After watching Nick Foles' success, Carson Wentz knows pressure is on

After watching Nick Foles' success, Carson Wentz knows pressure is on

For two straight years, Nick Foles led the Eagles into the playoffs. 

For two straight years, Carson Wentz watched. 

Even though Wentz is the franchise quarterback and the Eagles have continued to stand by him despite the success Foles has had, it couldn’t have been easy to watch football from the sideline for the second consecutive January. 

Yeah, super frustrating,” Wentz said on Monday, speaking for the first time with reporters since Dec. 9. “You want to play postseason football. I still have zero games of postseason football under my belt. I realize I have a lot to prove in that regard. I’m confident that I will get the chance to do that. 

It’s not just that Wentz doesn’t have any playoff experience. 

It’s that the guy he’s going to replace is an NFL playoff legend. 

Foles and the Eagles lost to the Saints, 20-14, on Sunday, and Foles didn’t have a very good game. But Foles began performing so well down the stretch and in the first playoff game this season, that plenty of Eagles fans have been clamoring for the organization to shift their long-term plan and hitch their wagon to Foles instead of Wentz. That still seems very unlikely to happen.

And that means when Wentz is the starter Week 1 next year, he’ll be judged against a guy who became an icon in Philadelphia. 

Even Wentz admitted that could add some pressure. 

It could. Without a doubt. You look at that and you could say it could put more pressure. I mean, you can say coming into the season there was more pressure. But I do everything I can to block that stuff out. I think right now, going forward, my focus is getting my body right. And to play this game freely the way I did last year before the injury and cut it loose. Get rid of all that pressure and anxiety and whatever it may be, just play the game freely. And that’s where I’m going to get to.

Wentz missed the final three games of the regular season and both playoff games this season. When asked if the Eagles made an effort to tell Wentz they were committed to him during that stretch, Wentz said he was “not going to get involved in that.” 

The whole idea of “Nick vs. Carson” consumed local sports talk stations, newspapers and websites. As insulated as athletes try to stay, it would be impossible for some of that to not make its way back to Wentz.  

“I try not to think about all those things,” he said. “I know there’s lots of he said, she said things out there … but at the end of the day, I can’t control those. I can’t control those. What I can control is getting my body right, getting healthy and getting myself back on the field to prove the player I can be.”

The funny thing about “Nick vs. Carson” is the two, and third-stringer Nate Sudfeld, are exceptionally close. They’re genuinely happy for one another when they find success. 

The most likely scenario this offseason — however we get there — is that Foles will not be an Eagle. But on Monday, Wentz was asked if he would be confident he’d still be the starter if Foles was somehow brought back next season. Wentz said he was confident “that the team is going to do what’s best for the team and then I’m going to support that.”

Since he just finished his third NFL season, Wentz is now eligible for a contract extension this offseason if he and the Eagles want to work something out. He’s still under contract for next season, but this is the first chance the Eagles will get to extend him.

“I’m not going to go there,” Wentz said about a possible new contract. “Not right now, especially after the season ending yesterday the way it did.”

But eventually, the Eagles are going to sign Wentz to a long-term deal. This is going to be his team. And it’ll be up to him to get out of Foles’ shadow. He has the talent to do it, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a ton of pressure to overcome. 

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Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Connor Barwin spent a lot of time at the Eagles’ complex the last couple months of the season, and now we know exactly why.

The Eagles on Friday afternoon announced that Barwin, who spent four years playing for the Eagles, has joined the team's front office in the role of special assistant to the general manager.

I'm done playing football, but my football career is not over," Barwin said in an interview on the team’s web site. "I want to stay involved. I want to help this team wherever I can and also learn the other side of the game from the coaches and the personnel side. There's still a lot that I can learn about the on-field part of the game, as well. I love being around the game. I still want to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls.

According to the Eagles’ web site, Barwin will work with the player personnel staff during the offseason and work on player development during the season, with an emphasis on mentoring players making the challenging transition from college to the NFL.

Barwin, 33, retired after spending last year with the Giants. He began his career with the Texans before signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Eagles before the 2013 season.

He spent four of those seasons here and made his only Pro Bowl in 2014, when he had a career-high 14 1/2 sacks - the most by any Eagle over the last eight seasons.

Despite playing only four years here, Barwin ranks 15th in franchise history with 31 1/2 sacks, tied with Mike Mamula.

When Chip Kelly and his staff were fired after the 2015 season and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz switched from a 3-4 defense under Bill Davis to a 4-3, Barwin moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. He had five sacks in 2016 and was released after the season.

Barwin spent 2017 with the Rams and 2018 with the Giants. He had 56 1/2 sacks in 10 seasons.

"I got to play for a bunch of really great coaches and look inside how other organizations are run," Barwin said. "That's some insight that I can bring to the Eagles."

Even after he left the Eagles, Barwin always considered Philadelphia home. He has made a huge impact in the community with his Make the World a Better Place foundation, which refurbishes and rebuilds parks and rec centers in Philadelphia.

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Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

We have a new and interesting name in contention to be the Eagles’ next offensive coordinator.

The Eagles on Friday interviewed Southern California offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

This is an interesting approach from the Eagles and Harrell would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box hire. 

Harrell, 34, spent last season at USC but notably has an extensive history with Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense. Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08 before going to the CFL and NFL and then coached under Leach at Washington State from 2014-15. 

So Harrell would likely be able to bring some new and potentially exciting concepts to Doug Pederson’s offense. Remember, Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, which meant that Mike Groh was pretty much the pass game coordinator for the last two seasons before he was fired. Since he wouldn’t call plays, that would basically be Harrell’s role if he got the job in Philly. 

At USC, Harrell was hired by head coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury left after a month to take the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. USC wanted to have an Air Raid style, so they turned to Harrell. 

In his one year as the offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans improved drastically in major statistical categories on offense from 2018: 

Points per game: 26.1 to 32.5
Yards per game: 382.6 to 454.0 
Passing yards per game: 248.2 to 335.8  

Check out this interesting excerpt from an Aug. 1 story in Sports Illustrated about Harrell’s hire at USC and his thoughts on the offensive system he comes with:

“People hear Air Raid and they think five wide receivers, no tight ends, 60 pass attempts and 50 points a game. To Harrell, the Air Raid is something else. It is working to death a small number of plays, with shorter playcalls, perfecting those plays and out-executing — not out-scheming — the opponent. Option-based coaches, like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, operate under similar mentalities, but with a different focus: rushing the football. Leach does it through the air. “You can’t do everything. I think a lot of people try to take a little bit of everything offensively,” Harrell says. “If you do that, you don’t have much of an identity. You’re just O.K. at everything and not really good at something.”

At times over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found success after simplifying. They’ve also found success using an up-tempo pace to get Carson Wentz into a rhythm. These seem like concepts that would mesh with Harrell’s philosophy. 

And we also know that Pederson values coaches who, like himself, were once players. After he left Texas Tech, Harrell played one season (but was injured) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was a backup quarterback in Green Bay for a few seasons and with the New York Jets for a season in 2013. Harrell’s only NFL game action came in 2012 as a member of the Packers. He played in four games and threw just four career passes. 

Since then, though, he’s been a quick riser in the coaching world. And he has some fresh ideas that might help an Eagles offense that has been far too stagnant at times over the last couple seasons. 

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