New Eagles LB Nelson ready to compete for Kendricks' job

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New Eagles LB Nelson ready to compete for Kendricks' job

Corey Nelson has primarily been a backup and a special teams player during his first four seasons in the NFL. He now wants desperately to be a starter. 

It’s telling he thinks he can do that in Philadelphia. 

At the 25-year-old’s introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon, Nelson said the Eagles told him he’ll be competing at the weakside linebacker position, which is currently occupied by Mychal Kendricks and his $7.6 million cap hit.

Go ahead and cue the Kendricks trade rumors for yet another offseason.

“I kind of wanted to go out on a limb and show people I can be a starter in this league,” Nelson said. “The Eagles gave me the opportunity to be able to compete, to work hard to earn that right.” 

If Nelson is going to compete to be the Eagles’ starting WILL linebacker, he’s not going to be competing with Kendricks because if Kendricks is still on the roster, he’s going to be starting. Now, of course teams will promise guys more opportunity in free agency, so maybe we have to take the Eagles’ talking up competition to Nelson with a grain of salt. But if they were serious about that, it might mean the end of Kendricks’ long and strange run in Philadelphia. 

But what about Nelson? 

He played just 44 defensive snaps last season but grew into an important part of the Broncos’ special teams groups. Coming to Philadelphia is a part of his plan to shed the label of being a “special teamer.” 

“It definitely was important to me,” Nelson said. “A lot of guys get labeled as things, just like practice squad guys. They kind of get labeled as practice squad guys. You kind of don’t want to be labeled as that. You want to be able to showcase your talent and show people that you’re better than what they say you are if the opportunity presents itself and if you’re able to handle that.” 

Nelson is recovering from a torn biceps that limited him to just five games in 2017. On Thursday, he said he’s 90 percent healthy and expects to be 100 percent by mid-April for the start of offseason workouts. He’s at 235 pounds now and thinks that would be adequate to play linebacker for the Eagles. 

When Nelson did get his rare chance to play defense for the Broncos, he said he did a little bit of everything. He played on all three downs and was asked to cover running backs, tight ends and even the occasional wide receiver. In Philly, he’ll play in a much different scheme than the one Vance Joseph runs in Denver.

When asked what he knows about Jim Schwartz, Nelson said he knows he “has a kick-ass defense.”

“I saw them on TV a lot,” he said. “I like their linebackers. Jordan Hicks, that’s my guy. Been knowing him since high school. I love watching Nigel Bradham go out there and ball out. I watched them quite a bit and I knew these guys are the real deal.”

Nelson failed to mention Kendricks. Maybe it was an oversight; maybe it wasn’t. Either way, it seemed fitting, especially if he ends up taking his job. 

Celek's blueprint to being an ultimate Philly athlete

Celek's blueprint to being an ultimate Philly athlete

In a business where nobody stays anywhere for 11 years, Brent Celek was an Eagle for 11 years.

Think about the landscape of the Philadelphia Eagles when he arrived for his first rookie minicamp.

Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator. John Harbaugh was the secondary coach. Brian Dawkins was still here. Donovan McNabb was the quarterback and Kevin Kolb was his backup. The Eagles had just acquired Montae Reagor, Takeo Spikes and Kevin Curtis.

It’s like reading an Eagles ancient history book.

For 11 years, for 184 games, Celek wore an Eagles uniform, and for 11 years, for 184 games, nobody wore it with more class and more pride.

Celek loved being an Eagle, and we loved him because he played the game exactly how we want our athletes to play. How we demand they play. With reckless abandon, with no regard for personal achievements, with an eye only on team success.

What impressed me the most about Celek is how he transformed himself over the years from one of the NFL’s top receiving tight ends to one of the league’s best blocking tight ends.

From 2009 through 2013, Celek averaged 54 catches, 696 yards and five touchdowns per season, and only five NFL tight ends had better numbers during that stretch — Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham. Some all-time guys right there.

Then Zach Ertz blossomed in 2014, and Celek all of a sudden was asked to stop catching passes and start focusing on blocking, and it never mattered to him because all he wanted to do was help the team win football games. Whatever it took.

That fierce team-first mentality carried over into the locker room and helped make Celek a natural leader and fan favorite. And that unselfish spirit really drove the 2017 Eagles, so although his stats may not have looked like much this past season — career lows of 13 catches and 130 yards — Celek was a huge part of what this team accomplished.

And it’s fitting that the 184th and final game he played as an Eagle was the franchise’s greatest triumph in the last 50 years.

Nobody was happier in the locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4 after Super Bowl LII than Celek, who has spent a third of his life working for one, single goal and got to experience it being achieved.

And his teammates kept talking about how happy they were for Celek.

This is a franchise that has been around for 85 years, and only David Akers, Dawkins and Harold Carmichael have played more games than Celek.

Of the 17 players in Eagles history who have spent 11 or more years here, only eight played their entire career here.

Chuck Bednarik, Bucko Kilroy, Vic Sears, Jerry Sisemore, Bobby Walston, Randy Logan and Pete Retzlaff.

And — as of now — Celek.

That’s the company he’s in.

Celek still wants to play, and if there’s a team out there that needs a smart, tough, savvy backup tight end, I can’t think of a better candidate.

But like Dawkins or Reggie White or Carmichael, he’s one of those guys that would be really tough to see in another uniform.

It’s funny. In 2009, when Celek finished 29 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, I was really upset. I wanted him to get that 1,000 yards. Which he never did get. And when he finished this past season with 4,998 career yards, I was gutted. I couldn’t imagine him leaving Philly two yards short of 5,000.

But when I think about it now, Celek probably doesn’t even care about that stuff. He would just shrug and shake his head and say numbers don’t matter.

What does matter?

He’s a winner. He’s a champion. He’s an Eagle. And he always will be.

Carson Wentz joins the great pizza debate

USA Today Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Carson Wentz joins the great pizza debate

Papa John’s is out as the official pizza of the NFL after a tumultuous year for the company and Carson Wentz is here for their replacement, Pizza Hut.

He tweeted his support, as a potentially sneaky sponsorship, early on Wednesday.

Some other quarterbacks also chimed in as well.

Like anything on social media, especially surrounding pizza, a debate broke out.


So, that raises the question, where is the best place in Philadelphia to grab a slice? Post a comment on our tweet or Facebook post.

We’ll hang up and listen.