Schwartz focused on big picture with Eagles' D

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Schwartz focused on big picture with Eagles' D

Barring disaster — and we mean total disaster — the Eagles will achieve something Sunday they haven’t done in more than a quarter of a century.
The Eagles go into the final weekend of the 2017 regular season with a 169-yard lead in the battle to lead the NFL in rush defense.
Despite slipping a little in recent weeks, the Eagles have allowed just 1,138 rushing yards this year, or 75.9 yards per game. That’s 169 yards fewer than the Saints, who are allowing 87.1 rushing yards per game.
So as long as the Eagles hold the Cowboys to 168 rushing yards Sunday at the Linc, they will clinch the 2017 NFL rush defense title.
"It means a lot, especially because we've played some really good rushing teams," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And we have been able to kind of hold up all year."
The last time the Eagles led the NFL in rush defense was 1991, when they achieved the rare feat of earning No. 1 rankings against both the run and the pass.
The Eagles have gone an NFL-best 26 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, although Marshawn Lynch came close Monday night.
They've held 17 straight opponents to 140 or fewer rushing yards, their longest streak since 1992.
And they haven't allowed a rushing touchdown at home in more than a year.
"Stopping the run is obviously something that's important to you going forward, but it's part of the game," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.
"It's like rushing the passer. It's like playing pass defense. It's tackling. It's just part of what we do. I do think that playoff time, the ability to stop the run can be a big thing, in particular, because we're going to be playing games here at the Linc, and maybe it's nasty weather. Not every game in January is ideal conditions, and sometimes it's tough to throw the ball.
"We've all been around games like that, and teams have to lean more on the run game. So I think it can be important going forward."
The Eagles finish the regular season Sunday with a meaningless game against the Cowboys, and presumably Ezekiel Elliott.
If they hold the Cowboys without a touchdown, they'll become only the fifth team in NFL history to go an entire season without allowing a rushing touchdown at home.
“It would mean a lot," Patrick Robinson said of the rushing title. "It would definitely mean a lot. We’ve got to try to beat these guys, stop Zeke from getting a 100-yard rushing day. We’re just trying to do our job and finish out the season the right way.”
The Eagles are going to need that run defense to win in the playoffs, especially considering some of the backs they might face — the Rams' Todd Gurley, the Saints' duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Falcons' Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Vikings' Latavius Murray.
"It has been the staple of our defense, especially as we move into the playoffs," Jenkins said. "Teams are going to bring their running games, and it's going to be a huge thing for us to be able to stop the run."
The key for the Eagles this year has been stuffing the run on first down. They're allowing just 3.2 yards per carry on first down, second-best in the league (the Colts are at 3.0). That puts teams in passing downs early and that plays into the Eagles' pass rush. 
The Eagles are allowing 3.73 yards per carry, fifth-best in the league and their best since 2005, when they finished at 3.72. They lead the league in fewest rushing first downs allowed with 56. They'll finish with their fewest since 1991, when they allowed 53.
Schwartz shrugged off the No. 1 ranking and explained why in typical Jim Schwartz fashion:
"Hey, stopping the run is great, but if you're the No. 1 run defense and you're giving up 600 yards a game passing, it’s hard to put that on a badge or something," he said. "You know what I mean?
"Our job is to allow less points than we score. Anything else after that, it's like figure skating. It's the artistic interpretation or something. It's those things that need to be judged. It always cracks me up. I watch Olympic sports and you see those ski jumpers, and you think, ‘Man, that's awesome. They fly through the air and who can go the farthest is the winner.’
"But it's not just who can go the farthest. There's somebody who judges whether their skis were straight or something like that. Man, just go the farthest. And that's what we're trying to do."

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.”