Barrett Brooks

Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

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Why Eagles' play in trenches is behind 8-game win streak

The strength of the Eagles is built on fundamental, sound play on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Yes, the play of Carson Wentz is the biggest reason the Birds are 9-1, but the play of the defensive line and offensive line are also major factors.

There was no question coming into the season that the D-line would pull its weight. I doubt if knowledgeable football minds could argue against the D-line being ranked the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz centered his defense around the play of his D-line's ability to generate constant pressure on opposing offenses, whether that's in the run game — the Eagles are the NFL's best run defense — or creating havoc on quarterbacks in the pocket. The defensive line has allowed the young secondary to catch up and perform well above expectations, and then Ronald Darby returned Sunday in Dallas (see story).

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line has also become a top-five unit in the NFL, and that's without future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. I know Carson Wentz wouldn't argue that.

In Sunday's 37-9 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles' O-line, against a pass rush with featuring a stout defensive front that includes NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawerence (11 1/2), didn't allow a sack. A lot of credit goes to Lane Johnson for his work on Lawrence.

With no real individual leader to hold this Eagles' offense's hat on, it's a total team effort in which the Eagles go about their business. This is just a shining example of why this O-line is so good and underrated. At 9-1, there has not been a wide receiver over 100 yards in a game. If my memory serves me right, the Birds have had a 100-yard rusher twice, both by LeGarrette Blount. So, even with the absence of the all-world Peters, I am secure in rating the Eagles' OL as the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Fundamentally speaking, football is won in the trenches. I was privileged to be a part of a Super Bowl team with the same formula the Eagles are using to win eight straight games: A young franchise QB (Ben Roethlisberger), a really good defense and a very good O-line.

The Eagles are just scratching the surface with their potential. Like these young players — guys like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Derek Barnett — develop in the trenches, the sky's the limit for the core of this team.

Eagles' bye was one of most well-timed ever

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Eagles' bye was one of most well-timed ever

The week following the bye is always hit or miss regarding a team’s focus. This may be one of the most strategically set bye weeks the Eagles have ever been dealt. 

It comes at virtually the halfway point of the season and against one of the best opponents head coach Doug Pederson can ask for: the Dallas Cowboys (see story).

This is one of the most intense rivalries I have faced in the NFL and I have been a part of some great ones. 

I played in Green Bay when the Chicago Bears were contenders and Brett Favre matched wits with inside linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Or maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. I can remember playing down in Baltimore and linebacker Ray Lewis would whip the Ravens' fans into a frenzy while he did his animated dance before the game. It was always a war when "The Bus" Jerome Bettis and the offensive line would face Lewis and the rest of the Ravens' front seven to establish dominance in the AFC North.

But I truly feel that the rivalry between the Eagles and the Cowboys surpasses even those intense battles in their respective divisions. There was nothing better than traveling down to Irving, Texas, to play the Cowboys during the mid-90s. There were so many Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers on the field during those battles. The hatred — yes, hatred — I felt looking at the star will affect how I analyze this game in Jerry’s House this Sunday. I was trying to break down how the Cowboys' D-line matches up with the offensive line of the Eagles, but the hype of this Sunday’s game took over.

Dallas will run various tackle-end and end-tackle stunts to get the Eagles' O-line on different levels. This will create pass-rushing lanes to free up rushers. Dallas will run these stunts as a run-stopper on first and second down to slow the Eagles' run game.

But Eagles fans need not worry about the team entering the field flat or unenthusiastic to play after this bye week. There will be plenty of spirit and focus going into this game.

The bye couldn't have come at a better time.

Nelson Agholor and Howie Roseman, please accept our apologies

Nelson Agholor and Howie Roseman, please accept our apologies

Wednesday on Quick Slants, we felt the need to own up to our mistakes. We had previously written off two men who have helped the Eagles to their NFL-best 6-1 record, so a couple apology letters were in order.

• • •

Dear Howie,
Like many ... there was a time when I felt that you had to go. Some of your personnel decisions left me beating my head against the wall, wondering who thought it was a good idea to put you in charge. Your drafts and free-agent signings were more misses than hits.

For every Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox you drafted, there were way too many Danny Watkinses, Marcus Smiths, Jaiquawn Jarretts and Daniel Te'o-Nesheims.

Many of your free-agent signings were free falls. Yeah, I'll give you credit for getting it right with Connor Barwin and Malcolm Jenkins. But you bamboozled us with Nnamdi Asomugha, Bradley Fletcher, Vince Young and Byron Maxwell.

But you were man enough to step to the podium time and time again to dodge every verbal stone hurled your way to explain your perplexing moves and vowed to get it right.

After the Chip Kelly fiasco, surely Jeffrey Lurie would look outside the organization to bring a fresh thought process to lead this team in a new direction, but oh nooooo, he put you back in charge, and I thought to myself: Another seven-year drought is upon us.

But lo and behold, since you've returned from exile after wandering the deserts pondering football life, you've become the Theo Epstein of the NFL. You cleaned up and cleared out Kelly's mistakes. You brought in a true football mind in Joe Douglas, and you revamped your scouting department.

What you did in 2016 to maneuver up the first-round ladder in the draft to select your new franchise quarterback was nothing short of brilliant. The free agents you signed in 2017 have been excellent.

This year, I don't go to practices wondering how many of these guys are getting cut after the season. Instead, I wonder how many of them you will be able to keep. 

Like you, I stand here today a changed man. I no longer call for your head on a silver platter. Instead, I applaud you for being aggressive and daring. I'm man enough to admit I was wrong about you. You have finally earned my respect.

Sincerely,
D-Gunn

• • •

Dear Nelson,
Let me first apologize for not being sympathetic to your cause. 

I never had the weight of living up to being the first-round draft pick of the Eagles. I was drafted in the second round.

I saw what Mike Mamula went through mentally to live up to those expectations. I also admit that I played O-line, so I never had to catch a football thrown 50 yards over your shoulder while a 220-pound safety running a 4.4 40 comes hurling at you trying to knock your head off.

Although I never signed the petition to get you cut — because I don't believe in stopping a player from getting their money — I did wager a dollar, or two, or three, or even 4,000 that you wouldn't last the offseason in Philly.

So I now give you mad props and respect for proving myself and the 3.5 million people in Philadelphia wrong for selling you short and thinking you wouldn't last as an NFL player.

Congrats and carry on — you are now the best wide receiver on the roster. So, my apologies, Nelson Agholor.

I know what it is to feel the high expectation of playing in the City of Brotherly Love, which gave you no love. At least they let you stay and work out your difficulties. Me? They cut and kicked me the hell out of town!

Sincerely,
Barrett Brooks