What's happened to Mack Hollins' playing time?

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What's happened to Mack Hollins' playing time?

There was a time this season when it looked like rookie Mack Hollins might overtake Torrey Smith in playing time. 

That time has passed. 

Against Denver and Chicago in November, Hollins had nearly the same amount of snaps as Smith, but that was a long time ago. On Monday night against Oakland, he played just nine offensive downs, his lowest total since Oct. 23, while Smith played 55. 

And Hollins, the fourth-round rookie, hasn't had a catch in either of the last three games after having a catch in seven consecutive games. 

Is it difficult for him to stay focused when the ball isn't coming his way? 

"It's easy," Hollins said. "My job is not to catch the ball. My job is to win games. And we're winning, so it's not hard for me at all." 

Some rookies talk about hitting a symbolic wall at some point during their first NFL season, but Hollins said that isn't the case with him. He said he felt better last week than he has all season. 

He insisted nothing for him has changed, even with his dip in production and playing time. 

Drop the MIKE
It seems like 32-year-old Dannell Ellerbe is the Eagles' new middle linebacker in their base package after DC Jim Schwartz said they're leaning that way going forward. 

Ellerbe played a season-high 27 snaps and seems to have overtaken Joe Walker (who was inactive and placed on injured reserve Friday) for that spot. 

"I knew it was going to come," Ellerbe said about getting his opportunity. "I just had to stay ready. I just had to learn the defense. It's kind of hard to learn the whole defense in a week or so."

Ellerbe signed with the Eagles on Nov. 13 but played just one defensive snap until Monday night's game. He didn't really show up on the stat sheet aside from a big tackle for loss in the third quarter. 

"I feel like I played alright," he said. 

Ellerbe isn't sure how much he'll play Sunday, but he could probably use the work and he wants to play. After signing midseason with the Eagles, Ellerbe said Thursday he has no plans to retire anytime soon. He's just hoping to get more on film. 

As the Eagles' MIKE in their base package, he'll be on the field primarily on first downs. 

"I can help wherever I'm needed," he said. "I've been in some defenses where all I do is cover. This defense, it seems like I'm gonna be in for base, so that's playing more run. I feel like I can do it all. I'm not just a run-stopper or a coverage guy. I can do it all." 

Lessons from Dallas 
There's a little role reversal in the regular-season finale this season. The Eagles have the No. 1 seed wrapped up, while Dallas is completely out of playoff contention. The opposite happened last year. 

In Week 17 of 2016, Dallas was also 13-2. Head coach Jason Garrett elected to rest several of his key players heading into the bye week. 

Then, in their first playoff game against the Packers a few weeks later, they got down 21-3 early in the second quarter. They came back to tie the game but eventually lost. 

Does Garrett think there was a correlation between the extra rest and the slow start? 

"You never really know the answer to that question," Garrett said on a conference call with Philly reporters this week. "I do think we were fresh. I do think, if you just look at the specifics of the things that caused us to get behind, I don't know if it was anything that was directly related to that. Eventually, we started executing and doing the things necessary and we gave ourselves a great chance to win the ballgame at the end. 

"Those are some of the age-old questions teams in these situations have been asking for a long time. You never really truly know what the answer is. Ultimately, I think you just do what you think is right for your team and you make that decision and go for it." 

Quote of the Week I: "There are times in games like that where guys start turning on each other. And if you look at the sidelines — and I was there — there was never one moment where we doubted we would win that game." -- Nick Foles  

Quote of the Week II: "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." -- Jim Schwartz when asked about the significance of his defense finishing first against the run

Quote of the Week III: "So right now I'm just trying to prove I'm still good. I'm still as fast as I've ever been. Still as quick as anybody in the league. I'm definitely not slowing down." -- Patrick Robinson

Random media guide note: If Nelson Agholor could play another sport, he'd be a point guard for the Knicks. 

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
Seriously, Doug?
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.