Eagles scratching surface with Donnel Pumphrey in their offense

Eagles scratching surface with Donnel Pumphrey in their offense

They call it the Pony set. It's an apt name. 

It's the moniker of the Eagles' two-running back formation when 5-foot-8, 176-pound rookie Donnel Pumphrey and 5-foot-6, 190-pound veteran Darren Sproles share a backfield. 

"It creates a lot of mismatches because we have great wideouts on the field as well as Carson Wentz back there," Pumphrey said. 

"With both of us back there, we can just do crossing patterns and keep the linebackers all mixed up. Even when we motion out, it's going to most likely be a linebacker on us and it's a mismatch on its own." 

The Pumphrey-Sproles comparisons are unavoidable, yet understandable. While the two don't have identical body types, they're both small and it seems like Pumphrey will have a Sproles-like role with the Eagles. 

Sproles, 33, previously has talked about retiring after the 2017 season, so the fourth-round pick could be his heir apparent. Pumphrey has also been working on returning kicks and punts during OTAs, something he didn't do much of in game action in college — and he's looked comfortable doing it. It's yet another thing he can learn from Sproles. 

"It's honestly been unbelievable to play under his wing, learn different stuff, different aspects of the game with him," Pumphrey said. 

As the current round of OTAs began in the rain on Tuesday, the Pony set was scratched momentarily because Sproles was away for a family matter. It will return, but in the meantime, the Eagles have been showing the various ways they plan on using their new versatile weapon. 

That means, in addition to his duties as a running back, Pumphrey will be used out of the backfield as a receiver and in the slot. On Tuesday, the Eagles stacked him as the back end in a bunch formation, almost hiding him behind bigger receivers. 

"Pump is so laterally quick," Ertz said. "You see it out there. His change of direction is incredible. Obviously, the coaches are going to have unbelievable pieces to use in this offense between him, Sproles, myself, we added guys like Alshon (Jeffery) and Torrey (Smith). Hopefully the middle of the field will be a little more spaced out than in years past. So we're excited to use him in different ways. 

"I mean, you put Sproles and him on the field, how is a defense going to match up? Are they going to play base, will they play dime? Sproles has obviously shown he can run between the tackles, we'll see how much Pump can do in the run game. I think guys are excited to see especially when the pads go on, live bullets, to see that lateral quickness." 

Ertz said the Pony set will create problems for defenses similar to those occurring when he and Trey Burton come out in the Eagles' two-tight-end set. Which defense will teams choose to use? 

And then Ertz questioned what teams would do if the Eagles come out with 176-pound Pumphrey next to 250-pound LeGarrette Blount in the same backfield. If Pumphrey is a pony, Blount is a thoroughbred stallion; but each serves his own purpose in the offense. 

"We've got a lot of chess pieces, so it's up to Doug (Pederson) and Frank (Reich) and [QB coach John DeFilippo] to kind of make the most of this," Ertz said. "But that's the good thing, they've shown they can do it in the past and we trust them as offensive players that they'll put us in situations to be successful."

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.