Eagles

Do Eagles have NFL's best O-line? Just ask Vikings

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USA Today Images

Do Eagles have NFL's best O-line? Just ask Vikings

They were billed as the best defense in the NFL. With the best defensive line in the NFL. With the best pass rusher in the NFL.

So much for that.

The Eagles' offensive line made sure that for one day at the Linc, they were none of the above.

Thanks in great part to a dominating performance by their offensive line, the Eagles made a mockery of the vaunted Vikings defense, piling up franchise playoff records with 456 yards and 27 first downs in a 38-7 dismantling of the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game at the Linc Sunday.

Nick Foles threw 33 times, was sacked just once, and passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles also ran for 110 yards and 4.2 yards per pop before a couple late kneel-downs by Nate Sudfeld.

“The offensive line did a great job," Foles said. "That’s a really good defensive front and they give you a lot of different looks, so there were different blitzes that we had to pick up. There’s a little bit more movement in the pocket just because of the different blitz angles. I just felt comfortable because I trusted the guys up front and I always know they do an amazing job.

"The key to an offense is the offensive line. We have the most athletic and best offensive line in the league. Those guys are unbelievable. Each one of them can probably beat me in a race — that’s how athletic they are. 

"To have them in front of me to block and do everything they do, they did a great job all night. I just had to move around in the pocket a little bit. They picked it all up.”

The Vikings came in as the top-ranked defense in the NFL with a defensive line considered the league's best.

The Eagles' offensive line obliterated them.

"I think this is the best they've played as a unit," coach Doug Pederson said. "All the way across the board, from Lane (Johnson) to Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai), I mean, these guys, we haven't talked a whole lot about them this year, but this is a group that (offensive line) coach Jeff Stoutland does a tremendous job preparing each week.

"(He) has a great run plan together, our protection schemes, and they just go to work. They come to work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and get the job done. Sometimes it's not always pretty, but it doesn't have to be. At the end of the day, we find a way, and they find a way."

The Eagles scored more points, gained more yards, converted more points and recorded more first downs than any team had against the Vikings all year. 

They ran the ball effectively, they gave Foles enough time to hit a bunch of deep throws and thanks mainly to Big V, they neutralized Griffen, who had 13 regular-season sacks but never got close to Foles Sunday night.

Foles became the first quarterback ever to complete four passes of 35 yards or more in a playoff game against the Vikings.

“That’s crucial," Jason Kelce said. "You have to be able to protect if you’re going to throw downfield. (Foles) knew when it was going to be picked up and it was picked up that he was going to have the time to be able to do that.

"Know who the offensive line has, trust that we are going to be able to get it done, and when we don’t have them because we are not going to pick up everything, and he's ready to get the ball out.”

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

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AP Images

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

Greg Ward threw more touchdown passes in college than Carson Wentz and had a higher career passer rating than Nick Foles. 

These days, his job is catching passes, not throwing them. 

It’s quite a transition from big-time NCAA Division 1 quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, the former Houston Cougar knows where his future is.

Ward spent all of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, learning the nuances of a new position and figuring out how to think like a receiver instead of a quarterback. 

He looked surprisingly polished at wide out in training camp, caught nine passes for 63 yards in the preseason and then spent the season focusing on getting better.

“I still haven’t 100 percent gotten the position,” Ward said after a recent rookie camp practice. “I always feel like I can get better, always feel like I can learn something new, feel like there’ll always be something to improve on. 

“Last year was a big year for me. Just learning a new position, learning football period, learning from Alshon (Jeffery), Torrey (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor), it was a very important year for me.

“Just gathering every bit of information I could watching those guys practice and watching them in games and then learning how to apply what you’ve learned to your game.”

Ward never did get a chance to play, but he said he felt himself getting better as the year went along.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Ward, who led Houston to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State in Atlanta at the end of his junior year. 

“You’re a competitor, that’s why we all do this. But I was humbled and thankful just to be on a Super Bowl team. Just to be in the NFL period. Some guys aren’t able to play football at all. I’m just grateful to be on a football team. 

“But this is not the end of my story. I am going to get out there and I am going to play.”

Ward was with the Eagles during their postseason run and he was there in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

He used every moment, every day, as an opportunity to improve. Even if nobody could see it happening.

“The biggest thing I learned was just being patient, just being humble,” he said. “Our team last year, there was nobody that was selfish. Nobody who thought they were bigger than anybody else. I learned patience and the importance of doing extra. Getting extra work, studying more, watching more film. That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

The Eagles have quite a crowd at wide receiver, with Jeffery, Agholor and Mack Hollins back, Wallace and Markus Wheaton in the fold and guys like Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson and Rashard Davis all also in the mix.

But Ward doesn’t concern himself with the numbers.

“The next step for me is to separate myself,” he said. "As a competitor, especially coming from being undrafted, you have to separate yourself. You have to be different. 

“You have to catch whoever’s eye it is, head coach, position coach, catch everybody’s eyes. They have to see value in you. That’s where I am right now. Trying to separate myself.”

How long will it take?

“I’m leaving that up to God,” he said. “I know I’m putting in the hard work and I know one day it will pay off. I know that day will come.”

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

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Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is strongly denying accusations made in a lawsuit that he trashed a Los Angeles house after the Super Bowl (see story)

The lawsuit, as reported by TMZ earlier this week, accuses Ajayi of throwing three parties at the L.A. mansion he was renting even after the owner told him not to. Ajayi is being charged $25,000 by the owner. 

Shortly after the story broke on Monday, a representative for Ajayi claimed the lawsuit was bogus. 

Now, we have an even stronger detail from Ajayi’s camp. 

Ajayi’s publicist Melanie Wadden told the Miami Herald that Ajayi didn’t throw any parties and caused no damage to the property. 

Additionally, Wadden denied the home owner’s claim that Ajayi pushed him in a menacing manner after confronting him.

“Jay was not involved in any physical altercations,” she said. 

Ajayi’s publicist also told the Herald that Ajayi was a guest and not the renter and the owner wanted the group to pay cash instead of through Airbnb. 

"The entire group voluntarily left the property several days early — no security or police were ever involved or on-site," Wadden said. "They filed a complaint against the owner through Airbnb back in February that included screenshots of the owner asking for cash and trying to communicate outside of their platform [against Airbnb policy]."

Ajayi, who came to the Eagles in the middle of last season in a trade, has one year left on his current contract.