Eagles

What is Eagles' formula to beat Tom Brady?

usa-fletcher-cox-brandon-graham-derek-barnett.jpg
USA Today Images

What is Eagles' formula to beat Tom Brady?

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- If the Eagles are going to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, their defensive line is going to need to be dynamic. 

It's as simple as that. 

Because the Patriots are going to take the field led by Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL, the Eagles' best chance to slow him down is by getting after him, hitting him and making his night miserable. It's not easy, but the front four needs to do it. 

"We look at it like that every week," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "As a defensive line, you have to disrupt the quarterback. As the leader of his team, that's how the offense gets going. Every week that's our standard. That's nothing new to us. We've been saying it all year."

Brady has played in seven Super Bowls and he's won five. The two he lost came to the New York Giants, who also had a dominating front four. 

Earlier this week, we caught up with former Giants pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora, who sees some clear similarities between those Giants teams and this Eagles team (see story). He thinks the Eagles have a real chance to win this game.  

The Eagles' defensive linemen didn't seem to know too much about those Giants' Super Bowl wins. They were young and seem to just remember that incredible David Tyree catch. But defensive line coach Chris Wilson watched and those games have been on his mind recently. 

"We go back and study but we try to go back and study things that are applicable, things that are current now and see how their mindsets were back then," Wilson said. "But so much has changed since those days. The one constant is Bill (Belichick) and Tom, they're consistent. But a lot of the pieces have changed. We go back and take a quick glance at it and see if they have any relevance now. If they do, we use it. If they don't, we just stick to what we have." 

The Eagles' front four has to get after Brady but it can't try to do too much. That's when things could get ugly. They have to be disciplined in their gaps and make sure they're doing what they're supposed to. 

"You just gotta do your job," Vinny Curry said. "Don't try to do nobody else's job. Do your job."

Those who have faced Brady before say that even when they get after him, he never really looks flustered. He might throw a few more incompletions than normal, but you're never going to see him hang his head or get some of the visible signs some other quarterbacks give. Wilson said the key is to just stay patient. 

"We're not blind to the fact, we know what we're up against," said Tim Jernigan, who spent the first few years of his career in the AFC. "I've had my experience playing against this guy. There were times where I beat the guy clean, never touched me, and I still never got to him. The guy is intelligent, he knows exactly where to go with the ball."

During the last two weeks of practice, backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld has been playing the role of Brady for the scout team. Everyone said he did a nice job and the Eagles could certainly use all the help they can get. 

Before these playoffs started, Fletcher Cox talked about how the defensive line is the highest paid unit on the team and the group needed to play like it. Through two games, he and his group certainly have. They have one more game to go. 
  
"I think it's just more magnified," Wilson said. "I think the biggest thing is the jump we made from Year 1 to Year 2. Now it's more magnified because now the whole world's watching. There are not 32 teams playing. Now you're down to that final four, there's more emphasis, there's more eyes on it. This is something I think they've been doing throughout the season."

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

ap-trey-burton-eagles.jpg
AP Images

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

Several hours after an NJ.com report surfaced that the Eagles were unlikely to re-sign Trey Burton, the tight end denied it on Twitter.

Replying to a tweet about the report from former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, Burton said he hasn't spoken to anyone.

NJ.com's Matt Lombardo reported Friday that the Eagles made Burton an offer that the soon-to-be-free-agent "didn't consider serious."

"We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere," the source said.

It wouldn't be surprising whatsoever if Burton leaves in free agency. A team will likely pay him starter's money and offer him a chance to start, which he doesn't have here with Zach Ertz firmly entrenched.

The Eagles are over the projected salary cap, and while they could create space in numerous ways, they also have to worry about re-signing key linebacker Nigel Bradham.

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Rework/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or rework his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one β€” we explore it more here. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.