What we've learned the past week about the Eagles

What we've learned the past week about the Eagles

I was really struck by something Nick Foles wrote the other day in his powerful and heartfelt message explaining his feelings following the death of George Floyd.

And even though Nick isn't an Eagle these days, I think his message really helps define what's truly special about this franchise.

"My favorite part of playing football has not been winning a Super Bowl or running the Philly Special," Foles tweeted out. "It has been to glorify God and to play with men from all different backgrounds and races. Men come together to achieve the common goal of winning games no matter what their background. To do that, they must love one another, genuinely. It becomes a real brotherhood. I have been a part of some special teams. The special teams did not always have the best playbook, but they did have the strongest brotherhood."

I think we all understand what teams Nick is talking about.

This is a special place. This is a special franchise. And it didn't just happen by accident.

It's easy to scoff at Howie Roseman when he talks about bringing in character guys. And it's easy to dismiss Jeff Lurie as a billionaire who's only interested in making money. 

But Lurie is a community-minded owner who's created a culture where people genuinely respect each other, where doors are always open if there are conflicts, where communication and dialogue and understanding are paramount.

And Roseman has for the most part brought in players who fit that culture. And generally, if you're wondering why the Eagles haven't signed some guy who made a bunch of Pro Bowls or why they've cut ties with a productive player seemingly in his prime, it's because of fit.

And it's pretty clear after four years of watching Doug Pederson that his greatest strength is his ability to inspire 53 men not just to play football at the highest level but to be good people.

To care about each other and listen to each other and understand each other.

Which is what Foles was getting at. 

That 2017 team was very good but it wasn't the most talented team we've ever seen around here. But the togetherness and unity and trust was off the charts. 

And I think we're really seeing the exact same thing right now.

Man, you listen to Jason Kelce, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson, and maybe I'm naive or overly idealistic, but I get a real sense of people who want to make a difference and genuinely care about each other.

You can't have two more different people than Jason Kelce and DeSean Jackson. 

A burly, white offensive lineman from Cleveland who plays Jack Johnson on the guitar and a speedy African American receiver from Los Angeles who blasts hip-hop in the locker room.

But to hear Kelce talk about how DeSean inspired him to open up and speak about racism, and then to hear DeSean speak about how much that meant to him, this is meaningful and this is real and this is inspiring.

The more athletes and celebrities who use their platform to influence and educate and demand change the more we have a chance to move beyond the racism, homophobia, bigotry and sexism that are so prevalent in our society.

Talking about winning football games seems irrelevant in the big picture right now, but there's no question that a team that has unity and respect and understanding in the locker room is going to be better equipped to withstand the challenges of a football season.

But this is about more than that.

This is a franchise that's easy to be proud of not just because of how many games they win but because of what they're all about as people.

And anybody who still believes athletes can't make a difference just hasn't been paying attention.

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Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham is reportedly joining the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

While Cunningham, 57, can still likely throw bombs to Raiders receivers, he'll be guiding them spiritually as the team chaplain, according to ESPN.

"I'm elated, flabbergasted," Cunningham told ESPN on Friday. "I've already been in on some [Zoom] meetings with the team. I plan on spending a lot of time with the guys when it's OK. I've talked with Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor. What an amazing group of people Mark Davis and Jon Gruden have put together."

Cunningham played his college ball at UNLV and coached high school football in Las Vegas for a couple of seasons a few years back.

Randall has spent much of the past few years working with daughter, Vashti, and son, Randall II, in their quest for Olympic dreams.

The former NFL MVP is highly regarded around the league and will be a solid addition to the Raiders organization. His Twitter account, which is mostly dormant, has the handle "PastorRandallC."

Randall worked with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during his playing days in Philadelphia.

"He's going to take care of the guys in Las Vegas," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com. "Jon had him address the team in a team Zoom [recently] and he did a really good job of setting the stage for the team in Las Vegas.

Just last week, NBC Sports Philadelphia ranked Randall as the second best quarterback in Eagles history.

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If the Eagles are without DeSean Jackson for any or all of the next football season, which certainly seems within the realm of possibility at this point, there’s one person on their roster who has a similar skill set.

But he comes along with a ton of question marks.

Marquise Goodwin is definitely not DeSean Jackson, but at his best, when he’s healthy — which hasn’t been very often — he can do some of the same things as Jackson.

Over the past four years, Goodwin has only four fewer catches of at least 40 yards than Jackson, and in his one full season, he was among the league’s best big-play practitioners.

In their statement Friday, the Eagles made it clear that if Jackson doesn’t commit to showing genuine growth following what the team called “absolutely appalling” social media posts, he’s gone.

If the Eagles are forced to play regular-season games without Jackson, Goodwin could turn out to be a huge addition.

Jackson of course is one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history. His 31 career TDs of 50 yards or more are second only to Jerry Rice.

Over the last four years, Jackson has 13 catches of at least 40 yards — including two long TDs against the Redskins on opening day last year, his only significant action of the year. Goodwin during the same four-year span has nine 40-yard catches. Only 14 receivers have more during that stretch.

Jackson’s career average of 17.4 yards per catch is highest among active receivers and highest in the NFL over the last 35 years. But Goodwin is 5th on that list at 16.6, behind only Jackson, Josh Gordon (17.2), Mike Williams (17.1) and Kenny Golladay (16.8), with a minimum of 100 catches.

Goodwin, acquired for virtually nothing in a draft-weekend trade with the 49ers, is one of only 11 active players with more than one career 80-yard touchdown. He also has TDs of 67, 67, 59 and 55 yards.

So his resume is solid. He’s fast and he’s a deep threat. He can score from anywhere on the field.

And he’s an Eagle.

The problem is injuries.

Lots of them.

He missed four games in 2013 with a broken hand. He missed six games in 2014 with a concussion and hamstring and rib injuries. He missed 14 games in 2015 with a rib injury. He suffered three more concussions in 2016 and a fifth in 2017. He missed five games in 2018 with injuries and seven last year with a knee injury.

He’s only managed 30 or more snaps in 13 games the last two years.

The only time Goodwin played 16 games was in 2017 with the 49ers, and he had a career-high 962 yards, finished 3rd in the NFL at 17.2 yards per catch and had five 40-yard catches — 7th-most in the league.

But in his six other seasons he’s averaged 14 catches and 226 yards. He has only 35 catches for 581 yards over the last two seasons, although he does have 5 TDs.

So which Goodwin did the Eagles get? 

The one who is one of the NFL’s top deep threats or the one who’s often injured and can’t stay on the field?

The Eagles have had a hard time keeping anybody healthy lately, so relying heavily on a guy with such a long injury history is a risk.

But when it comes to stretching the field, there aren’t a lot of options.

Alshon Jeffery has 20 career receptions of at least 40 yards, but 17 were with the Bears, none since 2018. And we don’t even know when he’ll be healthy enough to play.

Greg Ward had a promising start last year but he’s an inside slot guy and had only had one catch longer than 15 yards last year, a 38-yarder against the Cowboys that set up a Miles Sanders TD.

Deontay Burnett only played 15 snaps last year and had a 41-yard catch against the Giants, but who knows if he’ll even make the team. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is more of a big-frame possession guy than a deep threat and of his 10 passes as a rookie none were longer than 30 yards. 

Jalen Reagor has the potential to be a big-play threat, but he’s still an unknown quantity, a rookie without offseason programs and perhaps without preseason games. Quez Watkins and John Hightower are speedy, but it’s never easy for late-round rookies to get on the field, more so this year.

The reality is the Eagles need Jackson on the field. A healthy Goodwin is the next-best option. But based on his recent history it’s not one they can depend on.

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