New — and old — faces soak in in first taste of the Linc at Eagles open practice

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New — and old — faces soak in in first taste of the Linc at Eagles open practice

They waited nearly seven months. And then a day.

After the threat of rain pushed the Eagles' first open practice of 2017 from Saturday to Sunday, 23,000 fans packed into the Linc on a near perfect morning to get their initial in-person taste of the green and white.

But while Sunday was an opportunity for the Birds faithful to watch their team close out the first week of training camp, it was also a chance for a handful of new faces to experience Philly fans for the first time. And head coach Doug Pederson gave two of his most dangerous offensive weapons plenty of time to shine with 1-on-1 drills throughout much of the latter half of practice.

"It was a great experience," wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "We had a lot of fun out here, slinging the ball, making plays. It was great for competition but also great for the city of Philly. ... A lot of people came out here to support. It means a lot to the city. It’s new to me, but it was a great experience."

On the other side of the field, fellow wideout Torrey Smith held court, soaking in the atmosphere and posing for photos with a handful of fans.

"I’ve been around two of the best fan bases in Baltimore and San Francisco, but I don’t think there’s anything like this with a massive fan base," Smith said.

"They’re very passionate and I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s cool for us to break from each other and be in front of the fans."

Following a season in which Carson Wentz was often searching for outside targets and options deep down the field, the Eagles have five solid receivers and a handful of players competing for the sixth spot. So whether it was Jeffery breaking a cornerback's ankles, Smith hauling in a deep bomb from Wentz right at the front pylon or Nelson Agholor and Marcus Johnson blowing past their defenders for easy scores, there were oohs and aahs throughout the crowd.

And the guys on the field certainly felt a different energy as well.

“Everyone’s a little more ramped up," Smith said. "We get a reaction when big plays happen so your adrenaline’s definitely going a little more.”

Although the excitement Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field was new for some, it was a welcome return for others. Nearly 1,000 days removed from his last game in an Eagles uniform, Nick Foles was anxious to walk back onto the turf where he put up the best season of his career just four years ago.

"I knew the moment I stepped back on this field would be really emotional," Foles said. "I believe when LeSean McCoy came back here he kissed the Eagle, and trust me, I’ve thought about stepping on this field even though it’s only for a practice for a while.

"You reminisce on a lot of times, a lot of great memories in this city and there always will be, so it’s really cool to be back on this field and with this team. It’s been a special day, even though I couldn’t practice, to see the fans, see the atmosphere and just see the excitement ready for this season."

With a sore throwing arm, Foles stood on the sidelines for a second straight day (see Sunday's practice observations), but when he was reintroduced to the crowd, it felt like he'd never left. Despite a two-year stretch in which the Arizona alum played just 14 combined games in St. Louis and Kansas City, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions, Foles was ready to be back with "the most unique fan base" he's ever been around.

"I’ve been around great fans with other teams — obviously, Arrowhead and Kansas City, that’s one of the loudest places to play and I really enjoyed that," Foles said.

"Those fans were awesome, but this place is so unique and the reason being that they live or die with the Eagles. And I felt that when I played here. We win and the city’s on fire and when we lose it’s not a fun week. We feel the same thing, so like I talked about in my previous press conference, you have the boos, you have all this stuff and there’s nothing better than playing in this stadium at the Linc. It’s my favorite place to play and I’m excited to play here again."

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.