Eagles

Eagles more comfortable playing in Seattle this time around

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Eagles more comfortable playing in Seattle this time around

Brandon Brooks thought of a good way to describe what it's like to play in a loud atmosphere and still hear the quarterback. 

Ever been in a large crowd, but can still hear your mom? 

"You know what it is," Brooks said. "You can hear her voice. It's the same way with Carson. So as loud as it is, you're trained to listen to him. Unless it's like an airhorn in your ear, you're gonna hear his voice out of everything or at least hear bits and pieces of it. It's loud, don't get me wrong. But when you're playing you can tune that out a little bit and at least hear Carson and communicate back and forth." 

The Eagles are about to go into a pretty big crowd on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. While some of the prestige of CenturyLink Field has been lost in recent weeks, it's still a really tough place to play. 

The Eagles found that out last season, when they lost there, 26-15, to kick off a five-game losing skid. 

But this Eagles team is obviously much better than the team that lost in Seattle a year ago. While the Seahawks don't seem like the same dominant team again this season, the Eagles are the best team in the NFC. And having played in Seattle last year ought to help. 

"It's a huge help," Wentz said. "We went into there last year, heard all about it, knew what to expect. It's definitely loud. It's quite the atmosphere. It's a fun place to play. I think most guys have been there now, so I think that will pay dividends in our week of prep, knowing how much we need to emphasize hand signals and communicating things non-verbally."

Frank Reich brought up an interesting point earlier this week. There's always a lot made about the crowd noise in Seattle, The 12th Man and all that. But "in another respect, loud is loud, and once you're using the silent count, you're using a silent count," Reich said. 

The Eagles have had plenty of practice with the silent count this season. While they won just one game on the road in 2016, they're already 4-1 on the road this year as they kick off a three-game road trip this weekend. They've played in Washington, Kansas City, L.A., Carolina and Dallas. 

They're at a place now where they're really comfortable with their silent count. Last season, Pederson said they can get so comfortable going silent that it actually becomes weird when they finally hear a live voice again. 

"We feel really good with it," Wentz said. "I personally always prefer to play at home and use the cadence, but you can always use the silent cadence as a weapon as well. We feel really confident with it. We've used it enough this year with that road stretch earlier in the year, where we feel good with it."

For the last two seasons, the trio of Brooks, Jason Kelce and Wentz have kept the silent count working. It's Brooks' job to tap Kelce on his left side to trigger the snap, though Eagles have plenty of silent procedure mechanisms to trigger the snap. The key is to switch them up. 

Going to the silent count can sometimes be more difficult on tackles, tight ends and receivers. They can't use listening as a crutch. Instead, they have to keep an eye on the ball. 

That can be a problem for players like Lane Johnson, who really relies on getting off the ball and getting into his stance quickly. While he's watching the ball, he has to also be aware of what the defender in front of him is doing. He can't let the defensive end slide away from him while he's busy paying attention to the football. 

"The thing is, you kind of have to see where the end is and sometimes they'll squeeze down, a blitz might be coming," Johnson said. "A lot of things are going on. That's the toughest thing."

When the Eagles are preparing for a road game like this, they begin using that silent count in practice early. It's something Brooks said he can't really work on individually; it is an emphasis during team periods of practice. The Eagles will likely practice inside on Friday to get some exposure to crowd noise. 

While CenturyLink Field has earned its reputation as a loud and tough place to play, the Seahawks have looked much more vulnerable at home lately. After winning their first four games at home this season, they have lost the last two in their own nest — to Washington on Nov. 5 and Atlanta on Nov. 20. 

If the Eagles beat them there, it will be the first time the Seahawks have lost three in a row at home since the 2008 season. 

Are they worried about teams no longer having that fear of playing there?  

"No, I don't care about that," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call earlier this week. "I don't think anybody is fearing anything. We're just playing football. We play at a good place and we gotta play well when we're here. If we do the right stuff and play well, then the results are what they are. I don't think it has anything to do with fear. And I don't care about that at all." 

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer.

Today we’ll look at weakside linebacker.

Names to know

Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson

What to watch

After years of trade speculation, the Eagles finally just released Mychal Kendricks this offseason. It saved them $6 million in cap room and let Kendricks out of a situation he had been ready to leave for some time. It also left the Eagles with a void. No, Kendricks didn’t play at an All-Pro level last season, but he stepped into a larger role after Jordan Hicks went down and helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Now, he’s gone and his old starting gig is up for grabs.

When Nelson was signed this offseason and said he was told he’d compete at the weakside linebacker spot, it raised some eyebrows. That was Kendricks’ job and as long as he was on the team, he wasn’t going to give it up. Now, it all makes more sense.

The WILL linebacker in the Eagles’ system doesn’t play a ton. The Eagles are in their nickel package for around 75 percent of their defensive snaps, which means two linebackers instead of three as the team brings an extra DB on the field. So Hicks and Nigel Bradham will stay on the field for most of the game and the third linebacker will play about a quarter of the snaps. And it’ll be one of these three guys.

What all three guys seem to have in common is the ability to cover. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are both converted safeties and Nelson is much smoother in coverage than Kendricks ever was. All three are good athletes and have shined as special teams players, but are hungry for more responsibility.

It’ll be interesting to see if this competition goes into the season. Bradham is suspended for the season opener, so it seems like two of these guys will start next to Hicks. So read into it how you will … because the guy who plays the WILL in that game might not be the guy who plays it in the next game because the player at the SAM will be on the field more and could possibly be ahead on the depth chart.

Prediction

Grugier-Hill appeared to be in the lead for this job and I think he hangs on, although this one really is up in the air. I just think his two years in the defense will mean something to Jim Schwartz and it’ll be enough to give him an edge on a second-year player and a veteran special teams player. 

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Nick Foles leads entire NFL in player sales merchandise this offseason

Nick Foles leads entire NFL in player sales merchandise this offseason

Everyone knows the plan is for Nick Foles to eventually head back to the bench in favor of Carson Wentz.

Apparently, Eagles fans just didn’t care.

Because when the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales list for the first quarter of 2018 was released on Thursday, Foles was right at the top for all officially licensed merchandise from March 1-May 31.

Here’s the top 10:

1. Nick Foles
2. Tom Brady 
3. Carson Wentz
4. Saquon Barkley
5. Dak Prescott
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Ezekiel Elliott
8. Jimmy Garoppolo
9. Odell Beckham Jr. 
10. Derek Carr

That means the NFC East took six of the top 10 spots, which is pretty wild.

But it’s even crazier to think that Foles went from starting last season as a backup to having more products with his likeness sold this offseason than any other player in the league, including the guy whose job he took and who is expected to take it back. He also beat that guy who didn’t catch a pass in the Super Bowl.

We definitely saw a Super Bowl spike in this list, starting with Foles, who led all players in photography products sold. I guess everyone wanted an image of him catching the football on the "Philly Special" or perhaps something with the now famous photo of Foles with his infant daughter. On the previous list from last year (from March 1, 2017-Feb. 28), Foles was at No. 22, so we should have seen this coming. Wentz held steady at No. 3, despite the injury and missing the Super Bowl.

Here’s every Eagle on the new list with their ranking on the last in parenthesis:

1. Nick Foles (22)
3. Carson Wentz (3) 
13. Zach Ertz (17)
33. Alshon Jeffery (43)
34. Brandon Graham (N/A)
46. Fletcher Cox (N/A)

The only Eagles player to drop out of the top 50 is Jay Ajayi (45), who is entering the final year of his current contract.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Foles can stay at or near the top of the list, especially if he starts the season on the bench. But based on the way most Eagles fans have celebrated the win in Super Bowl LII, Foles merchandise isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon.

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