 

“It’s one of those things for the first seven years,” Kelce said, “that’s all anybody ever talked about when they came up and talked to you as an Eagle. They were like, ‘Just get us one. We’ve been waiting forever.’”

That’s pretty emotional stuff. You’ll forgive Kelce for getting choked up.