Reuben Frank

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

5 Minutes with Roob: Beau Allen getting better and better

5 Minutes with Roob: Beau Allen getting better and better

Beau Allen is definitely one of the unsung performers on this Eagles' roster.

Now in his fourth year as an undrafted free-agent defensive tackle out of Wisconsin, Allen played a career-high 28 snaps per game this year in the Eagles' D-line rotation and is a valued enough player that he was on the field when the Eagles stopped the Falcons on 4th-and-2 with the game on the line Saturday.

Allen joined us for this week's 5 Minutes with Roob.

Roob: We've got to start with the most important thing. Tell us about Seven-Layer Jello.

Beau: "Oh yeah, that is by far the most important thing. Seven-layer jello is a dish that my mom makes, and it's pretty self-explanatory. It's seven layers of jello. It's kind of a visual spectacle, too. It's different flavors of jello kind of stacked on top of each other. Usually, you have a clear bowl and it's a main dish at basically any Allen holiday event. It's pretty good. My mom's a great cook. She hates when I talk about it, but it's really an amazing dish."

Roob: The nucleus of this defensive line — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and you — has been together a long time. All you guys have been together since at least 2014. How big is that for this group?

Beau: "I think we are a pretty well-seasoned group. We have spent a lot of time together and we all really like each other too. One thing that we're all pretty experienced, we've all gotten a lot of reps, and we all bring kind of a something different to the table. Fletcher is a different player than I am and Timmy (Jernigan) is different from Destiny (Vaeao), and the same thing with the defensive ends, and I think that makes it tough for offensive lines."

Roob: You played 17 percent of the snaps as a rookie, then almost 30 percent in your second year under Bill Davis, then up to 40 percent last year and 41 percent this year. How hard have you worked to go from an undrafted rookie free agent to a key part of this defensive line rotation?

Beau: "I don't really like to talk too much about how hard I'm working. I feel like if you're talking about how you're working hard you're probably not working that hard. But yeah, whenever you get to this time of year you kind of look back a little bit. It's been a heck of a journey for me. I tore my pec last offseason and it seems like it was a really long time ago, but it was just seven months ago or something like that. But battled back from that and to end up where we are now, playing for the NFC Championship against the Minnesota Vikings, it's really cool. It's always fun to look back and kind of see how far you've come."

Roob: What was your first career playoff game like?

Beau: "It was amazing. It was really cool. I was fortunate to be on the field there at the end of the game, and anytime you get a 4th-and-2 stop for your season, it was pretty electric. I kind of blacked out, but celebrating after that play was a lot of fun."

Roob: On that play and really the whole game, you guys seemed to approach it like any other game, despite what was at stake. How big was that?

Beau: "When you come to playoff football, what it really comes down to is just doing your job, just doing what you've done to get to that point. Not really trying to do anything above and beyond your role. That's one thing we all try to do, just perfect the little details of each play, and I think that gets even more elevated in the playoffs."

Roob: Chris Maragos is always talking about the crazy atmosphere at Wisconsin home games at Camp Randall Stadium. How did Saturday at the Linc compare to football on Saturday afternoons in Madison?

Beau: "It is pretty similar. One thing that I love about Madison and Camp Randle is 'Jump Around.' I think it's the coolest tradition in college football. But both are definitely rowdy fans that are really passionate about the game of football, so definitely similar in that aspect."

Roob: How important has it been to focus on the Vikings and not think about how the Super Bowl is just one win away?

Beau: "I'm definitely a one-day-at-a-time, a one-play-at-a-time kind of guy. You can't look too far ahead. We're just focused on this game Sunday and, like I said, doing all the little things. That's definitely how we've approached it this week and kind of how we've approached every game this season."

Roob: OK, you're from Minnesota. Can you please assure Eagles fans that you're not — and never were — a Vikings fan?

Beau: "I put an end to that narrative real quick. I grew up about 30 minutes west of Minneapolis. I was a Packers fan growing up. Not a Vikings fan. Nobody in my family is Vikings fans. They're all going to be out here cheering for us on Sunday. I made sure of it. I gave them lie detector tests and flashed a real bright light in everybody's face and made sure. They've all been vetted thoroughly."

Corey Clement adding element Eagles didn't expect

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Corey Clement adding element Eagles didn't expect

Corey Clement corrected himself.

His initial answer, when asked how far he's come as a receiver this year, was, "I think I've really come a long way."

Then he stopped, smiled and reconsidered.

“I think in a funny way I don’t think I made that big a leap," he said. "Because I always knew I could catch."

Clement never caught the ball at Glassboro High. Never caught the ball at Wisconsin. Never caught the ball during the regular season.

So guess who the Eagles' leading receiver was in their playoff win over the Falcons.

Who else?

"Five catches … that's not just a career high, it's probably my highest in life," Clement said laughing. "My lifetime high."

Clement caught five passes for 31 yards in the Eagles' 15-10 win over the Falcons at the Linc. The numbers may seem modest, but considering that Clement had only 29 catches in 39 games in four years in Madison and caught just 10 passes during the regular season, it's eye-opening.

Clement became the first undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to catch five passes in a playoff game and became only the ninth running back in Eagles postseason history to catch five passes in a game.

“[He's come] really far," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "We've said it all year, that's been a surprise, a running back from Wisconsin who is running power [in college]. You’re not thinking he's going to come in here and be your third-down back. But he's worked very hard at it and really made a role for himself."

Clement is a very good ball carrier — he averaged 4.3 yards per carry during the regular season — but on a team with Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, he's not going to get very many carries. He had just one for five yards last Saturday, on one of the Eagles' last plays of the game.

But none of the Eagles' other backs are much in the way of receivers. In fact, this was the first year since 1956 the Eagles didn't have a running back with at least 15 catches. And they were the only NFL team without a back catching 15 passes.

Wendell Smallwood is probably their best receiving back, but he's been inactive since the Eagles acquired Ajayi.
 
"I know in college I had one season (junior year) where I had only two catches," Clement said. "It just shows you that some of the college coaches got to give you an opportunity to catch.

"But I knew the opportunity I was walking into. It’s a running school and that’s the offense we ran, so I knew I wasn’t going to catch much.

"I’m happy with where I came from and I wouldn’t want it to be any different, but I know what I can do. I know I can catch the ball, but at the same time I know I can get a lot better at it as well.”

Clement never caught more than three passes in a game in college and had only three catches in the Eagles' first 10 games (two for touchdowns) before recording seven in the last six regular-season games.

A functioning screen game can be a terrific tool to offset an aggressive, pursuing defense like the Vikings' highly regarded unit. It's something the Eagles have been missing much of the year.

So Clement's emergence as a legitimate receiving back is timely on an offense that's lacked punch since Carson Wentz got hurt.

"First of all, he's getting better in route running," Doug Pederson said. "We've got to be smart as a staff on how we use our running backs. People can start keying in on certain guys and certain personnel groups, so we've got to make sure that we mix things up.

"He's one of those guys that I feel like we're getting more comfortable with throwing him the football whether it's a screen or down the field, and you saw a couple out of the backfield to him and one big third-down play there. He catches well and he's done a nice job."

Still, this is all new to Clement.

And he's learning as he goes.

"I’m getting a lot of help from (Nick) Foles and the other receivers on how to pinpoint a ball at a better location, so I think the ball is slowed down a lot for me in the air as far as looking it in and keeping it secure once I get it," he said.

"There’s so many fine points that I can keep working on, but I think as far as making a tremendous leap, I think I’m in a good position to keep excelling, especially going into the offseason."

Clement's five catches last Saturday are the fourth-most in Eagles history by a rookie in a playoff game, behind Keith Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (seven) and DeSean Jackson (six). 

The previous record, believe it or not, was two, shared by Heath Sherman, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook.

“I think it helps me stay on the field, just to show them I can run after the catch as well and not basically be a rock out there catching the ball," Clement said.

"Just showing versatility and staying calm out there is big, because I know I can catch, but if you make the game bigger than what it is, you’ll start doing weird crap. So I kind of just stay to the fundamentals and just play fast."