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

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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.

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'best ever'

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Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'best ever'

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third-most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

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Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

It wasn't quite a WWE throwdown message, but Michael Bennett definitely put NFC East quarterbacks on notice during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon.

He's coming for them.

And so are the rest of his defensive line teammates.

"I know Eli Manning is probably watching this and thinking, like, yes I'm coming," said Bennett, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Seahawks. "I know Dak (Prescott) is watching this like, 'Yeah, he's coming.' Yeah, I am.

"And Alex Smith, he knows he can't run from me. I told him at the Pro Bowl. So it's definitely going to be a great season and it's going to be fun to chase quarterbacks. I just know third down it's just going to be ... and second down and first down, it's just going to be fun."

When Bennett, 32, named all three of the starting quarterbacks from the NFC East, he was actually answering a question about comparing the defensive schemes from Seattle and Philadelphia. Bennett began by saying that he played with some great players in Seattle, before saying he doesn't think there's a tight end in the NFL that can block him.

From there, he started to name the QBs.

Manning in New York. Prescott in Dallas. And recently-acquired Smith in Washington. They'll all be seeing Bennett twice this season.

Bennett is basically replacing Vinny Curry on the Eagles' defensive line, and Haloti Ngata is basically replacing Beau Allen. While Curry and Allen are younger, many think Bennett and Ngata are improvements in the short-term, which means the strength of the Eagles' defense from 2017 is even stronger in 2018.

While Curry had just three sacks in 2017 and has gone over the four-sack mark just once in his six-year career, Bennett has had at least five sacks in all of those last six seasons. Bennett has 48 sacks since 2012 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons.

While there was a report that surfaced saying Seattle was trying to part ways with socially active players, Bennett said he didn't give it much credence. His relationship with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll goes beyond football and he knows Seattle was just trying to unload him to get something back in return; it's part of the business.

It seems likely that in Philly, Bennett will get a chance to play both inside and outside. His versatility was used in a similar fashion in Seattle, but he also played a ton of snaps, which he won't have to do in the Eagles' rotation. It should keep him fresh.

And it will probably keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.