Eagles

Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

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USA Today Images

Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

New Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is not your average midseason signing. This is a playmaker with eight years of NFL experience, and a starter for the Super Bowl champion Ravens in 2012.

Ask any player in the Eagles’ locker room who knows Ellerbe or really studies defense, and they’ll tell you the same thing. This is not just any street free agent.

Ellerbe represents a huge upgrade for the Eagles.

“Dominant player from what I remember in Baltimore,” Eagles safety and former teammate Corey Graham said on Monday. “Running through linemen, very physical, very aggressive. Flat-out beast. We used to call him ‘Eller-beast.’

“When he was out there and when he was healthy, he’s a monster.”

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham even went so far as to liken the addition of Ellerbe to the club’s recent trade for Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi.

“It’s the same situation as when we got the running back,” Bradham said. “We’re just adding depth and trying to get stronger as a team as we’re keeping this thing going.”

Unlike Graham, Bradham never played alongside Ellerbe, nor had they so much as met each other before. But Bradham would tell you he “knows” Ellerbe very well from following his career with the Ravens, Dolphins and Saints.

“Linebackers know linebackers,” said Bradham, who added Ellerbe made a “key impact” in Baltimore’s last world championship. “We need him.”

There’s no question the Eagles could use the help at linebacker. Both Bradham and Mychal Kendricks have been spectacular, but depth became an issue after Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending injury.

Of course, if Ellerbe is the solution, why was he a free agent to begin with? Why is he now playing for his fourth NFL team? He turns 32 years old in a matter of weeks and has never earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl or any other notable accolades, so how good can he be?

Ellerbe’s issues are primarily injury-related. He played one game in 2014, six games in 2015 and nine games in 2016.

Most recently, Ellerbe missed time with a broken foot, which he says has been healed for quite awhile.

“I was healthy enough to play going into training camp,” Ellerbe said. “The whole time I’ve just been working out and getting in shape, staying in shape.”

Otherwise, there’s no denying he can contribute if he’s finally 100 percent. Undrafted out of Georgia in 2009, Ellerbe has started 42 NFL games, recording 368 tackles, 10½ sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also has 48 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception in 10 playoff appearances.

“When he’s healthy, he’s very explosive, very smart,” said Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, another former teammate in Baltimore. “He understands defenses very well, and he can be a great playmaker for us.”

Bradham was willing to go out on a limb and predict Ellerbe would be successful for the Eagles.

“He’s going to have an impact,” Bradham said.

“For us following the game for some time, we’ve all seen him play. He’s a physical, hard-nosed linebacker. He has speed. He’s going to be a great addition for us, and he added depth. We’re even deeper now.”

As far as Ellerbe’s role, that is yet to be determined. For the time being, he isn’t locked in at middle or outside linebacker for the Eagles, though he’s primarily played weakside as a pro. He may not play at all initially.

The way Bradham and Kendricks are balling, there’s no need to force Ellerbe into the lineup, either.

And while Ellerbe says he hasn’t played special teams since he was with the Ravens in 2012, he’s ready to assist in whatever phase he’s called upon. There’s no concern about rust, despite not having practiced or seen game action since last December.

“I don’t think I’ve ever sat out this long, but when you’re born to do something, you pick it back up real quick,” Ellerbe said. “It’s like riding a bike.”

The Eagles aren’t just getting a quality linebacker. Based on accounts from his former teammates, Ellerbe is a quality person as well. Smith called Ellerbe a “great addition to the locker room,” while Graham said the newcomer will fit right in.

With the Eagles’ record at 8-1, team chemistry seems almost as important as talent these days. Ellerbe checks off both boxes.

Free-agent additions this time of year typically amount to picking off the top of the trash heap, pure depth signings, or future stashes. It’s not often a team in the Eagles’ position is able to nab a player of this caliber.

Whether Ellerbe is the game-changer his teammates remember or his ability has eroded with time and injuries, one thing is for certain: The Eagles are leaving no stone unturned in 2017. Adding another motivated athlete with a championship pedigree can’t hurt.

10 players to watch in Eagles’ Super Bowl LII preseason rematch with Patriots

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USA Today Images

10 players to watch in Eagles’ Super Bowl LII preseason rematch with Patriots

The Eagles are up in Foxboro tonight to take on the Patriots in the second game of their preseason. 

Somehow, there won’t be as much at stake as the last time these two teams met. 

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing at stake. This is a great opportunity for a lot of young players to prove themselves before the starters get extended time in the third preseason game. We did a list like this before Preseason Game 1, so we excluded some players to get new names in this one: 

Nick Foles
Let’s start with the QB. Foles missed the first preseason game with spasms in his trap/neck area. But the Super Bowl MVP is expected to play at least a little bit in a preseason rematch of Super Bowl LII. I don’t expect to see a ton of Foles in this game, but I’m curious to see if he looks rusty or if things click for him. Remember, when he took over for Carson Wentz last year, it took him a few games to find a rhythm. Preseason games might be more important for him than other QBs. 

Matt Jones 
Jones also missed the preseason opener with a hip injury, so this is our first chance to see him in game action. For a big back like Jones, game action just seems much more important than anything he could show during training camp practices. With that fourth RB spot up for grabs and with Corey Clement and Donnel Pumphrey on the shelf, there should be plenty of opportunity for Jones. 

Wendell Smallwood 
The same type of opportunity for Smallwood, who is quickly running out of chances with the Eagles. He looked OK in the preseason opener, but he’s entering his third season with the Eagles and every time it looks like he’s going to have a role, he either gets hurt or can’t capitalize. I still think Smallwood could carve out a decent career, but if he wants it to be in Philly, he needs to start showing up in these games. 

Mike Wallace
Another guy who missed the first preseason game. Wallace missed the game and a few practices with tendinitis, but the 32-year-old has been good this week in camp. He still has his signature speed, which will be fun to watch this season. 

Jordan Mailata 
OK, I’m officially intrigued. I didn’t expect much from Mailata in his first-ever football game last week, but he actually did really well. He’s kind of like a giant baby because he’s learning so much in such a short amount of time. Every time I see him, he looks like a different player. 

Kamar Aiken 
In the absence of Alshon Jeffery, Mack Hollins and Greg Ward, the veteran wideout has actually been working with the first team. That’s impressive to me because when he first arrived, Aiken struggled with dropping passes, but it now appears like that was just because he was getting adjusted to his new offense and surroundings. He’s been much better recently and is pushing for a roster spot. 

Christian Hackenberg 
I’m not sure if Hackenberg will even play against the Patriots, but if he does, that’s must-see for me. He’s been in the Eagles’ offense for just a few days, but the former second-round pick is a super interesting story. He’s never played in a real NFL game and has been a complete disaster as a pro. But a couple years after being a highly-touted prospect, I wonder if he’ll ever be able to resurrect his career. 

Bruce Hector 
Who? Good question. Hector is an undrafted free agent defensive tackle from South Florida who has been really impressive during training camp. In fact, he’s been getting second-team reps above former sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls. Before the first preseason game, I asked a bunch of vets who they were excited to see. Fletcher Cox didn’t hesitate before he said, Hector. 

Cameron Johnston 
I know I’m a jerk for telling you to watch a punter in the preseason, but here we are. Punter is a real question mark because as talented as Johnston appears to be, he’s equally inconsistent. He did, however, punt a ball 81 yards (it didn’t count) in the first game. I had never seen that before. 

Avonte Maddox 
The fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh has been getting first-team reps as the nickel cornerback this week, so I’d imagine that’s where he’ll be against the Patriots. Maddox never played inside in college, so he’s been learning a new position and has really excelled, jumping De’Vante Bausby on the depth chart. Eventually, Maddox could figure into the rotation of the future. 

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Meet Foles the goat, who lives among Patriots fans in Boston

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Dave Zangaro

Meet Foles the goat, who lives among Patriots fans in Boston

BOSTON — Shortly after he was born, a few zoo visitors jokingly wiped the name of the newborn goat off the dry-erase board at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. 

In the nearly four months since then, the name “Foles” has been written in wet-erase marker. It’s not going anywhere. 

It didn’t take long for Foles — named after Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles thanks to a bet between Zoo New England and the Philadelphia Zoo — to quickly win over everyone who visits him or steps inside the large barn-like pen to give him a rub. 

“He’s sooo cute!” an elementary-aged boy exclaimed to his friends after Foles gave him a little nuzzle. “I wish I could have one.” 

The little boy and his friends started giggling. They couldn’t stop giggling. All the giggling. 

Really, the reactions from children when they meet Foles the goat aren’t that different than the reactions from Eagles fans when they meet Foles the G.O.A.T. 

That’s not all Foles has in common with Foles. The day after he was born, Foles (the goat) was taken for his postnatal exam. It can be a traumatic experience for a newborn goat kid, getting prodded and poked. 

“I don’t think he even cried,” said Hannah Keklak, one of the goat keepers. 

So Foles went into a high-stress situation, kept his composure and remained calm. 

Sound familiar?  

In Boston, most of the grumbling about Foles’ name has died down. It didn’t take long for Keklak or fellow keeper Laura Allaire to be won over by the adorable little goat. Keklak called him “baby” for a while, but eventually, the two admitted Patriots fans gave in. 

“We’ve accepted his name,” Allaire said with a smile and a head nod. 

About two months after Foles’ birth, a group of about 35-40 Eagles fans, wearing jerseys and carrying banners, came to visit the young goat. We’ve always known Eagles fans travel well, but this is a new one. 

Patriots fans are welcome to visit the Philadelphia Zoo, but they won’t find a goat named Brady. 

Foles the goat is sociable, perhaps even more than his family members at Franklin Farm. He seems to love people and eagerly greets them when they enter his space. On Wednesday afternoon, he rested in the shade but became enamored with one male visitor. He licked the salty sweat from his legs, playfully butted his head into his side and acted pretty much like a dog wanting attention. 

This is admittedly the first time I have ever petted one of my subjects. Foles was happy to oblige, nuzzling and eventually standing on his hind legs and resting his front ones on my thigh to get a closer look at me.

 

While the zoo announced Foles’ name on May 10, he was born on April 23. Foles is nearing his four-month birthday, but likely won’t stop growing until he’s about a year old. 

Nigerian Dwarf Goats are originally from Western Africa, but there are many of them in the United States. Foles is one of 10 at the 72-acre Franklin Park Zoo. The goats have a median age of 15 and are herbivores. 

The average size of a newborn is about 1 or 2 pounds, but by the time the zoo introduced him a few weeks after his birth, Foles was already 5 pounds. An overachiever, just like his namesake. 

Like Nick Foles, Foles the goat has a pretty good life, even in the midst of a bunch of Patriots fans. He’s surrounded by his family at the zoo: his dad Lucky, his mom Leia, sister Chewbacca and half-brother Vader. 

So, was Foles going to be named Luke had it not been for the bet? 

Well, actually, when Leia had an ultrasound, it showed a huge baby growing inside her. That’s when the veterinarian began to call the unborn goat Jabba, as in Jabba the Hut. 

Thank God the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

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