Eagles

Eagles stocked with players who have something to prove

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Eagles stocked with players who have something to prove

They're playing like they're mad at the world. Like they're trying to shut people up. Like they have something to prove. And there's a pretty good reason for that.

The Eagles' roster is largely made up of guys who were late-round draft picks. Guys who went undrafted, who were unwanted by their previous team, who were benched somewhere or toiled on the practice squad.

Castoffs, misfits, journeymen.

Put it all together and you have a roster stocked with guys who were told they'd never make it. Who have a chip on their shoulder. Who are driven by a team or coach or GM or even a fan base who doubted them and questioned them and gave up on them.

That's who this team is.

Let's look at the 53-man roster.

There are 20 guys drafted in the fifth round or later. There are seven undrafted free agents (and that doesn't include guys like Jason Peters and Chris Maragos, who are on IR). There are a dozen who've been released at some point in their career. A bunch more have been traded and several have been benched.

A good chunk of this roster is made up of players who've been doubted or questioned or left by the wayside, and that can go one of two ways. You can wind up with a group of football players who just aren't good enough to play in this league. Or you can wind up with a locker room full of men who are hungry, motivated, selfless and determined.

Find the right combination of those guys and find the correct roles for them and then develop them and what do you have?

You have the 2017 Eagles.

Heck, even some of their first-round picks play like they're fighting for their lives.

Carson Wentz heard repeatedly that he'd never be a big-time quarterback coming from an FCS school like North Dakota State. Brandon Graham heard for years he was a bust and the Eagles should have taken Earl Thomas instead. Even Fletcher Cox heard that his level of play dropped last year after he signed his massive contract.

Good luck finding a guy in this locker room who didn't have to overcome some long odds or who isn't driven by being treated unfairly at some point in his life.

Jason Kelce is playing at an All-Pro level. He was a sixth-round draft pick.

Corey Clement scored three touchdowns against the Broncos Sunday. He was undrafted.

Patrick Robinson and Jalen Mills have been unreal at cornerback. Robinson is with his fourth team in four years, and Mills was a seventh-round pick.

Go right through the roster.

LeGarrette Blount, released by two different teams and unwanted in New England after rushing for 18 touchdowns last year.

Tim Jernigan, cast off by the Ravens. Nelson Agholor, benched a year ago. Mychal Kendricks, shopped by the Eagles for the last few years. Jake Elliott, released by the Bengals and dumped on the practice squad. Stefen Wisniewski, started the season as a third-stringer. Rodney McLeod, undrafted.

“You look at this locker room, a lot of guys have things to prove," McLeod said.

"There’s a lot of different stories on this team. Guys being cut. Guys going undrafted. Guys getting overlooked. And they all make up a team that’s hungry as a whole. So that’s what you have. A lot of guys who are hungry and just want to win."

And it goes beyond the locker room.

The general manager was essentially benched two years ago, exiled to the equipment department, of all things. The head coach was released eight times in his NFL career and toiled in the Arena League and World League when he couldn't get an NFL job.

When Pederson talks about culture, this is what he means. A whole bunch of people thinking the same way, believing the same thing, working toward a common goal.

The Eagles are the best team in the NFL because he's got 53 guys, most of them driven by some significant obstacle in their lives, playing like the only thing that matters is proving everybody wrong.

It's not the normal formula for building a winning football team. Take a handful of premium draft picks and surround them with a whole bunch of guys off the scrapheap.

But for this team, it's working. And all the guys who are motivated by proving people wrong? They're well on their way to doing exactly that.

Alshon Jeffery still not practicing; what about Week 1?

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Alshon Jeffery still not practicing; what about Week 1?

With 3½ weeks to go before opening day, Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery remains on the Reserve-Physically Unable to Perform list, hasn't practiced during training camp and — as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday — is uncertain to be ready for the season opener.

Rapoport is the same reporter who suggested that Carson Wentz could begin training camp on the PUP list one day before he was a full participant in practice.

Jeffery, who played the second half of last year with a rotator cuff injury, underwent surgery in February.

That Jeffery may not be ready for the Sept. 6 opener against the Falcons at the Linc is certainly no surprise. The Eagles have never indicated that Jeffery would be ready and he hasn't done any football-related activities during the first three weeks of training camp.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Saturday that Jeffery is doing well but remains very limited.

"He's doing a great job with his rehab," Pederson said. "He's in, I would say, more the strength phase with the weights and that part. He's still doing his lower body conditioning with running and doing some things that way with his legs, making sure his cardiovascular is good.

"He can't do a ton of stuff yet necessarily on the field because of the motion of the arm swing, but we can get him in the tanks, the pools, the Alter Gs, things like that, and get his cardio up. But kind of in the strength phase right now and really doing a nice job."

Jeffery caught 57 passes for 789 yards and nine touchdowns last year in his first year with the Eagles and added 12 catches for 219 yards and three TDs in the postseason, including an acrobatic first-quarter touchdown catch from Nick Foles.

Depending on when the Eagles believe Jeffery will be ready, they can either place him on regular-season PUP, which means he's out the first six weeks, or they can use a spot on the 53-man roster for him until he's ready.

If Jeffery were unable to play right off the bat, the Eagles would likely start Mike Wallace, whose stats were very similar to Jeffery's last year — 52-for-748 and four TDs.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye podcast: Still a chance Foles gets traded?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Still a chance Foles gets traded?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the Eagles signing Christian Hackenberg. Why Barrett still feels Nick Foles could get traded. How do players approach the time between the end of the preseason opener and the second game? Also, when do coaches punish players by playing them more than they want to?

1:00 - Gunner and Barrett's weekend update.
4:00 - Eagles sign Christian Hackenberg. Barrett thinks Nick Foles getting traded is a distinct possibility.
8:00 - How players approach the time between the preseason opener and the second game?
11:00 - Dallas Goedert's social media injury rumor.
13:00 - Jets and Redskins fight during a joint practice. What's the point of joint practices?
15:00 - Coaches punishing players by playing them more than they want?

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