Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

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As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

After getting the opportunity to stay with the Super Bowl champions, Nigel Bradham spoke at length and quite passionately about someone who didn’t get the same opportunity.
Brent Celek.
Bradham, the veteran linebacker, spent the last two years with Celek, who the Eagles released earlier this week after 11 seasons.
“That’s obviously devastating, man,” Bradham said. “Taking about a guy who was here his whole career and the way he came every day and his character every day.
“He really … me and a lot of guys on our team what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and he let us know it doesn’t come easy, it takes work, and he came in and worked every day. Like no other.”
Celek was due to earn $5 million in 2018 but is counting only $1 million in dead money against the 2018 cap, so the Eagles gained $4 million under the cap by releasing him.
That cap space certainly helped them find room to re-sign Bradham, who enjoyed a career-best season in 2017 for the Super Bowl champs.
But Bradham was effusive in his praise for the veteran tight end, who has played the fourth-most games in Eagles history.
“You would never know he was (11) years in because of the way he worked,” Bradham said. “So when you lose a guy like that it obviously takes a toll on your team.
“You hate to lose guys like that that meant so much and impacted this team so much. His leadership was on another level. He went over and beyond the things he could have done as a leader. Obviously, wish he could be here still.”

Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

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Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

The Eagles on Friday reportedly hosted a formal visit with LSU running back Derrius Guice.

If the Eagles have real interest in Guice, they know he won’t be there beyond pick 32. He might not even be there at pick 32. So would the Eagles seriously consider taking a running back with their first-round pick?

The Eagles’ running back situation is murky going forward. LeGarrette Blount has found a new home. Jay Ajayi will have an enormous role in this offense, but is only signed through 2018. Corey Clement will likely take on a bigger role after he proved himself as a pass catcher and, more importantly, a pass protector. Kenjon Barner’s value is strictly as a returner, a need the Eagles may look to address elsewhere. Then there’s former mid-round picks Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey who I mention in this space simply because they have roster spots as of today. And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who’s still lingering in free agency.

The free agent market is less than inspiring. Adrian Peterson is out there but he’s not going to play for free. Do you want to bring back former Eagle DeMarco Murray or (almost former Eagle) Frank Gore? Didn’t think so. You could take a chance on an Eddie Lacy or a Matt Jones, guys who showed promise but lost their way. But, again … meh.

Last year’s running back draft class was crazy deep and talented. So much so that the Eagles were able to pick up Clement off the street after he didn’t get selected. This year’s class isn’t far behind it.

There’s an obvious RB1: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. No, Eagles fans. It’s not happening. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, focus on the guys the Eagles have an actual shot at getting. Guice, for one, would be an excellent addition as a lead back. There’s also USC’s Ronald Jones, a Jamaal Charles clone that would fit like a glove in this offense. Then there’s Georgia’s dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb is more of a bell cow while Michel is more dynamic.

The history of the Eagles drafting running backs high is not illustrious. Since they made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by selecting Michael Haddix No. 8 overall in the loaded 1983 draft, it’s been a somewhat mixed bag. They took Keith Byars No. 10 overall and Anthony Toney in the second round in 1986. Byars was OK, but Toney was a bust. They took Siran Stacy in the second (48th overall) in 1992 who never logged a single NFL carry. They did better in 1994, selecting Charlie Garner in the second round (42nd overall), and hit it out of the park in 2009, selecting their all-time leading rusher LeSean McCoy at pick 53.

The Eagles clearly have running backs on their radar in this draft. Though their history isn’t great with drafting them high, this would be the year to do it.