Eagles

Deserving Hall of Famers, Agholor's improvement, more in Roob's observations

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Deserving Hall of Famers, Agholor's improvement, more in Roob's observations

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — One day left until Super Bowl LII finally gets here, and it's a happy edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Super Bowl Observations because it starts with …

1. Dawk is a Hall of Famer (see story).

2. That deserved its own line. But let me share a quick story. It was the day before the Eagles left Lehigh for the 2006 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, and I wanted to talk to Dawk about one day maybe being a Hall of Famer. Dawk at that point was getting ready for his 11th NFL season and his career was already remarkable, although he would go on to make four more Pro Bowls, three of them with the Eagles. I waited and waited and waited for Dawk, who was out on a practice field talking to Sean McDermott, now the Bills' head coach but back then the Eagles' assistant defensive backs coach. Eventually, there was nobody left at the entire compound except Sean and Dawk, talking intensely as the sun blasted down on them, and me standing there watching from 40 yards away. Finally, after close to half an hour of intense conversation, they began walking over toward me, and I asked Dawk what they had been talking about. And he said, "We were just talking about the Hall of Fame and what it takes to become a Hall of Famer and what it means to be one and the level of play I need to continue playing at if I'm going to one day become one." Dawk always wanted to be the best ever, and on Saturday he was recognized that way. Nobody is more deserving.

3. As for T.O., I can't say I'm happy for him. I don't particularly like him or care about him. I saw the effect he had on that 2005 Eagles team. He set out to destroy the Eagles from the inside because he was unhappy with his contract, which really speaks volumes about what he was all about as a player and a person. But this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Teamwork or Hall of Unselfishness. There's no denying the numbers. He was definitely deserving (see story).

4. I keep having this vision of Alshon Jeffery having a huge game Sunday. Alshon has been strong in the postseason so far, with nine catches for 146 yards and a couple touchdowns against the Vikings. I don't think the Patriots can cover him. I don't think they can stop him. I think he has a T.O. 2004 Super Bowl type of game.  

5. I spent a few minutes Thursday just watching a very self-assured, very relaxed, very poised Nelson Agholor sitting on a podium surrounded by TV cameras and microphones fielding all sorts of questions about Nick Foles, about Doug Pederson, about Jeffery, about the Super Bowl, and I couldn't help think … "This guy couldn't catch a pass and got benched last year." And look at him now. It's just remarkable how far Agholor has come. From a guy who caught 11 passes for 99 yards the entire second half of last season to playing a major part on a Super Bowl team. I asked him if he's taken a moment to reflect on the last year and he said he hasn't. Which probably is another sign of how far he's come. "I’ll be able to process it when it’s all said and done," he said. "The most important thing right now is to get my energy and my focus and for us to get the job done. And when I’m home in the offseason with my family, we can give hugs and I can thank them, but right now the most important thing is to get the job done. Just being here isn’t my dream. I feel like a lot of my teammates understand that and feel the same way. I don’t want to just be here. Being on this podium is cool and we appreciate being here, but at the end of the day getting the job done is the most important thing.”

6. So how much sleep do you think you'll get tonight?

7. Interesting to note that the Patriots have never scored in the first quarter of their seven Super Bowls under Bill Belichick. But they’ve also only allowed one touchdown in those seven first quarters and 15 total points. The Patriots are so good at adjusting and finishing strong. Of their five Super Bowl wins, they've only led going into the fourth quarter twice. They are just never out of a game, which we obviously saw last year. Then again, the Eagles are pretty darn good late in games as well. They haven't allowed a second-half point in their two playoff games, and they've outscored their last five opponents 45-15 after halftime. But the Patriots are 184-22 when leading at halftime, including a 48-2 mark in their last 50 games. They're 19-4 under Belichick in the postseason when they lead at halftime. I feel like it's really important for the Eagles to get off to a strong start. Be physical early. Set a tone that, "Hey, we belong here as much as you!"

8. Foles has handled himself so well this week. Definitely not wide-eyed or in awe of the moment. If he's overwhelmed, it's not showing at all. Two months ago he was an anonymous backup running scout team with Shelton Gibson, Marcus Johnson and Greg Ward. On Sunday, he starts in a Super Bowl. God, I love sports.

9. Time for my pick. I just feel like the Eagles have the edge up front on both sides of the football. I expect the Eagles' offensive line to give Nick Foles time to throw and give the running backs room to run and their defensive line to overwhelm the Patriots' offense and wear down New England's O-line. The strength of the Patriots is the greatest quarterback of all time. The strength of the Eagles is their two lines. And I'll take the team relying on two dominating lines over the team relying on a 40-year-old quarterback. I'm going Eagles 27, Patriots 20, and Philly celebrates an NFL championship for the first time in 57 years.

10. Nick Foles Mind-Boggling Stat of the Day: Postseason performances with 69 percent accuracy and no interceptions in Eagles history: Nick Foles 3, Every other quarterback in franchise history: 0.

Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

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Brandon Graham stays ready in boxing ring, takes 'important step' for Eagles' 2018 opener

In February, Brandon Graham won a ring. In the six months since he’s gotten in one.

Graham said Monday he’s been doing some sparring as he rehabs from postseason ankle surgery.

Graham, who had a career-high 9½ sacks last year, returned to practice Monday after spending the last three weeks on the Eagles' physically unable to play reserve list (see story).

“Boxing is real good, especially with using my hands,” he said. “I always do that during the offseason. Always focus on my hands, because as a D-lineman that’s our goal, you’ve got to use your hands in everything.

“So while I’ve been hurt I’ve just been trying to work on my coordination and make sure everything stays tight.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Graham will be limited for a while here as he works off the rust.

"There are steps he's got to take along the way,” Schwartz said. “This is an important step getting back on to practice with his teammates. Probably be limited to just some individual stuff and we'll sort of work him along. But it is great to have him back.”

Graham won’t play against the Browns Thursday night and almost certainly won’t play against the Jets in the preseason finale a week later.

All he’s got on his mind is the Falcons on Sept. 6.

“All I can say is when I do start hitting people, I’m going to be so sore, but then you’ve got to work through that soreness like we always do and eventually that starts to become your armor and you build on that,” he said.

“I’m excited. Just excited to be back out there with the boys. It’s been hard standing back because you don’t want to feel behind. I don’t feel like I’m behind but they got a lot more reps than I got, so I’m just trying to catch up.

“Everybody knows when it’s time to go it’s going to be time to go. I’m just excited. We’re all excited because it’s the first step.”

Graham, who had the legendary strip-sack of Tom Brady in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl, said his ankle is fine, it’s just a matter of conditioning at this point.

Week 1?

“I’m not going to make any promises, but I’m working my butt off every day,” he said. “Putting money in the bank every day.”

Graham has missed only one game since opening day of 2012, and that was the meaningless season-ender last year against the Cowboys.

Only four defensive ends — Jerry Hughes, Cameron Jordan, Julius Peppers and Ndamukong Suh — have played more games (96, obviously) over the last five seasons.

“I’m really just focused on Week 1 right now and focus on today and how everything goes,” said Graham, now 30.

“I feel like I can get myself ready for Week 1, for sure, because I’m already doing two-a-days and sometimes two-a-days. It’s on me to make sure I continue to get my shape up and that’s just running and doing drills and pushing and pulling on people.

“I think as I continue to feel better, I’m going to continue to go harder. I’m just excited because now I can start counting down the days. I’ve got 17 days to get right.”

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Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Tackling new helmet rule a challenge for Jim Schwartz, Eagles

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is concerned enough about the NFL's new rule banning tacklers from lowering their head to initiate contact that he held a defensive meeting Monday specifically so his guys could study film of exactly how the league is calling the new rule.

Through two preseason weekends, the Eagles have been cited a league-high five times for personal fouls for lowering the head.

“The instructions we’ve given guys is, try not to lower your head and try to take your head out of it, and I think our guys are trying to do that,” Schwartz said.

“I can confidently say we don’t have any guys that are trying to play outside the bounds. We don’t have any guys that are head hunting, that are being selfish. They’re trying to play within the rules.

“I think you can see Nigel [Bradham’s] play, he’s trying to get his head out. I think even Rodney [McLeod’s] play, he’s trying to get his head across and get it out. The problem is they’re dealing with world-class athletes who are moving targets. A little bit easier said than done. 

“And those fouls have hurt us in those first couple preseason games and we’ve got to get to a point where they don’t hurt us in the regular season.”

Cornerback Sidney Jones was called for a lowering-the-head penalty on Steelers receiver Damoun Patterson in the preseason opener, and tight end Richard Rodgers was also cited in the opener for an illegal hit on Justin Thomas on a punt return.

Last Thursday night, McLeod was called for a hit on running back James White, Bradham was cited for a hit on receiver Julian Edelman and safety Jeremy Reaves was penalized for a hit on running back Mike Gillislee.

“It’s going to be very important work over the next couple weeks, not just learning from our own mistakes but learning from other teams,” Schwartz said.

“There’s some other good feedback. We get clips from the league that show not just penalties that were called but penalties that should have been called. So there is a learning process.”

Eagles veteran defensive end Brandon Graham said it’s going to be tough to eliminate these penalties simply because the game moves so fast, and even if your intention is to use perfect form tackling, it doesn’t always end up that way.

“It’s tough because sometimes the runner’s ducking his head just as much as you’re ducking,” he said. “But they just don’t want to see the crown of your head hitting his crown or hitting his facemask.

“Just really try to keep your eyes up. You’re going to get ran over sometimes. Hey, you’re going to get ran over. But some people do like to use the crown of their head and it’s just to protect them because you don’t want to be paralyzed from hitting someone the wrong way. 

"So I try to keep my face up and hit with my facemask and this will force people to start doing stuff like that.”

One challenge Schwartz noted is getting his guys to play hard, fast and aggressive without thinking about how they’re tackling.

“You want to play fast,” he said. “You want to play confidently on the field. But any time there’s something new, there is going to be an adjustment. 

“It’s a difficult thing. We're trying our best to work through it, but it does add a layer of difficulty to what we're trying to do.”

According to penalty stats on NFLgsis, an official league statistical web site, there have been 48 lowering-the-head penalties called in 32 preseason games or 1½ per game.

Eight of the 32 teams haven’t been cited at all. The Eagles and Titans have been called a league-high five times each.

“It’s real sensitive right now, but as professionals, we’re going to adjust,” Graham said.

“They want to make it an emphasis in preseason, and I’m happy it didn’t cost us a real game. We’ve just got to continue to keep our head out of things and I think we’ll make that adjustment."

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