Eagles

Duce Staley's promotion could be coming

Duce Staley's promotion could be coming

This piece has been updated after initially running on Feb. 3.

LeGarrette Blount wasn't even asked about Duce Staley. He was talking about Jay Ajayi and then all of a sudden he segued to Duce and what a terrific head coach he thinks his position coach would make.
 
“He’ll be a great head coach and hopefully he gets that opportunity," Blount said.
 
Staley's seventh year as an Eagles assistant coach and fifth year as running backs coach culminated with a Super Bowl ring. He and Doug Pederson are the only coaches on the current Eagles staff who coached under Andy Reid, and Staley is the only one who's coached under Reid, Chip Kelly and Pederson.

He's firmly established his credentials as one of the NFL's best running backs coach. But he wants more, and he deserves more.

With John DeFilippo now in Minnesota and Frank Reich in Indianapolis, Staley is a top internal candidate to become the Eagles' offensive coordinator.
 
"He know defensive schemes inside and out," Blount said. "He studies film relentlessly. He texts us throughout the week and sometimes throughout the night and it's just like, 'Hey man, make sure you look at this, make sure you look at that, make sure you understand this,' so we can go out there and play fast.
 
"I think he can be an amazing play-caller. Just because he’s a running back doesn’t mean that he’d be one of those coaches who goes out there and runs the ball 60 times and throws it 15."
 
After retiring in 2006 and spending four years away from the game, Staley spent two years as the Eagles' special teams quality control coach under Reid before taking over running backs under Kelly.
 
Staley, 42, did interview for the Eagles' head coaching vacancy after Kelly was fired. He said he'd love the opportunity to move up in the coaching rankings.
 
“Yeah, definitely," he said in early February. "I think as coaches when you get into this business you're always looking to climb the ladder. Not looking to maintain that certain position.
 
"When you have a chance to move forward, when you have a chance to advance, you definitely want to take advantage of it."
 
Pederson and Staley were teammates in 1999. Staley had a franchise-record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons during his Eagles career. Along with former teammate Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy — who he coached — and Wilbert Montgomery, he's one of only four players in Eagles history with 4,000 rushing yards and 250 catches.
 
“Duce has done a great job," Pederson said before the Super Bowl. "He definitely, kind of like myself, leans on his experiences as a player because he’s been there, done that, out there in the games.
 
"The running back coach position, it takes a special coach. I don’t think just anybody can do it. You’ve got to have a presence about yourself, you’ve got to have a way about yourself, you’ve got to be able to communicate with different personalities in that room, and in our case we’ve got a couple starters in that room, and he’s been able to really shape them and mold them and get them to buy into what we’re doing offensively.
 
"Each one has a role, he does a great job with that, and he knows when to be hard on them. They all take coaching extremely well, and he’s been a big asset to that room, to the running backs, and to me.”
 
For whatever reason, Staley had not previously been considered a "hot name" when offensive coaching promotions were discussed, but he should have been.
 
Since he became running backs coach in 2013, the Eagles have the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL and the sixth-highest rushing average at 4.4 yards per carry.
 
They're also third in scoring during that span and fourth in total yards.
 
"Duce is a guy who wants to win a lot of football games and he’ll do whatever it takes to win those games," Blount said. "So as a head coach I think he’d be a perfect candidate for a lot of teams.”

This offseason, Eagles targeted players with something to prove

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USA Today Images

This offseason, Eagles targeted players with something to prove

The Eagles rode the underdog theme to a Super Bowl last season, but it’s hard to be a team full of underdogs when everyone is wearing a gaudy Super Bowl ring. 

So this offseason has been about trying to recreate that mentality. 

Last week, Jason Kelce said on Good Morning Football he thinks the Eagles probably still aren’t getting the respect they deserve. And when Howie Roseman spoke at the Wharton People Analytics Conference earlier this spring, he spoke about the idea of people thinking the Super Bowl win was a “fluke.” 

Roseman was the subject of a half-hour interview that was posted by Penn on May 9. He talked about various topics, including the Super Bowl celebration, the use of analytics and sports science in the NFL and about the trade two years ago to get Carson Wentz.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Roseman said during that conference wasn’t about analytics at all. It was about trying to repeat as champions and avoiding the same fate as many teams before which haven’t been able to duplicate championship success. 

“From our perspective, we know we have to change the chemistry,” Roseman said. “We know we have to create competition, we have to make everyone feel the same kind of urgency we had. So how do you do that? You get more people who have that urge, who have that underdog kind of feeling that we had, who feel like they’ve been kicked to the side, who have this need to win. 

“And what we feel will happen is, you bring in a bunch of competitive people, with inherently competitive people who are maybe just kind of going through the motions a little bit for a while. And all of a sudden, they have a competitive moment and you bring out those competitive juices. Will it work? I have no idea. But we’re going to try.”

A quick look back at the players the Eagles brought in this offseason and it’s not hard to find that “underdog” quality about a lot of them. You can almost hear Kelce yelling about these guys next February. 

Michael Bennett: He’s getting old! He’s too socially active!

Corey Nelson: Nelson’s just a special teamer! 

Haloti Ngata: Ngata’s too old and injured!

Mike Wallace: Remember when Mike Wallace was good?!

Paul Worrilow: Paul Worrilow was undrafted!

Markus Wheaton: Wheaton can’t stay healthy!

Matt Jones: Matt Jones fumbles too much!

You get the idea. 

“We understand that it’s hard to repeat,” Roseman said at the owners' meetings in March. “You have to add some guys with the same chip on their shoulders that we brought in last year.”

Now, adding guys with chips on their shoulders coincided nicely with the Eagles' salary cap situation. The good thing about players with something to prove is that they’re cheap. And the Eagles needed that. 

All of their free agents this offseason signed either one- or two-year deals and it’s similar to the contracts the Eagles handed out last offseason when they brought in Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long and Patrick Robinson. All those guys were hits and it helped with the championship. But these signings aren’t always hits; there are going to be misses too. 

When talking about moves, Roseman likened it to gambling, which is really what it is. The analytics play a role in making sure the odds are in their favor, but there are plenty of variables like injuries that still make every move a gamble. It’s all about maximizing the odds. 

If the Eagles did that again, they might be able to succeed where many other teams have failed. 

“I think it really goes through all organizations, not just sports,” Roseman said. “When you have success, how do you continue to have success? I think it’s easy when you think about these teams and some of the process because the season goes six weeks longer, and so I know all of us are a little bit more tired and everything comes on us quicker and the same thing for the players. … 

“How do you get that energy? How do you change the dynamic? For me, the resources that I’ve been exposed to not only in sports but outside of sports about people who have built great organizations, who have won championships and then gone back, talking to them about what you have to do.”  

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.”