Eagles

Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

eagles-road-trip-map.jpg

Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

The 2014 Eagles schedule is finally out, and for thousands of fans, now it’s time to figure out which road game to go to.

We’ll eliminate East Rutherford and Washington, which are close enough for a day trip (not that you’d want to take a day trip to East Rutherford), and focus on the Eagles’ six other 2014 destinations.

So let’s take a look at the six potential weekend road trips for Eagles fans who like to travel. We’ll rank them in order, from best trip to worst, and give you some ideas for what you can do with your free time.

San Francisco, Sept. 28
If you haven’t been to the Bay Area, you simply have to go. Eagles game or not, it’s one of the greatest destinations in the Lower 48.

Plus, this year, you get the benefit of seeing the 49ers’ new stadium, the spectacular Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of downtown San Francisco. Anything would be an upgrade over the dilapidated Candlestick Park, but word is that Levi’s Stadium will be one of the league’s best facilities.

Top five attractions
1. Marin County, the Redwoods, Wine Country: To really appreciate the area, you need to drive north of San Francisco and experience the spectacular natural beauty of Marin County and nearby Sonoma and Napa counties. Wineries, redwood parks, the coastline ... a day north of San Francisco is worth the trip.

2. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Point: It’s not just a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge affords amazing views of the city, the bay, Alcatraz, the ocean. There’s a pedestrian walkway across the bridge and Vista Point on the west end of the bridge, where you can park and take pictures. Best of all is Golden Gate Point on the Marin County side, accessible via Conzelman Road off Rte. 101 south. This is the vantage point seen on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, and the views are just astonishing.

3. Alcatraz: A short cruise from Pier 43 gets you to the Rock, and tours of the notorious prison and its grounds are available. Check out the cells once occupied by Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Machine Gun Kelly and Whitey Bulger. Warning: Don’t go if you’re easily creeped out.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf: A little touristy, but the Fisherman’s Wharf area has tons of shops, bars, restaurants and vendors, plus the Wax Museum, the famous sea lions and the Pier 39 marketplace.

5. Lombard Street: Drive down the world’s crookedest street. Why? Why not. You’ll understand when you get there. But keep it slow. The speed limit is 5 mph.

Arizona, Oct. 26
Once upon a time, the Cardinals were in the NFC East, and it was good. It didn’t make geographical sense, but I wasn’t about to complain about an annual trip to the Valley of the Sun.

These days, a trip to Arizona is rare, and it’s highly recommended.

Top five attractions
1. The Grand Canyon: You’ve seen pictures, and trust me. They do not do it justice. You simply have to see the thing before you die. It is insane.

2. Sedona: If you don’t have time to make the 3½-hour trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a heck of a consolation prize. Block after block of New Age shopping mixed with the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran desert makes Sedona one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

3. Historic Scottsdale: The ritzy northern suburb of Phoenix was once named the most livable city in the U.S. and it’s still one of the most visitable cities, with high-end shopping, restaurants, hotels, spas, much of it centered in Old Town. Oh, and bring your debit card, you’re going to need it.

4. Tonto National Forest: Driving through this vast wilderness area northeast of Phoenix is like driving through a living postcard. Cactus, wildlife, giant shards of rock jutting out of the ground, plenty of hiking areas ... just please watch out for snakes.

5. Montezuma Castle: You won’t believe your eyes when you see the 12th-Century cliff dwellings about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Breathtaking. Just think ... people lived there nearly a thousand years ago. Crazy.

Green Bay, Nov. 16
There isn’t a whole lot to Green Bay other than the Packers, but if you’re a hardcore football fan, you have to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay at some point.

Top five attractions
1. Lambeau Field: Like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, Lambeau is one of a dying breed -- a stadium that manages to mix historic charm with modern amenities. It opened 15 years before the Vet, and it’s still as majestic as ever.

2. Packers Hall of Fame: Even if you’re not a Packers fan, you’ll appreciate the history of an NFL franchise that dates back to 1921. And several of the members have area ties -- long-time Eagle Reggie White of course, Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson and Philly native Herb Adderley among them.

3. Green Bay trolley tours: A great way to see the city and learn about the Packers and their history is the narrated trolley tours.

4. Outagamie County Historical Society: Located in nearby Appleton (where you’ll probably be staying), the historical society includes a display about the life of notorious senator Joseph McCarthy.

5. Hazelwood Historic House: The best example of Greek Revival architecture you’ll find in Green Bay. Seriously. (And, yes, finding five things to do in Green Bay isn’t easy, but it’s still a great trip!)

Dallas, Nov. 27
There’s the Grassy Knoll, and there’s everything else. Just like visiting the Grand Canyon is mandatory when you’re in Arizona, making your way to the Grassy Knoll and book depository is mandatory when you’re in North Texas.

Top five attractions
1. Dealey Plaza: Even all these years later, you still get chills exploring Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and the site of the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. There’s now a museum in the old book depository. Any list of things to do in Dallas has to start at Dealey Plaza.

2. Jerry’s World: The Cowboys’ new stadium, now called AT&T Stadium, is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. It’s absurdly huge, hopelessly garrish and hilariously over-the-top. If you’re going to the game, make sure you allow extra time just to walk around and soak it all in.

3. George W. Bush Presidential Center: You don’t have to be a Republican to appreciate the history of one of only four two-term Presidents of the last 50 years. The Center is more historical than political, and even the most liberal Eagles fan will find plenty to see at the Bush Center.

4. Geo-Deck: From 470 feet above Dallas you’ll get the best views of Dallas and the entire North Texas region.

5. Cowboy Hall of Fame: No, not the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame. This is the museum of actual cowboys. Hey, you’re just not going to find this stuff in Pennsauken.

Indianapolis, Sept. 15
No major city in the United States has grown in recent years as much as Indianapolis. Thanks in great part to the 2011 Super Bowl, Indy has added tons of new restaurants, hotels and attractions. It’s actually not a bad place to go these days.

Top five attractions
1. The Speedway: Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, the Brickyard is definitely worth checking out. There’s an Indy 500 museum and gift shop, lots of cars from throughout Indy 500 history and even a bus that takes you around the track ... a little slower than you’re used to.

2. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Once upon a time, Butler’s fieldhouse was the largest college arena in the country. Those days are gone, but along with the Palestra and Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym it’s one of the oldest and most historic on-campus arenas in college basketball. Hinkle opened in 1928, one year after the Palestra and three years after Rose Hill.

3. The Eiteljorg Museum: Located in the center of town, the Eiteljorg hosts countless Native American artifacts and artwork of Western artists.

4. Indianapolis Zoo: An easy walk from downtown across the White River, the Indy Zoo is one of the nation’s best, and it’s located within the White River State Park, a terrific destination in itself.

5. Fountain Square: Fun little neighborhood just south of downtown with tons of Bohemian shops, unique bars and restaurants and diverse attractions.

Houston, Nov. 2
OK, let’s face it. You don’t want to go to Houston. You’d rather spend a weekend in East Rutherford. But ... we’ll try here.

Top five attractions
1. NASA Space Center: The Johnson Space Center’s visitors center features lots of exhibits, displays, interactive games and theaters and even a restored space shuttle capsule that you can go inside.

2. Battleship Texas: Located just east of Houston in La Porte, the Battleship Texas rests now at the mouth of Trinity Bay. The Texas, first launched in 1912, participated in both World War I and World War II and has served as a museum since 1948.

3. The Beer Can House: Yes, there’s a house made out of beer cans. About 50,000 of them. This probably should have been ranked higher.

4. Underground Houston: A 7½-mile network of tunnels connects most of the buildings in downtown Houston and features tons of bars, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s great, since it allows you to not actually have to see Houston.

5. The Strand District: Located about an hour from Houston, the Strand is a historic landmark in Galveston filled with antique shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, museums and hotels. Worth the drive.

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

ap-usa-doug-pederson-legarrette-blount-alshon-jeffery.jpg
AP Images/USA Today Images

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

ap-derek-barnett-full_0.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."