Eagles

Eagles rookie Mack Hollins shows he can handle leap to NFL level

Eagles rookie Mack Hollins shows he can handle leap to NFL level

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins said last week that he had never even attended an NFL game in his lifetime. Were it not for a slip on the slick concrete in Lambeau Field’s north end zone, he would have indeed been in the bleachers with everyone else watching the Birds’ first preseason game of the year.

He settled for a much better view of the action.

Hollins didn’t quite have a chance to execute the famous “Lambeau Leap” into the stands after a score, but the rookie fourth-round draft pick still caught his team’s lone touchdown in the 24-9 loss to Green Bay (see Instant Replay).

“I slipped a little bit on the concrete; I would have looked kind of foolish if I [kept attempting the leap],” said Hollins, who gave a run-up to the stands and stopped. “I got some bad stares [from the fans].”

Hollins caught a pass over the middle from Carson Wentz on third-and-long, worked his way to the sideline and shed three tacklers on his way to the end zone from 38 yards out.

The guys he beat were no slouches. All-Pro Clay Matthews, returning starter Quinten Rollins and second-round draft pick Kevin King – the Packers’ top draft selection in 2017 – were all among the victimized.

“When I’m in the game, everybody’s a starter,” Hollins said. “In my mind, I don’t see who they are. I see 11 guys that are hunting for my head.”

Hollins finished with four catches for 64 yards in his debut performance.

“It kind of just turned into improvise mode, and Mack made a good play getting open,” Wentz said of the touchdown that put the Eagles briefly ahead, 6-0. “I found him and he did the rest. He had two pretty nasty stiff-arms there to finish off the play. It’s good to see a young guy stepping up and making that play right away.”

Hollins downplayed the idea that the game meant anything more than the next phase of preparation for the 2017 regular season.

“I had a route over the middle, Carson found me, and my job is to get in the end zone, catch the ball and get in the end zone,” Hollins said. “It felt like practices every day, throwing with Carson. That’s why you have to take every practice rep just as seriously as the game.

“[The nerves were] just like in college or anything else. The first play, you’re kind of antsy. As soon as you make contact with somebody, you’re fine.”

The Eagles were missing top receivers Alshon Jeffery (who was healthy but coming off a shoulder injury) and Marcus Johnson (hamstring), opening the door for others to make plays.

“None of the veterans played, so it was rookie training camp kind of,” Hollins said. “Yeah, I did well, but there’s a lot of things I know I did the incorrect thing on and things I can fix and routes I can get better on. It’s nice I did well, but I can do way better. … We have a lot of weapons and a great quarterback and a great offensive line and running backs and receivers. I know we can do even better than we did tonight.”

Added Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, “It looked like he played really well. He’s the guy that we thought we were getting, and he started his preseason off well.”

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."