Eagles not ready to say they're back to Super Bowl form … yet

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Eagles not ready to say they're back to Super Bowl form … yet

The Eagles are back in the thick of the playoff race and coming off their most impressive win of the season, depending who you ask.

Just don’t get too excited yet. The Eagles aren’t.

“We're not there yet, but we're getting close,” Doug Pederson said when asked if the Eagles’ season was starting to turn around after Monday’s victory, their first back-to-back wins in 2018.

After beating Washington, the Eagles remain one game back of Dallas for first place in the NFC East ahead of this Sunday’s head-to-head. Suddenly, the wild-card picture is wide open as well, leaving two potential paths back to the playoffs.

It’s also how they won. The Eagles’ 436 total yards of offense were a season-best, and 28 points their second-highest total this year and most in six games. Similarly, Washington’s 235 yards were a season-low for the Eagles’ defense, and 13 points surrendered their stingiest effort in six games.

All good signs, but not nearly enough to convince coaches and players the team has rounded back into Super Bowl form.

“We’re a long way from that, I promise you,” Lane Johnson said.

Turning a corner, at least?

“I don’t know,” Jason Kelce said. “I don’t want to say that.”

Can you blame them? Much was made over winning back-to-back games for the first time, capped by the first comfortable win since October. Yet, look at the level of competition they’ve faced, and it’s easy to see why there is cautious optimism.

A come-from-behind win over the lowly Giants does not instill a ton of confidence. Beating Washington with a third-string quarterback and a patchwork offensive line — both units comprised largely of men who weren’t on NFL rosters a month ago — isn’t very inspiring, either.

The Eagles know this, which is why the true test awaits in Dallas.

“We’ll see after this week,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We understand where we are as far the season. No bigger game than this one coming up, so while we’re excited about putting two wins together, we don’t take care of business this week, it’s all for naught.”

None of which is to suggest the developments over the last two weeks aren’t promising. The Eagles were finding ways to lose situations like the Giants game earlier in the season and did exactly what good teams are supposed to do to damaged teams like Washington’s.

There appears to be a difference in confidence and demeanor, perhaps because the team is beginning to get healthy.

“You’re always playing nicked up," Kelce said, "but shortened offseason combined with the quarterback missing an entire offseason with the starting unit, left tackle coming off of an ACL injury, a bunch of guys coming off of late injuries, it’s hard from a chemistry standpoint.”

Kelce stressed injuries were no excuse, although it does seem to be a common denominator.

“I don’t know if we’re turning the corner, but we’re starting to run a little bit,” Johnson said. “I don’t know where we’re going, but I think we’re going in the right direction as far as we have guys coming back from injuries.”

Maybe the Eagles will revert back to Super Bowl form yet this season. All we know is the team isn’t there right now, with a huge game against the rival Cowboys looming.

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Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson is officially in offseason mode, and he kicked off Pro Bowl week - which he's now officially part of - by showing up on former teammate Chris Long's podcast and shooting the breeze for an hour.

The duo bantered about plenty, from dealing with failure and ego as football players, to Johnson's time as a grave digger. About halfway through, Johnson offered up a seldom-heard explanation for his hairstyle, or lackthereof.

Johnson, of course, famously keeps his hair short (read: nonexistent) on top, and keeps his beard long. He explained to Long that it took some serious self-reflection, and a couple rough games early in his rookie season, to officially start shaving his head:

I was in college, it was my senior year, and my friend goes, 'Bro, are you f***ing losing your hair?' I said, what are you talking about? Then I went to the mirror, and I'd clearly been in denial for some time. I said, 'Bro, this s*** is terrible.' 

So I played with it my senior year, it was bad. I'd comb it over, wear my hats, feather it out in the back, try to look cool. Then I got to the Eagles, and after getting bull-rushed by Dwight Freeney and giving up three sacks to Justin Houston, I just shaved that s*** off. I've been a different man ever since.

The Eagles, you might remember, lost in Week 2 that year to Freeney's Chargers, and then lost in Week 3 to Houston's Chiefs, to fall to 1-3. They went 9-3 the rest of the way, a startling and fun turnaround. I'm not saying it's all thanks to Johnson shaving his head... but maybe?

That's about as good a reason as I can think of to make a hairstyle change. Johnson has been one of the best right tackles in the NFL since he started shaving his head, so maybe he's on to something. He spends very little time focusing on his hair, and plenty of time focusing on his game.

When you go back and look at Johnson with hair, it's... extremely jarring:

Johnson is basically unrecognizable in that video. He looks like a child! Thank goodness for Freeney and Houston shellacking Johnson as a rookie, or he might still be clinging to that brutal hairdo.

Maybe Johnson should've floated this idea to the Eagles' coaching staff years ago. Who knows what a haircut could've done for Nelson Agholor?

You can listen to, and watch, the full conversation between Johnson and Long below:

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Eagles reportedly getting close to hiring Marquand Manuel as DBs coach

Eagles reportedly getting close to hiring Marquand Manuel as DBs coach

The Eagles are reportedly getting close to filling at least one of their four vacant coaching jobs. 

According to ESPN, the Eagles have interviewed former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel for their defensive backs coach position and “a deal could happen as early as today.” 

The Eagles are looking for a new DBs coach after Cory Undlin, who held the position for five seasons, left to take the defensive coordinator position under Matt Patricia in Detroit. The Eagles’ other vacancies are at offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach and defensive line coach. 

The Eagles have also reportedly interviewed Browns DBs coach DeWayne Walker for the vacant DBs coach position. 

Whoever gets the job is going to have some work ahead of them. The Eagles’ secondary has plenty of questions marks heading into the 2020 season. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod are all set to be free agents. Malcolm Jenkins wants a new contract. And Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are former high-round draft picks who couldn’t get on the field in a playoff game. 

Manuel, 40, comes with a relatively impressive resume. He was the Falcons’ defensive coordinator from 2017-18 and before that was their secondary coach from 2015-16. He began his coaching career with the Seahawks as a low-level assistant and was eventually the assistant secondary coach. He also had an eight-year NFL career at safety as a sixth-round pick; Doug Pederson values former players on his coaching staff. 

When Dan Quinn took the Falcons’ head coaching job in 2015, he brought Manuel with him and promoted him to DBs coach. He then promoted him again two years later. So Manuel has been coaching in that Cover 3 scheme for years. The Eagles use many zone concepts. 

Here’s what Quinn said about Manuel before the 2018 season, via Falcons.com: 

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

During Manuel’s four years in Atlanta, both as DBs coach and defensive coordinator, the Falcons had the 24th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. But in his second season in Atlanta, the Falcons went to the Super Bowl. He was promoted after that season. But after two years as DC, Manuel was fired by the Falcons after the 2018 season and was not in the NFL in 2019 as Quinn took back DC responsibilities. 

This would be an important hire for the Eagles and it sounds like they’re getting close to making it. 

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