Eagles

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

The whole country saw Thursday night what we've all suspected here in Philly the last few weeks.

The Eagles are for real.

About 15 million people nationwide watched the Eagles topple the Panthers 28-23 Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium in a battle of 4-1 teams.

National TV games have a way of altering the conversation about a player or a team, and the Eagles know that with a four-game winning streak, a 5-1 record and a signature prime-time win on the road over a playoff-caliber team, the perception of the Eagles is changing.

“Now you’re going to have bandwagon people who are going to jump on and say, ‘Yeah, you’re for real," safety Corey Graham said. "But it doesn’t really matter to us.

"As long as the guys in this room continue to fight and continue to do what we need to do, we’re all right with that. We’re going to get more respect, but that comes with more responsibility. We’ve got to go out there and make sure we’re ready to play every week."

The mood in the Eagles' locker room as they embarked on their mini-bye — four days off and 10 days without a game — was confidence and swagger but also a great deal of perspective and caution.

They know they're good. But they also know there's a long way to go, and a 5-1 record in mid-October won't mean anything if they don't keep winning.

You never really know, but this sure doesn't seem like a team that's going to let a little success get to its head.

“Coach (Doug) Pederson always tells us, block out distractions," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Can’t listen to what’s going outside in the world, just be focused on next game and what we have in this locker room and being committed to one another, and I think that’s what we’re going to do."

That said, it doesn't mean they're not going to enjoy the show they put on Thursday night for a national TV audience.

"Oh yeah," McLeod said. "Every primetime game, you want to go out there and represent not only yourself but your team. We’re here to put the league on notice, man, and I think this was a good game to do that. 

"It was versus a good team, on the road, short week, and we stepped up to the plate."

This is the 10th time in franchise history the Eagles have been 5-1 or better after six games. They were 6-0 in 1981 and 2004, and they've also been 5-1 in 1949, 1950, 1960, 1961, 1979, 1980 and 2014.

And all that is with four games on the road — the Eagles are already 3-1 away from the Linc after winning just one road game last year. The Eagles' next three games — against the Redskins, 49ers and Broncos — are all at home.

Only three of their 10 remaining opponents currently have a winning record: the 3-1 Broncos, 3-2 Seahawks and 3-2 Rams.

Doug Pederson, now 12-10 as an NFL head coach, said it's not easy to keep his team grounded and focused coming off such an emotional win and with four consecutive wins.

"It's tough," he said. "It's a fine line because the players are going to read and they're going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are. 

"But (we have) to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we're winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct, as well. It's never perfect."

Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, two veterans with Super Bowl rings, both cautioned their teammates against buying into the hype.

They've both been to the top, but they also know how tenuous that grip on the upper echelon of the NFL is.

"I think a lot of us have anticipated us having success," Jenkins said. "The biggest thing is handling that success and being able to stay goal-oriented and being able to stay focused on the day and the task at hand and one week at a time and not listen to all the things people are projecting onto us.

"And the only way to get through that adversity is to be present in the moment. … That’s up to the leaders on the team to combat all of the praise and hoopla that will come with it. I’ve been on teams that have handled success well and teams that have handled success poorly, and I don’t intend to let that slip."

Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last year, also preached caution.

“We’ll see if we’re special," he said. "I don’t want to say we’re special yet. We’re six games in, we’ve got a long way to go. Special teams sustain this kind of performance as the weather gets colder and real football starts in November and December. We’ve got to set ourselves up for that."

This is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2013, hasn't won a playoff game since 2008 and hasn't even had a winning season since 2014.

So 5-1 is heady stuff. 

"We don’t listen to the noise," Alshon Jeffery said. "We believe in each other. We’re the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a new year. We’re just getting started."

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

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AP/USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Donnie Jones
Roob: Jones turns 38 before camp starts and goes into his 15th NFL season out of LSU next year. Jones, who hasn't missed a game since 2004, is as reliable as ever. Including the postseason, he had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line and just six touchbacks. In five years here, he's established himself as the greatest punter in Eagles history. His 45.3 average and 40.6 this past year were very good. They'll drag a guy in to compete, but Jones is still terrific.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jones is 37 now but he's a punter and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Before the 2016 season, Jones said he wasn't interested in retiring any time soon and there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to stop yet. He had another good season in 2017. Of course, the Eagles proved that no one is immune from the business of the NFL when they decided to go with Rick Lovato over Jon Dorenbos in 2017, but Jones is still a really good punter. During Super Bowl week, Jones got a kick out of hearing he was the only Eagles player who was able to have a legal drink when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. Jones joked that's probably what he was doing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Sidney Jones
Roob: 
It'll be fun to see what Jones can do with a full healthy offseason and training camp. Along with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, he's a big part of the most talented young stable of cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had. Where does everybody fit in next year? We'll see. But I expect Jones to be here and playing at a high level for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It was probably a pretty good thing for the young corner to get some experience toward the end of his rookie season. Fans should be excited about Jones if he really is back to being the player he was before his injury. Because before he tore his Achilles at the Washington pro day, Jones might have been the very best cornerback in a deep cornerback draft. The Eagles have a little logjam at the cornerback position; what a great problem to have. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

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USA Today/AP Images

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Tim Jernigan
Roob:
 Jernigan had a very good first half, an OK second half of the season and really didn't do a lot in the postseason, and there's no doubt the Eagles would like to see him maintain his level of consistency throughout the season. But he's certainly not going anywhere, not with $11 million in dead money vs. a $5 million cap hit. Jernigan's talent is undeniable. He just needs to find a way to keep it going through the year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was a little surprised about how little Jernigan played in 2017. He played just 48 percent of the Eagles' snaps and in the playoffs, he played about as much as Beau Allen. Now, I know Jernigan dealt with an ankle injury throughout most of the year, so maybe that played a role. But for a guy who signed a four-year extension worth $48 million during the year, I really didn't see enough. He started off the season really strong, but then seemed to level off some. Maybe the ankle had something to do with that. In any case, he's now signed through 2021. The Eagles need more out of him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson 
Roob:
 We finally saw what Lane Johnson could do with a full season, and it was impressive. Johnson was named first-team All-Pro and made his first Pro Bowl team, and he deserved all of it. Johnson, suspended two of the last three seasons for testing positive for banned substances, was a beast at right tackle. He's not going anywhere for a long time.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: That was the season we've all been waiting for from Johnson. He was a dominant right tackle in 2017 and finally made it to his first Pro Bowl roster. He deserved it. For a long time, there's been a stigma about playing right tackle and that makes sense on its face. Protecting the quarterback's blindside has historically been more important, but defenses have adjusted. That's why guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa generally rush against right tackles. Johnson shut down those guys and more last season. It's a big reason why the Eagles didn't move him to left tackle when Jason Peters went down. That was the right call. 

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson
Roob: Johnson stuck on the active roster all year and got into 10 games, catching five passes for 45 yards. But wide receiver depth is certainly one area the Eagles will try to upgrade this offseason. Johnson will get a long look with the other young receivers in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He's got good speed, size and athleticism, but can he put it all together and catch the ball consistently enough to stick around another year? We'll see.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The young wide receiver had a great spring and summer a year ago to earn his spot on the roster. He really worked his tail off to get better and the Eagles rewarded him with a roster spot. From there, he carved out a role on offense. He was the Eagles' receiver in their 13 personnel (three tight ends) package for much of the early season. But then in late November, Johnson lost his active spot to Shelton Gibson, who didn't play as big a role on offense but was a better special teamer. That was a shock to Johnson at the time. He'll have a shot to make the roster this year, but losing his job on Sundays in 2017 isn't a good sign. 

Verdict: GOES