Common theme in Eagles' offseason has been culture-building

Common theme in Eagles' offseason has been culture-building

There’s been a common theme to this Eagles’ offseason: Culture. 

Not long ago, Howie Roseman agreed with my assessment that the Eagles can’t just try to recreate the Super Bowl team, that they have to remain innovative (see story). He did, however, say they can take lessons from the 2017 season. One of the big ones is about chemistry. 

He said this at the combine: 

Character and chemistry of the football team was unbelievable. And sometimes, that’s a big reason for your success.

Roseman also talked about the organization’s desire to sign its own players with top-of-the-market deals and supplement that with free agency. Now, that’s a lot easier to do when you have talent on your roster, but that’s the situation the Eagles are in. And they know rewarding their own is a great way to improve team chemistry. (Same goes for the coaching staff.)

If you take a closer look at just about every move the Eagles have made this offseason, team chemistry plays a role. 

First, the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham to a three-year extension and didn’t let him hit the open market. Then they extended Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo a year earlier than they needed to. Then they figured out a way to keep Jason Peters for the 2019 season. They held on to Nelson Agholor despite a huge cap hit. They slapped a second-round tender on Nate Sudfeld, ensuring he’ll be back. And on Friday, they signed Ronald Darby to a one-year deal despite a defensive back’s room that is full of younger and cheaper talent. 

You can argue the merit of all those moves, but it seems pretty obvious that the Eagles like what they have going in the locker room and are trying to do what they can (within reason) to keep that chemistry. 

Look at that list of players. They’re all really well-liked in the locker room. Peters, Graham and Kelce are the three-longest tenured players on the team and are all leaders. There was also a possibility not that long ago that all three weren’t going to return in 2019. 

The Eagles rewarded younger players like Seumalo and Sudfeld for their efforts. Seumalo’s contract is very team-friendly, but he was probably happy to get a chunk of change in his pocket early and Sudfeld will also get a nice pay raise.

Agholor is making $9.4 million this year, which is very expensive. But the Eagles wanted to keep their own guys.  

And then there’s Darby. Despite having Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc, they are still bringing him back for one more season as he recovers from a torn ACL. This move can be questioned — and rightfully so — but Darby’s a well-liked guy too. And his teammates will be happy to have him back. 

That brings us to the guys who won’t be back. Nick Foles almost doesn’t even count. We all knew he wasn’t coming back. Jordan Hicks got a bigger contract than the Eagles could justify. And they have so much money tied up into their receivers that it was always unlikely Jordan Matthews or Golden Tate would return. Tim Jernigan’s departure was also a financial decision. 

After that, the Eagles traded Michael Bennett and didn’t pick up Stefen Wisniewski’s option year. Both those moves are slightly odd from a football perspective. Bennett was the team’s top DE in 2018 and Wisniewski’s $3.7 million salary wouldn’t have been too hard to swallow for a top interior backup, one who might have needed to start if Brandon Brooks isn’t ready to go. 

Sure, financials played a role. But what did Bennett and Wiz have in common? They were both vocal in their desire to be starters and with their unhappiness being reserves. I’m not saying either of them had been a problem in the locker room. In fact, their teammates seemed to like them. But unhappiness with role or salary doesn’t bode well for chemistry. 

Then there are the two major players the Eagles have brought in: the Jacksons … Malik and DeSean. 

Malik Jackson is a pro who, even though he was upset, didn’t cause any locker room problems last year in Jacksonville after he was benched. He’s also a former Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He’s going to fit in fine in Philly. 

And DeSean might still be DeSean, but he has matured a lot in the five years since Chip Kelly cut him. If he hadn’t, the Eagles wouldn’t have brought him back. Sure, the Eagles will have to keep an eye on him, but if they really thought he was a threat to their locker room chemistry, they wouldn’t have made the deal. 

It seems like they’re not going to make any deal that truly threatens the chemistry of the team. That’s part of the Super Bowl team they think they can recreate. 

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Doug Pederson responds to anonymous quote from an Eagles player

Doug Pederson responds to anonymous quote from an Eagles player

Doug Pederson on Friday morning was aware of an anonymous quote from one of his players leaked to ESPN voicing frustration about the Eagles’ offense. 

While Pederson said he had not addressed the team about the latest incident, nor has he confronted players he might suspect, the head coach was not pleased. 

“Yeah, you don’t like to have anonymous guys,” Pederson said, “but at the same time, I hate to say it, but we’re kind of focused on the Cowboys right now.”

This isn’t the first time anonymous quotes have made their way out of the NovaCare Complex, so you’d understand why Pederson wouldn’t be thrilled about this. The report on Thursday came from the same ESPN reporter, Josina Anderson, who had a player tell her last season that the offense was over-targeting Zach Ertz. 

This time, the criticism was a little stranger, basically saying Carson Wentz needs to check-down more often. 

That’s the exact opposite of what has seemingly been the Eagles’ offensive problem since Week 2 when DeSean Jackson went down. 

“I’ve never heard that one before,” Pederson said, jokingly. “We’re not throwing it deep enough and now we’re not throwing it short enough. I don’t get it.”

Pederson also addressed the specific criticism in depth a little more: 

I’ve seen them. I’ve seen them. And I’ll tell you this: For those of you who know football and watch football, a check-down is a part of the game. But what people sometimes don’t understand is you may lose your back in protection. He may get caught up in the wash of the protection, he may not get out. It is an aspect of something we teach, that when the throw is not there down the field and you have the availability of a back or of a tight end in that position, we will utilize it. There’s a lot of factors that go into that and it’s not all on the quarterback.

Part of the anonymous quote, as relayed by Anderson on ESPN, said the Eagles “need to make bleep simpler.” 

Pederson on Friday was asked if he thought there was any validity to the offense’s being too complicated. 

“I’m not a smart guy and I can figure out the offense,” Pederson said. “It’s not that complicated. It’s not that complicated.” 

When asked if he's worried about a fracture in the team, Pederson noted that there’s so much negative stuff being thrown at players all the time, he tries to be a positive force. He thinks “that’s what they need to hear.” 


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If they're healthy enough to play, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will be Eagles' starting corners against Cowboys

If they're healthy enough to play, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will be Eagles' starting corners against Cowboys

After cobbling together their cornerback position for the first six games of the 2019 season, the Eagles are hoping to get reinforcements this weekend in Dallas. 

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have been practicing and it looks like they’re trending toward returns against the Cowboys on Sunday night. And it looks like they’re going to return as starters. 

On Friday morning, head coach Doug Pederson was asked if he still views Mills and Darby as starters.

“I think so,” Pederson said. “I think those two would just kind of assume their roles moving forward, yeah.” 

Since the start of the 2017 season, including playoffs, the Eagles are 13-5 when Mills and Darby start. (They were 9-1 in 2017 and 4-4 in 2018.) 

Mills and Darby haven’t started a game together since Oct. 28 last season. That was also the last time Mills played in a game. Mills began this season on the PUP list with that same foot injury, but began practicing this week. If he is able to play and start on Sunday, expect there to be a rotation. 

Darby (hamstring) came back from an ACL tear from last season, but injured his hamstring against Detroit and missed the last three games. He’s been limited in practice this week, but hasn’t missed nearly as much time as Mills. 

Pederson said both have “been doing extremely well” this week in practice. 

“I think you still would rotate,” Pederson said. “It just depends on how both of those guys feel with coming off their injury and working themselves back into game shape, I guess. But I would anticipate that both of them would get a lot more time moving forward.”

If Mills and Darby start this week, Orlando Scandrick will likely be the nickel cornerback because Avonte Maddox (concussion, neck) still hasn’t returned. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones would be the next two corners to rotate in. 

The Cowboys’ top receiver, Amari Cooper, is banged up and might not play. But either way, the Cowboys might try to test both cornerbacks coming back from injuries. 

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