Eagles

Legendary Lambeau Field offers Eagles' rookies special 1st taste of NFL

Legendary Lambeau Field offers Eagles' rookies special 1st taste of NFL

As the first half turns into the second Thursday night in Green Bay, undrafted quarterback Dane Evans from Tulsa will start getting ready to enter his first NFL game. 

In the same stadium where one of his idols made a career. 

When most think about Lambeau Field, it's impossible to not start thinking about Vince Lombardi and all the history that comes along with it. Evans, 23, thinks back to his childhood. 

"I'm really excited about it," he said. "Obviously, getting to play at all. And then you add the fact that we're playing Green Bay in Lambeau, growing up a (Brett) Favre fan, it's really cool. I'm just excited about it. Talking to all the coaches and guys that have been around, they say it's one of the best places to play. So no better way to start off a career."

While Evans grew up in Texas and went to Sanger High School, not too far from Dallas, he just gravitated toward Favre. 

"Just watching him and how he played, it's hard to watch him and not root for him," he said. "He plays like a little kid out there all the time. His love for the game, just watching it, would get you excited. Just to play and throw the ball around where he built a career and did it for so long is really cool."

Evans said he's spent some time visualizing the first time he runs onto an NFL field and the first time he enters the game, he's trying to not think about it too much. He just wants to enjoy it as much as he can. 

For Evans and plenty of his Eagles teammates, Thursday night will offer their first taste of the NFL. And they'll get to play their first games in the league's most revered stadium. 

"I'm stoked, man," sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls said. "Even though it's just a preseason game, I get to play in my first NFL game. It's not something that you can really prepare for. You've been dreaming about this and visualizing this and thinking about this for so long, it's not something you can bring to reality until it is reality, until that day."

While some players are allowing themselves to start enjoying the special moment, others are trying as much as they can to treat Thursday night like they would any other game. 

First-round pick Derek Barnett, as even-keel as they come, said he's looking forward to Thursday night simply because "it's a chance to play a game." 

Just like any other game. At least that's how he wants to treat it. 

"I don't think it's going to be hard to [treat it like any other game]," he said. "Go in and make sure my technique's good and just play hard. If my technique's sound and I'm playing hard on every snap, everything else is going to fall into place."

If nothing else, Barnett is looking forward to facing some other competition. During the last two weeks, he's battled against the Eagles' offensive linemen, who he says have picked up on his moves. It'll be nice to try them on someone else.  

While Thursday night will be the first NFL game for many Eagles rookies, it'll also be the first time ever attending one for a couple. Receivers Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson said they have never even been to an NFL game, although they've played in NFL stadiums while in college. 

"Yeah, I thought about it but it still hasn't hit me, actually playing in an NFL game," undrafted receiver Greg Ward said. "I think it's just going to hit me whenever that time comes."

That time is almost here. 

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field — community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader — it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Darrell Greene
Roob: The Hall of Fame cornerback is now 58 years old and 21 years removed from his last Pro Bowl season with the Redskins. Oh wait … wrong Darrell Green. This is Darrell GREENE, and he's a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard out of San Diego State who's been on the Eagles' practice squad most of the last two years. The Eagles liked Greene enough to keep him around the last couple years, and unless they see something in Chance Warmack that I missed, Greene has a chance to stick around as a young O-line prospect.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Greene has been around now for the last two seasons. He was without a team for most of 2017; the Eagles didn't bring him back to the practice squad until December. The offensive guard had some real potential coming out of San Diego State, and the Eagles paid him a lot of guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent before 2016. But he's never really impressed them enough to stick around for good. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Roob: With Hicks, it's always about durability, not ability. Hicks has played more than half a season only once in his three NFL seasons, and since he's under contract for 2018 with a modest $2.068 million cap figure, he's obviously not going anywhere. The question is what the Eagles do with him after 2018 when he's due to become a free agent. Hicks can play. We all know that. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy in order to get a big-money deal a year from now.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Losing Hicks was a problem in 2017 and his absence started showing up late in the season. He's a big-time playmaker. It's a shame he got hurt last year because if he didn't, he'd be in line for a payday. For now, he'll be back in the final year of his four-year rookie contract until he can prove he's the same player he was pre-injury. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Roob: Grugier-Hill must be Howie Roseman's dream. He's signed at the minimum through 2019 but is an awfully valuable member of the roster — a reserve linebacker and emergency kicker and maybe the team's best special teamer. Kamu's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He really doesn't play at all as a linebacker, but Grugier-Hill has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL and had a real chance to be named a Pro Bowler in 2017. He led the team in special teams tackles with 19 last season. He's still young, cheap and is a big part of Dave Fipp's group. 

Verdict: STAYS