Eagles

Vaitai and Walker getting comfortable with bigger roles

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Vaitai and Walker getting comfortable with bigger roles

Halapoulivaati Vaitai is not Jason Peters. And Joe Walker is not Jordan Hicks. 

But the Eagles aren't asking them to be. 

In the first game without their starting left tackle and without their starting middle linebacker, the Eagles picked up a 33-10 win over the lowly 49ers (see breakdown)

Both late-round draft picks a year ago — Vaitai was a fifth-rounder and Walker was a seventh-rounder — the two second-year players figure to have significant roles for the rest of the season. So far, so good. At least OK. 

Vaitai had a rough start Sunday, giving up an early sack. It's something we've seen from him a few times over the last couple of years. But like he has in other games before, Vaitai settled in as the afternoon went on (see Roob's observations)

"I just need to work on staying calm and play with poise," Vaitai said. "I tend to overlook things and get nervous ... well, not nervous but I'm thinking a lot. I need to go out there and just calm down like [Peters] says all the time." 

On the early sack he gave up, Big V said he got set a little too wide, so for the rest of the game, he tried to stay tighter next to the guard. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles went into the game trying to give both tackles some extra help but especially on the left side, where Vaitai filled in for Peters, who had started every game since Wentz became the starter last year. 

"[Vaitai] settled into the game and did a nice job," Pederson said. "Again, I'll evaluate the film tomorrow and get a chance to make the necessary corrections. But I think, overall, he filled in well and we'll get him ready next week again."

The Eagles elected this week to keep Lane Johnson at right tackle and simply replace an injured Peters with Vaitai. Big V has played more on the right side than the left but said he is starting to feel comfortable on the left too.  

As for Walker, he's technically a starter now, but he won't be playing a ton down the stretch, at least by comparison. He'll be in the Eagles' base package, which is on the field for about 30 percent of the team's snaps. 

How did Walker think he played? 

"We'll go back, we'll review the tape and we'll see," he said. "I've got some stuff I need to work on definitely."

While Walker will be the odd man out when the Eagles go to their nickel package — Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks will be on the field in those situations — he did technically get the first start of his NFL career Sunday. 

That also meant getting announced and running out of the tunnel before the game. 

"Oh man, it was something I'll never forget," he said. "Just the energy from the crowd, the atmosphere, I'll never forget it."

Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

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Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

At some point this summer, Carson Wentz will be cleared to play football.

And Nick Foles will pick up a clipboard and go back to the bench. The Super Bowl MVP will once again be a backup.

“It is a crazy situation,” Nick Foles said this week. “I don’t know how many times it’s happened.”

It’s never happened. No quarterback has ever been a Super Bowl MVP and began the next season as a backup.

But this is a unique set of circumstances. Wentz remains the unquestioned Eagles quarterback of the future. And Foles, as long as he’s here, is his backup.

“It’s not easy, because part of you wants to be able to lead a team and stay in the huddle,” Foles said Tuesday.

“But I’ve been very blessed to have experienced so much in my career so whenever those thoughts sort of hit you, you have to home back in and take what I learned early in my career, when I went to St. Louis, when I went to Kansas City, when I came here, that I really just need to worry about today, because tomorrow’s not guaranteed. This moment is. And I’m going to enjoy it and do it to the best of my ability.

“And it really makes everything a lot easier. Because whatever is going to happen is going to happen. A lot of it I have no control of it. If I’m traded, it’s really not my decision, so why would I even worry about it?”

Wentz was having a record-setting season when he tore up his knee Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Foles responded with a record-setting postseason.

But Wentz is 25 and Foles is 29. When Wentz is healthy, he will start.

“My (role) right now is to help this team in practice while Carson’s getting healthy, which I’m excited for,” he said. “I want him to get back out there and get healthy and get back to (being) Carson Wentz.

“I want him to (pick up) off where he left off. That excites me from a friend’s perspective and a teammate’s perspective.

“My mindset won’t change. There’s definitely times where I’m tempted to look at the future, like any of us are. I’d be lying if that wasn’t the case. But you have to reel back in and stay in the present because that doesn’t do you any benefit.”

Foles said he’s had people tell him he should have demanded the Eagles trade him so he can start now.

And after his record-setting postseason, it would be understandable if he did.

“I’ve seen both sides of it,” he said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Do I want an opportunity to run a team again? Absolutely. But am I trying to run away and do it right now? Well, I’m grateful to be here.

“There’s so much here that I really enjoy and I love it here. So I’m not banging on the table. I’m really grateful to be in this moment.”

Some people made a big deal about Foles telling an Austin television station that he would like to be a starter again, but anybody who knows Foles already knew that.

“All I’m telling y’all is what y’all already knew and everyone knew,” he said. “I can’t believe that I had to actually come out and say that I want to be a starter again. Because I’ve always believed your actions speak louder than words. I shouldn’t have to come out and say that I want to be a starter again.

“The key is to go out on the field and lead your team and show people, ‘This guy is a good guy in the locker room, he can lead a team, he did it on the field, and he’s shown it.’

“Right now, I’m a part of this team, I’m a piece of the puzzle, I’m going to help this team win in any way possible, and whatever my role is, do it to the best of my ability and do it with a lot of joy. Because I’ve seen the other side of it, and I have a lot of joy going to work here.”

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

Emotional Jason Kelce explains origin of epic speech

More than two months after Jason Kelce gave that now-famous and impassioned vulgarity-filled speech on the steps of the art museum, the emotions that led to it haven’t dissipated. 

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia folk hero got choked up trying to explain the impetus of his words for the first time since he spoke them. 

“I found myself literally [after] the Vikings game in the shower, like,” Kelce said before pausing. 

He choked back tears for a full five seconds. 

“Goddamnit,” he said under his breath, cleared his throat. Another three seconds passed. 

“You get pretty emotional, you’re crying,” said Kelce, recomposed. “And all of that, after the Super Bowl, after the game is finally over, I’m running on the field and I still can’t believe it happened. And it all hits you all at once. I think that’s what the whole speech was. It was the culminating of all the stories I’m thinking about at night, I can’t go to sleep, of how I got there. Then you start thinking about how everybody else got there. Then you start thinking about how the city got there.”

Kelce said he didn’t know how much his speech would resonate with fans and that’s not why he gave it anyway. He delivered his speech because in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, he began thinking about all the adversity he had overcome. He didn’t get a scholarship coming out of high school, needed to prove himself at a new position, and not long ago even questioned his own ability to still play at a high level. 

Then he realized it wasn’t just him. He thought about all of his teammates and what they went through. Then he thought about the city’s waiting to get a Super Bowl. 

The epic speech was born. 

“The whole speech was a realization of myself, realizing that I’m not the only person that’s been through something,” Kelce said. “I’m not the only person that’s had to go through [something]. Literally everybody has had something that they’ve overcome. Everybody’s pushed through. Everybody’s persevered through some sort of adversity and that was kind of the mantra the whole season. We had so much adversity, injuries, all these things happening. It just seemed like nothing could stop us.”

Since the Super Bowl and the speech, Kelce has become a wanted man. Everyone wants a photo and everyone tries to get a mic in his hand. A lot of people expect Kelce to be a great speaker, but what he said at the art museum that day had been building for years. He won’t always have that magic. 

While Kelce has spoken to some of the other local teams and his face appeared on beer cans with proceeds going to charity, Kelce has turned down most offers. Because of added fame, Kelce said just going out for breakfast is more difficult these days; and we all know what happens when Kelce doesn’t eat breakfast. 

He understands the new level of fame, though. It comes with the territory of helping the city achieve its dream. There are too many stories to list of fans telling him how much it meant to them and he understands the Eagles are glue for families in the region. He remembered one teammate walking up to him at the parade after a fan poured the ashes of their grandfather into his hands. The teammate didn’t know what to do and Kelce didn’t have any answers either. 

“It’s one of those things for the first seven years,” Kelce said, “that’s all anybody ever talked about when they came up and talked to you as an Eagle. They were like, ‘Just get us one. We’ve been waiting forever.’”

That’s pretty emotional stuff. You’ll forgive Kelce for getting choked up.