Eagles

Alshon Jeffery flies right through Broncos' hyped secondary

Alshon Jeffery flies right through Broncos' hyped secondary

Wide receivers aren’t supposed to stray into the “No Fly Zone,” but apparently Alshon Jeffery and the Eagles didn’t get that memo.

The Denver Broncos' secondary is usually akin to the Bermuda Triangle for receivers. They tend to disappear against the likes of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib.

Not Jeffery, who enjoyed one his most productive games yet as a member of the Eagles on Sunday. Afterward, he didn’t sound surprised by the outcome of venturing into a restricted area, either.

“We’re in the NFL,” Jeffery said postgame. “Everyone is a pro, and I’ll show them a Pro Bowl wide receiver, too.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there. It’s football. You’re going to get beat and make plays."

Jeffery finished with six receptions for 84 yards and a season-high two touchdowns. It’s the most yards and touchdowns by a wide receiver against the Denver defense in 2017.

Jeffery’s 32-yard touchdown is also the fourth-longest scoring play by a receiver against the Broncos this season, and it was a beauty. Carson Wentz faked the handoff to running back Jay Ajayi, and while Talib was peeking in the backfield, Jeffery took off.

The play was actually a run-pass option, and Wentz wound up making a perfect read and throw.

“That’s something that we practiced all week,” Jeffery said. “As (Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby) would say, ‘We practiced it to hell.’

“It was working in practice. They did a great job of scheming and game-planning, and Carson with a great read. We practiced it – if he pulls it, just take off and run, and that’s how it worked out.”

The Eagles dialed it up for one of the most dangerous ball hawks in NFL history. Talib ranks fourth all-time with 10 interception returns for touchdowns.

Talib is thinking six on every snap, so in a sense, he guessed right this time.

“It was just a zone-read play with that little tag to Alshon there,” Wentz said. “We knew Talib is an aggressive corner, so with that action I just knew I had to get enough time to let Alshon win, and he did the rest.”

The touchdown was just the latest evidence of the growing rapport between quarterback and star receiver. As Eagles coach Doug Pederson revealed, it was a play the duo had been working on since May.

“It's a Day-1-training-camp, Day-1-OTA play,” Pederson said. “It's just a one-step hitch-and-go, and we got (Talib) to bite on the play. Did a great job throwing the ball on the run and Alshon getting in the end zone.

“It's actually in our tempo package and we pulled it out this week. Just kind of dusted it off and worked on it all week and executed it to the perfection.”

Jeffery now has at least one touchdown in consecutive games, along with 146 yards receiving over the last two. He has quietly amassed 34 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns in nine contests – not quite a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown pace, but closing in on such milestones.

Concerns over Jeffery’s chemistry with Wentz are beginning to fade, if the pair left any doubt at all against the Broncos.

“I think it’s always been there,” Jeffery said. “We’re on the same page in practice, working each and every day. Just work on it all the time in practice, then in a game, it’ll be easy.

“It surprised you guys, not us.”

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

Brian Dawkins always had a symbiotic relationship with Eagles fans.

He loved them, they loved him, and there isn’t a single Eagle in the last 50 years who was as universally adored as Dawkins.

Try to find an Eagles fan that didn’t like him. You can’t do it.

In 18 days, Dawkins will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and on Tuesday he talked about the Eagles fans who cheered for him about every autumn Sunday from 1996 through 2008.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I believe if a Philadelphia Eagles fan had a chance to play, if all of a sudden they woke up and they woke up in the team hotel and they knew the game plan and they had knowledge of the system, athletic ability to run and to jump and they played the position that I played, the safety position, I believe the majority of them, if not all of them, would play the game the way that I played it,” Dawkins said.

“They would dance, they would be having a good time … and they would go out and enjoy the opportunity to be on the football field and show it and not be afraid to show their emotions, to play with passion and give everything that they have because that would be the only chance that they would ever get to play the game of football, and that’s how I played.

“I played with a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to have a good time, I danced, I celebrated after plays, I celebrated with my teammates, and they saw that.”

Everybody loves Dawkins. Not just because of his boundless ability, production in big games and peerless leadership, but because he connected on such a deep level with Eagles fans.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you could tell he felt every loss just as profoundly as even the most rabid Eagles fan.

“It was genuine,” he said. “I was a genuine player when it came to, I’m going to give everything that I have, I’m not going to make excuses for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the burden upon myself. Even if it’s not my fault, it’s going to be my fault. I’m going to take it away from my teammates and put it on myself.

“I’m never going to make excuses. I’m going to try my best and never make those mistakes [again] that I made in the game. And I believe that they saw that, they recognized that, and the feeling is mutual.

“I love Eagles fans. Yeah, they’re crazy. They’re twisted in some ways. But I love them, because I am. There are a lot of parts of me that are twisted in a lot of different ways. That’s why I did some of the crazy stuff on the field that I did. So like, we fit. Like hand in glove, we fit.”

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

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