Eagles

Eagles not acting like a 7-1 team

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Eagles not acting like a 7-1 team

They're the best team in football. Just good luck trying to get any of them to say it.

The Eagles are flying along at 7-1 after their 33-10 win over the 49ers Sunday, but all these guys seem to want to talk about is who's next on the schedule, when's the next practice, who wants to go lift?

You want to talk Super Bowl? Winning streaks? Playoff seeding? Forget it. This team is so focused all they really care about right now is Wednesday's practice.

"This team has a really good way of living in the moment," said veteran defensive end Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last year.

"I think we've got a lot of guys that maybe haven't been on a team that's been this good before, so it's pure. You're just excited to come to work every day, you're excited for every game, and you have a chance to win another one every week, and that's what keeps these games big games.

"We have a lot of guys who haven't won and have been trusting the process and it's kind of culminating in us having an opportunity to build our lead in the division every week and distance ourselves a little bit. So I think everybody's just really excited. It's not like we're spoiled by playing in big games. I'm sure this is the first year a lot of guys have been 7-1."

The Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 7-1, the seventh time in franchise history they've been 7-1 (also 1949, 1960, 1961, 1980, 1981 and 2004). Their six-game winning streak is the eighth-longest in franchise history. 

They have a 2½-game lead in the NFC East over the Cowboys and a one-game lead over the Vikings — the Vikings??? — for top seeding in the NFC. The Rams, Seahawks and Saints are all 5-2.

The Eagles must be feeling pretty good about themselves right now, right?

"We're 1-0 and that's the motto," rookie running back Corey Clement said. "We're 1-0, not 7-1. When you think about it, if you start talking about being 7-1, guys are going to think that we made it and the season is solidified.

"You've seen so many great teams fall short because they think they arrived when they got to 7-1. We've got to stay grounded and stay humble and keep doing the things that got us here."

The Eagles have found different ways to win all year and that was the case again Sunday.

They had four sacks, two interceptions, blocked a field goal, had a 50-yard field goal and made enough big plays in all three phases to offset an uncharacteristically mediocre game from Carson Wentz.

"Last year, a lot of the games we lost came down to six points or less and we fell short," Rodney McLeod said. "This year, when we feel the momentum shifting in a game, when we feel a team getting that momentum, this year, we're responding.

"The defense comes up with a turnover or a big stop or somebody makes an explosive play. It's just a team effort."

This is as focused a group as you'll see. As unselfish a group as you'll see. As close a group as you'll see.

"You can get easily sidetracked by the media or other outside noise," Clement said. "We know the true potential we have with this team and we would hate to see this team or any of us fall to another level because we let distractions affect us. …

"The first day I came in and tried to compete with everybody, it wasn't easy, and when it's not easy, that's when you know you have something special. We're just grinding every day, working hard every day. We're having fun but we know what Coach (Doug) Pederson expects and we have a certain standard and we want to play beyond the standard we set in our previous game."

This all comes from Pederson. He preaches a one-day-at-a-time philosophy, but a lot of coaches do that. 

His message really seems to be getting through.

"It's a great locker room," Pederson said. "We have great leaders on this football team. They know how to keep the guys focused. We talked about it all week. We were coming off that emotional Monday night game, to really a relatively short week, physically a short week a little bit. 

"And then to come out and play and stay in there for four quarters and not overlook this team is a tremendous effort by the players in that locker room.

"That's the one thing I've really appreciated about our guys is they just kind of (take it) one week at a time, one game at a time, and they did it again (Sunday)."

The Eagles are back home Sunday to face the Broncos, who are 3-3 going into a game Monday night against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Then comes the bye week and then a four-game stretch against the Cowboys in Dallas, the Bears at home and the Seahawks and Rams on the road. The combined record of those four teams is 17-12.

"We just know what the ultimate goal is," McLeod said. "The ultimate goal isn't to be 7-1, the goal is to win this division like we set out to do and from there ultimately win a championship.

"That's why you play this game. That's why we're all here. That's why we've been sweating and putting in all the effort every day."

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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