Without Carson Wentz, Eagles have different plan but same goal

Without Carson Wentz, Eagles have different plan but same goal

LOS ANGELES — Soon after the Eagles clinched the NFC East title Sunday night, Malcolm Jenkins was asked if the Eagles were still a potential Super Bowl team.

His answer: "Do we have a quarterback on the roster?" 

The goals haven't changed. The way the Eagles hope to accomplish those goals sure has.

The Eagles return to Philadelphia as NFC East champions after nine days on the West Coast, but they're also facing the strong likelihood of a stretch run and postseason without MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who suffered a left knee injury late in the third quarter of the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Wentz was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday morning in Philadelphia, and although there is a chance for good news, the Eagles fear that Wentz has a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee.

Which means the Eagles' 2017 fate likely rests in the hands of Nick Foles, who has changed teams after each of the last three seasons.

"Everyone's really excited because we put in a lot of work this season," Foles said. "Lot of work, we've won a lot of games, it's been a great team effort and Carson has been a big piece of that puzzle. 

"Everyone's really excited about the win, but you have your starting quarterback go down, it's emotional. It's emotional for me. I work with him every day, we do everything together. 

"I'm excited we won but at the same time, I'm dealing emotionally with seeing him go down. You never want that."

No team has repeated in the NFC East since the Eagles in 2003 and 2004. The division title is the Eagles' first since 2013 — when Foles was their quarterback — and 10th since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Only one of the last 21 NFC East champs has won the Super Bowl — the Giants in 2011.

"Our plan is to win every game that we compete in," Jenkins said. "Obviously, your game-plan changes depending on your personnel so I'm sure there'll be some things we change just because Nick doesn't have some of the abilities that Carson has — talking about his mobility and all of that. 

"But at the end of the day, it doesn't change any of our goals. It sucks because Carson is your friend and he puts so much into the game and you hate to see him go down. It sucks for him, but as a team we still have all our goals in front of us."

This team has already overcome a ton of adversity, finding its way to 11-2, an NFC East title and control of its destiny for the No. 1 seed in the NFC after losing Jason Peters, Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks to season-ending injuries.

"I'm proud of the guys," head coach Doug Pederson said. "But you know, we get back to Philly and we still have three games left and we still have an opportunity. Everything is still right in front of us for us to take and we've just got to make sure we take care of business.

"We're one step closer to where we want to be. We set goals before the season starts. Obviously, NFC East, we checked the box, put it behind us, and we move on. It's the New York Giants next week."

The Eagles' players and coaches were all wearing NFC East champion baseball caps in the L.A. Coliseum locker room Sunday night. The division title has been inevitable for several weeks. Despite losing Wentz, this team still has bigger goals.

"It feels great," veteran Chris Long said. "This hat is awesome to put on. It reflects a lot of hard work. 

"But it's not the end-all, be-all for us. We've got big things on our minds, but what it is is sequentially, we're able to check these boxes off and we'll move on to the next one."

Foles was on the field when the Eagles clinched the 2013 NFC East title and after stints with the Rams and Chiefs, he found himself on the field again four years later when the Eagles clinched their next division title.

"It means a lot to this team, it means a lot to me," Foles said. "I'm excited, we're NFC East champs.

"But it's emotional. A guy you work with every day, you think the world of, I think he's the MVP, it's not easy. But I know this team will step up and rally no matter what."

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.