Eagles

Roob's Random Points, Part 2: Wentz's toughness, Jahlil Okafor, John Mayer's evolution

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AP Images

Roob's Random Points, Part 2: Wentz's toughness, Jahlil Okafor, John Mayer's evolution

When is it too early to start looking for concerts to attend in Minneapolis Super Bowl week? Also … Carson Wentz's toughness, Jahlil Okafor riding the bench, Japanese ceremonial tea houses, Hank Baskett, Robert Pollard side projects ... we've got it all covered in today's Part 2 of this week's Roob's 25 Random Points!

1. For all his accomplishments — the touchdown passes, the first-down runs, the big plays — Wentz also deserves a tremendous amount of credit just for his toughness. What's he missed, six snaps in his career? How many times has he gotten clobbered and popped back up to throw a big touchdown pass, like he did on the Mack Hollins touchdown Monday night? Just by the nature of the way he plays, keeping plays alive with his legs, diving for extra yards, fighting off defenders in the pocket, Wentz is going to get hit a lot. For him to stand tall snap after snap, week after week is remarkable. Just another reason Wentz is such a natural leader. Just being out there for his team every single play no matter how hard he gets hit makes him a guy everybody on the roster wants to play hard for.
 
2. Bring on the rain Sunday. Bring on anything. It won't bother this football team. I don't know if I've ever seen a more focused group. The 2004 team was incredibly talented, but that team won despite the growing feud between Donovan and T.O. and the distractions their deteriorating relationship created. This team? Mature, focused, disciplined, serious-minded, goal-oriented. No excuses. Only hard work.
 
3. I just don't get not playing Okafor. Yes, he's a defensive liability, but not everybody in the NBA is going to be Rudy Gobert. Okafor has terrific offensive skills and is a competent rebounder. You mean to tell me he can't help this team more than Amir Johnson with 8-12 minutes off the bench? Jah is 21 years old. As a 19-year-old rookie, he averaged 7.0 rebounds and 17.5 points and shot 51 percent from the field! Do you know how many rookies have averaged 17 and 7 and made over half their shots in the last 25 years? Five. Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Karl Anthony-Towns and Okafor. Nobody's saying he's in the class of those other guys, but geez, he's a 21-year-old kid with a unique skill set. Why not coach him up and help him become the player you wish he was instead of burying him on the bench?
 
4. Phil Collins. Incredibly underrated drummer.
 
5. There are more fifth-round picks on the Eagles' roster (11) than first-round picks (10). I'm not sure what that means, but hey, it's working!
 
6. It's also remarkable to me how different this roster is from last year. There are 22 players on the 53 who weren't here last year. That's 42 percent! That's an incredible turnover. For a team to be able to incorporate 22 new players and play at the level the Eagles are playing at is a credit to Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas for bringing in the right guys but also to Doug Pederson and his staff for making it all work.
 
7. Jalen Mills is one of only three players in the NFL with two or more fourth-quarter interceptions. He's been really good this year.
 
8. I can't think of a single musical artist who I've changed my opinion about more dramatically over time than John Mayer. The dude has transformed himself from an irrelevant treacly pop singer-songwriter to an absolutely brilliant interpreter of Grateful Dead material and a worthy successor to Jerry Garcia in the Dead collective.
 
9. My Top 5 Robert Pollard non-GBV albums: 1. From a Compound Eye (Robert Pollard), 2. Blues and Boogie Shoes (Keene Brothers), 3. Choreographed Man of War (Robert Pollard and his Soft Rock Renegades), 4. Ask Them (Lexo and the Leapers), 5. Not in my Airforce (Robert Pollard).
 
10. No player in NFL history has more career TD catches of 85 yards or more than Hank Baskett. This blows my mind. 
 
11. Minneapolis concerts already scheduled Super Bowl week: First Aid Kit, Josh Ritter, Marilyn Manson. Hmmm. Beat the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, and I start buying tickets!
 
12. There's a really cool exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum of Japanese ceremonial tea houses. One entire teahouse is recreated in its entirety, and the backstory is amazing. The museum sent someone to Japan in the 1920s to buy a teahouse and the museum's teahouse expert found one for sale on a property owned by noted Japanese architect Ögi Rodö. The teahouse was dismantled and shipped to Philadelphia, but the museum couldn't find anybody to put it back together. So it sat in storage for more than 30 years before it was finally restored and put on display. Now you know!
 
12½. Prediction: Wendell Smallwood's first career 100-yard rushing game comes against the 49ers on Sunday.

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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USA Today Images

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."