Eagles newcomers slowly learning about rivalry with Cowboys

Eagles newcomers slowly learning about rivalry with Cowboys

Last week, as Torrey Smith enjoyed some time off in the city during the Eagles' bye, he began to hear it more and more. 

He heard it everywhere he went. 

"They were like, 'As long as you beat those Cowboys. As long as you beat those Cowboys,'" said Smith, in a voice, before going back to his normal one. "It's pretty cool to be a part of it." 

The Eagles-Cowboys rivalry is one of the best in the NFL. It certainly means a heckuva lot to the people of Philadelphia. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster, 21 hadn't played for the Eagles before this season. And until they joined the team, many of them didn't have a clue about the rivalry. 

They're starting to figure it out.  

"Obviously, I see the difference, the way people look at it, how much people don't like Dallas," safety Corey Graham said. "It might be amped a little bit more."

Smith said he was told about the rivalry when he signed this offseason and it was somewhat news to him. Growing up in Virginia, he always thought the biggest rivalry around was Cowboys-Redskins. And he's not necessarily wrong. That's a pretty big one too. 

"It feels like it's everyone," Smith said of the teams that have a rivalry with the Cowboys. 

And he's not wrong about that either. 

That star on the side of the Cowboys' helmets might as well be a bullseye. The Cowboys — dubbed "America's team" — are as near a villain as any team in the NFL. No, they haven't been able to keep up their success throughout the years, but the Cowboys are still the team everyone loves to hate. And no city loves to hate the Cowboys as much as Philadelphia. 

The Eagles hold a 51-65 record all-time against the Cowboys and after splitting last season have won four of their last seven against them. But last year's game in Dallas was an absolute heartbreaker and the regular season finale they won was pretty meaningless. 

In recent years, the Eagles' rivalry against the Giants has surpassed that of the rivalry with the Cowboys for some. But this is still the Cowboys we're talking about. Maybe the days of the Bounty Bowl are long gone and maybe the game simply doesn't mean as much to the players as it used to. But it still means a lot to fans. 

Chris Long, who is active on social media, said it's pretty clear how much fans care about beating Dallas. Long said the team just can't get caught up in that hype. 

"I think we get into trouble if we start making some games bigger than other games and whatnot," he said. "They're all big games for us because we're trying to continue winning. As we get later in the season, each game will grow in importance just because of when it is but I'm certainly not getting caught up in the whole rivalry thing." 

This, of course, isn't the first rivalry game for the newcomers on the team. Almost all of those players who went to big colleges have played in rivalry games. Alshon Jeffery played for the Bears against the Packers. Smith and Tim Jernigan played for the Ravens against the Steelers. And so on. 

"I'm starting to [get it], especially as the week goes on," Jernigan said. "I'm starting to get that vibe a little bit." 

The players who have been with the Eagles for at least a couple years understand how important Dallas week is. Carson Wentz clearly gets it. So does Lane Johnson, who threatened to murder his grandmother after she rooted for the Cowboys. 

Johnson was obviously joking. He's not going to murder his grandmother. But he gets it. He gets how much it means to the people in this city. He gets it in a way the new guys just won't yet. 

"I heard it was crazy," said Ronald Darby, who came to the Eagles in an August trade. "I heard Eagles-Redskins was crazy too. Is Dallas bigger? Is it a bigger rivalry?"

Yeah, he's still learning. 

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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