Eagles

'Pro's pro' Mychal Kendricks continues to build strong résumé in preseason

'Pro's pro' Mychal Kendricks continues to build strong résumé in preseason

It's not a secret Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks would like to be somewhere else. 

In Jim Schwartz's defense, he's been relegated to a part-time player who played just 27 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season. It got to the point that this offseason, Kendricks asked for the Eagles to trade him. 

When the Eagles declined, Kendricks didn't hold out. He didn't throw a tantrum. Instead, he kept showing up to work — Doug Pederson called him a "pro's pro." And through two preseason games, Kendricks has been one of the best players on the field. 

How has Kendricks gone about his business in recent months? 

"I'm blessed, man," he said. "That's the God's honest truth. Just knowing that there's so many things wrong with this world today and so many things going on in this world today, you look at your situation and it's not that bad. I just try to approach every day like that. Have an attitude of gratitude and just keep balling, man."

Kendricks was certainly balling on Thursday night. He picked up his second interception in as many preseason games, to go along with a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

After two preseason games, Kendricks' stock is extremely high. The Eagles didn't trade him in January, but there's still a chance they could move him now. He might be more valuable to the Eagles on their own team, but trading him would still make some sense — if they can find the right partner. 

"It's a résumé, man," Kendricks said. "We're all renting space like I told you guys a couple weeks ago. This is a résumé. But it is preseason. It's not going to go in the books for Pro Bowl, ya feel me? It doesn't count but everything matters." 

Kendricks wasn't surprised that he played a lot against the Bills on Thursday night — 27 snaps, most coming with the first team — because the Eagles were in their base defense to combat what the Bills put on the field. The Bills didn't come out with three wide receiver sets, so Kendricks stayed on the field. Normally, he's the odd man out when the Eagles go into their nickel defense, which happens much more often than not. 

Despite the normal lack of playing time, the 26-year-old linebacker is still technically a starter in the Eagles' defense. But the pass-happy NFL has gone the way of three wide receiver sets and Schwartz values having Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham on the field over Kendricks. 

Kendricks' career path has been an interesting one. He once looked like he was on his way to becoming a Pro Bowler in Philadelphia, signed a long-term contract extension but then became a part of a rotation under Billy Davis and a part-time player under Schwartz. He actually has a bigger base salary than Hicks and Bradham combined in 2017. 

While Kendricks has looked dynamic through the first two preseason games, he claims nothing has changed from last year. 

"Everything's still there," he said. "It's always been there. It's always been there." 

A problem for Kendricks has been that his best skill is probably blitzing, something Schwartz does very rarely, especially when they're not zone blitzes. On Thursday night, however, Schwartz dialed some up and Kendricks had a chance to get back to what he does best. 

"Obviously, you know, [Schwartz] used him in a little bit of a blitz package tonight," Pederson said. "He can definitely put some pressure on the quarterback. It’s exciting to see where he's at. [I’m] very comfortable with that, and we've just got to keep them coming.”

Kendricks wasn't sure if blitzing will become a part of the Eagles' normal defensive plan. Last season, Schwartz worried about the predictability of using Kendricks in those situations. 

But Kendricks has no questions about his role with the team. 

"I think my role is to uplift people around me and make people around me better," Kendricks said. "And that's at a minimum. If I know that, I'll be cool." 

Eagles use dominant second half to blow out Cowboys

Eagles use dominant second half to blow out Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was no fiery halftime speech. There were no lineup changes. There weren’t even any major adjustments. The Eagles went into the locker room Sunday night at halftime flat and rusty. They came out unstoppable.
 
“It shows we're resilient,” Carson Wentz said. “We knew coming into the locker room at halftime that we left a lot out there. We knew that we're much better than that and we had to go execute. It shows that we have a lot of believe in each other and we can get the job done.”
 
The Eagles couldn't do much right in the first half and couldn't do much wrong in the second half.
 
"We were positive," guard Stefen Wisniewski said after the Eagles had finished off a 37-9 destruction of the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (see Roob's observations). "No one is going to get our heads down.
 
"We know we’ve got a lot of talent on this offense. It’s one of the best offenses in the league. Even if someone slows us down for a little while, we’re not going to panic. We’re just going to keep believing in what we do, keep swinging, just keep believing it’s going to work and it did.” 
 
First half: They scored seven points.
Second half: They scored 30 points.
 
First half: They gained 115 yards.
Second half: They gained 268 yards.
 
First half: Their running backs gained 25 yards
Second half: Their running backs gained 202 yards.
 
A different team.
 
“We just decided to run the ball,” Lane Johnson said.
 
“The first series (of the game), we ran the ball and got a touchdown. Then we got away from it a little bit. We came out the second half and ran the ball right at ‘em, and they didn’t have an answer.”
 
The Eagles outscored the Cowboys, 30-0, in the second half, turning a two-point deficit into their eighth consecutive win. At 9-1, the Eagles have not only the best record in the NFL but a four-game lead in the NFC East with six games to go.
 
This was the first time in franchise history the Eagles have scored 30 second-half points after going into halftime trailing. It’s only the fifth time they’ve scored seven or fewer first-half points and 30 or more second-half points (see breakdown).
 
“We were kind of a little bit asleep in the first half,” Jay Ajayi said. “We woke up in the second half, got to our run game and just dominated after that.”
 
The Eagles finished the first half with five straight drives that netted five yards or less. They opened the second half with touchdown drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards.
 
In the first half, the Eagles didn’t have a running play longer than seven yards. In the second half? Ajayi had a 71-yarder, LeGarrette Blount had a 30-yarder and Corey Clement had an 11-yarder for a TD.
 
The Eagles’ backs averaged 3.1 yards per carry before halftime and 8.4 after halftime.
 
“We just had to stay relaxed," Clement said. "We knew the game plan that was worked up by coach (Doug) Pederson was going eventually pan out."
 
Wentz didn’t have a huge day, but he didn’t need one (see report card). In the second half, he was 7 for 9 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and a couple two-point conversion passes.
 
“We were just off a little bit in the passing game (in the first half),” head coach Doug Pederson said. “You could see a little bit of the frustration with (Wentz). I just keep talking to him and saying, 'Hey we just have to keep with the game plan. Trust the game plan. Trust the guys. We'll get this thing fixed,' and (he) just did that.
 
“Just kept shooting. Kept dialing up throws. Wanted to get him on the edge a little bit, so we moved the pocket some. That also can help the quarterback get in a little bit of a rhythm but just stayed the course.”
 
How rare is it for the Cowboys to lead a game at halftime and then allow 30 or more second-half points? It's now happened four times in franchise history.
 
The last time the Cowboys were shut out for a second half while allowing 30 or more points? It was 1962.
 
“The biggest thing was just staying with the game plan,” Wentz said. “They made plays and we didn't later in that first half. We just had to stay with what we knew what we could do. Execute better and stay out of some of those 3rd-and-long situations."
 
Maybe it had something to do with the bye week. The Eagles sure opened the game like a team that hadn't played in two weeks.
 
"I hate using the term rusty, but we weren't playing up to our ability in the first half," Johnson said. "Came back in the second half and just dominated."

Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

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USA Today Images

Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kamu Grugier-Hill's career as an NFL kicker got off to a rather inauspicious start. 

After Jake Elliott left the game with a concussion, the linebacker began to warm up his right leg on the Eagles' sideline in the first half of the 37-9 win over the Cowboys (see breakdown)

His first kick sailed wide right, missing the net and soaring into the stands. 

"Oh yeah," fellow linebacker Najee Goode said with a smile. "He definitely hit somebody. He hit a fan and the fan stood up."

Before that practice kick, punter Donnie Jones offered to move the net closer to Grugier-Hill, but the emergency kicker declined. 

That was a mistake. 

"I was like, 'Oh this is going to be a little rough,'" Grugier-Hill said about that miss. "After that, I kind of got a hold of it."

After that first bad attempt, Grugier-Hill settled down and actually had a decent showing as a kicker (see Roob's observations). He practiced some in the dark during a Jerry Jones ceremony at halftime. 

He didn't attempt any field goals or extra points, but he did kick off after four touchdowns and even got a touchback on one of them. 

Grugier-Hill, 23, practiced kicking just one time this season. Chris Maragos had been the Eagles' emergency kicker until he went down for the season with a knee injury. Fipp made Grugier-Hill practice it once. 

Despite practice time, Grugier-Hill was confident in his kicking abilities. He played soccer through sophomore year in high school and said he was an All-Conference and second-team All-State punter in high school in Hawaii. 

"I knew he could kick," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "We call him the Flying Hawaiian. He can do it all."

The Eagles were able to joke about Grugier-Hill's kicking prowess in the winning locker room, but for a while, they were in a precarious situation. 

Coming out after halftime, they were trailing 9-7 and had to play the rest of what looked like a close game without a kicker. 

Goode said it was obviously a blow, but noted the Eagles' offense was able to help out because they can put up points (see report card)

It did change the game because the Eagles didn't try any field goals after Elliott left the game and they went for two on all four of their second-half touchdowns. They converted on three of four. 

"I don't even know if everybody on offense knew right away," Carson Wentz said. "I was in the know, but I don't even think everyone knew. It is what it is. We executed I thought pretty well on those two-point plays. That's why you have a lot of those plays dialed up. You don't think too much about it." 

While the Eagles didn't announce when Elliott suffered his concussion, it's likely it happened on the opening kickoff. Return man Ryan Switzer took the kickoff 61 yards, but Elliott was there to greet him on the sideline to help prevent a touchdown. It looked like Elliott took a shot to the head. 

He continued to play, but after missing a 34-yard attempt was taken inside to get checked out. 

After Elliott went inside, Grugier-Hill began to practice kicking. It was an unusual situation for him, but he claimed he wasn't nervous. 

"Everyone expected me to do bad anyways," he said, "so I [didn't] have anything to lose."