Eagles see themselves in us and that's why this is so unique

Eagles see themselves in us and that's why this is so unique

The Columbus Panhandles were an NFL team from the 1920s whose players worked in the Central Ohio panhandle shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

The Dayton Flyers also played in the 1920s, and their roster was composed mainly of workers from the Dayton Metal Products Company. 

The Decatur Staleys were made up of workers at the Staley Manufacturing Plant in Chicago (and later became the Bears).

That was the early NFL, before it was even called the NFL. Many of the teams had been around for years, playing as sandlot teams or semi-pro teams before the formation of the American Professional Football Association — which became the NFL when league owners met in 1920 at the Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio.

The early history of the NFL is a fascinating one. Most teams were based in industrial midwestern towns and made up of local athletes from those towns, and so they really reflected the personality of those towns.

Teams came and went before the league developed some stability in the early 1930s. The institution of a college draft in 1933 meant rosters were no longer mainly comprised of local athletes. The league grew and changed and evolved over the years, eventually into the multi-billion industry it is now.

Which brings us to the 2017 Eagles and why this team is so special and so unique.

I've never seen a team that is a better fit for its city than this one. 

Times have changed and the modern NFL has very little in common with the old APFA of a century ago. But what this team does share with those teams is a very deep, strong and profound bond between the players and the fans.

Just like those factory workers who were the early pro football players in Columbus and Dayton and Chicago and all those other Midwestern industrial towns truly represented the towns they came from, so does this group.

It's different, of course. These guys didn't grow up here. They haven't spent their lives here. But, man, they get this city and what we're all about.

Something unique and something beautiful happened here these last few weeks and month, and it's something that goes beyond simply a really good football team winning a bunch of games and then a Super Bowl.

No, this was far more meaningful to both the team and the players because there is such a unique bond there, one you rarely find in sports.

There's no question that we as a city can appreciate this team more than any other Super Bowl champion has ever appreciated its football team.

Part of it is simply the 57-year wait. The longer you wait, the sweeter the payoff. And 57 years is an awfully long time.

But that's only the start.

The more time I spent around this 2017 Eagles team, the clearer it was that its working-class personality was genuine. Every team calls themselves working class. But this team is filled with guys who legitimately have gotten where they are simply through sheer hard work, quieting doubters and overcoming adversity.

Think about it.

Rodney McLeod, Trey Burton and Corey Clement were undrafted. Jason Peters, too. Jason Kelce, Jalen Mills and Beau Allen were drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds. Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry were at one point labeled high-round busts. 

The Patriots didn't want LeGarrette Blount or Chris Long. The 49ers didn't want Torrey Smith. The Bears didn't want Alshon Jeffery. The Rams and Chiefs didn't want Nick Foles. The Saints wanted no part of Patrick Robinson. The Dolphins didn't want Jay Ajayi. The Bengals didn't want Jake Elliott. The Ravens didn't want Tim Jernigan.

Heck, Kenjon Barner, Bryan Braman, Dannell Ellerbe and Will Beatty weren't even on NFL rosters for much of the season.

They were all too small, too slow, too old. They were all told they weren't good enough, but put them together and they were better than any football team in the world.

And nobody has overcome more than Doug Pederson, who was released five times in his playing career and managed to stick around in the NFL 14 years just through hard work and determination, then faced all the same questions as a coach. Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not savvy enough.

Philly has always been a city that has always proudly worn that underdog tag, and it probably goes back to being wedged halfway between Washington and New York. 

But it goes way deeper than that. Philly is a city where if someone says we can't do something, it doesn't break us, it makes us want to achieve something more. Philly is a city where the more we're doubted the harder we go to try and prove people wrong.

We aren't a city of first-round picks or big-money free agents. Like the Eagles, we're made up of undrafted rookies, late-round draft picks and waiver wire acquisitions.

That's at the heart of this symbiotic relationship.

Philly is a different kind of place. We have a chip on our shoulder because we've been looked down on for so long by the cities north and south of us, by the national media and their tiresome Santa Claus narratives, by cackling Cowboys fans clinging to their distant memories of Aikman, Irvin and Smith.

We are a city of undrafted free agents and late-round draft picks.

So the Eagles players can appreciate us and relate to us just as much as we appreciate and relate to them. We are one. One city. One team.

And that's what makes all of this so special.

We relate so deeply to them, and they do as well to us.

Every one of those members of the 2017 Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles riding up Broad Street Thursday looked out at the millions of people on the parade route and saw themselves.

A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

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A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

The Eagles ended up not making a first-round selection in April after they traded out of the No. 32 slot. 

Eventually, after all the trade dust settled — and there was more — the Eagles ended up drafting five players, their smallest draft class since 1989. 

But now that we’ve gotten through the rookie minicamp, OTA practices and the mandatory minicamp, it’s time for a draft class progress report. 

2-49: Dallas Goedert
It’s obviously really early, but Goedert looks like a great pick. He was so impressive, he was the only draft pick from this year to make Doug Pederson’s list of six young players who impressed him this spring. 

It’s always tough to figure out how a player from FCS (South Dakota State) will adapt to the NFL game, but the skills Goedert has are hard to teach. He’s big, long, has great hands and is — at the very least — a willing blocker. 

During the spring, we saw Goedert’s hand-eye coordination and body control on full display. It’s why I think he’s going to become a monster in the red zone (see story)

We’ll learn more about Goedert when the pads go on, but I don’t anticipate him slow down. 

4-125: Avonte Maddox
A little bit of an up-and-down start for the undersized (5-9) cornerback from Pitt. The Eagles didn’t care about his size when the drafted him, mainly because of his high compete level. 

While he played outside cornerback in college, even with his lack of height, many thought he projected as a nickel cornerback in the NFL. Apparently, the Eagles agree. Because during the spring, Maddox worked in the slot, but never got time with the first unit. 

It’s going to be a learning process for Maddox. And because of that, we saw some hiccups for the 22-year-old this spring. There are probably a few factors here: learning a new position, catching up to the speed of the game and learning the playbook. The Eagles shouldn’t be too concerned yet. 

4-130: Josh Sweat
So far, Sweat is looking like the steal of this draft class. Once a highly-touted prospect coming out of college before a devastating knee injury, Sweat still had a productive career at Florida State. Right after he was drafted, Sweat said he thought he was a better fit with the Eagles than he was with the Seminoles. Turns out the DE was right. 

Sweat stood out as much as any defensive lineman can stand out in non-padded practices in May. The first thing that jumps out about Sweat is his size. He’s 6-5 and while he could stand to pack on some more muscle to his frame, he’s already an imposing player. 

Now, some of his success this spring probably came from facing extremely inexperienced offensive tackles, but either way, Sweat was impressive. He’s obviously buried on the depth chart, but he should have a chance to make an impact as a rotational player. 

6-206: Matt Pryor
I still love that Pryor was the biggest guy on the roster for less than an hour after they drafted him. At TCU, Pryor played both OT and OG, so the big question about him at the NFL level was about which position he would play. So far with the Eagles, he’s played both. 

The Eagles listed him as a tackle when they drafted him, but to me, he looked better at guard in college. Apparently, the Eagles have some of those same thoughts, because as the spring went on, it seemed like Pryor got more and more reps inside where he can use his strength. 

Now, there are certain downsides to a guy who is 6-foot-7 playing guard and it starts with leverage and throwing lanes for the quarterback. But if Pryor is more natural at guard, that’s OK. The Eagles really love versatility on the OL and Pryor has the potential to back up four of the five spots along the line. 

7-233: Jordan Mailata 
For much of the spring, Mailata was a turnstile, but no one said this was going to be easy. The big rugby dude is off to a rough start, but that’s to be expected for someone who wasn’t a football player a year ago. 

On his very first snap of his first day on the job at rookie minicamp, Mailata didn’t hear the snap during an offensive line drill and just stood there. It looked like that scene from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — Do less, but you have to do more than that. 

We actually saw real improvement from Mailata over the last few weeks. I know, I know, there was only one direction to go, but the Australian showed off the power and athleticism that attracted the Eagles in the first place. He was always going to be a project. 

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Roob’s 10 observations: Agholor, underrated Super Bowler, Shady’s career

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Roob’s 10 observations: Agholor, underrated Super Bowler, Shady’s career

More improvement from Nelson Agholor, an underrated Super Bowl performer, two agonizing yards from a milestone and an incredible accomplishment that LeSean McCoy is closing in on.

It’s all right here in this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. Doug Pederson has found the perfect balance these past few months of allowing his players to really enjoy being Super Bowl champions while still keeping an eye on 2018, and that’s not an easy thing to do. The Eagles have celebrated when it’s time to celebrate and they’ve worked when it’s time to work, and honestly, I feel like most of the guys on this team would rather be at an OTA practice under the hot June sun than at some banquet re-living Super Bowl LII. Which is the beauty of this team. Zach Ertz put it beautifully when he said this: “There’s always going to be one-hit wonders in this league. Teams that won one Super Bowl or players that made one Pro Bowl and then you didn’t hear from them again. But it’s the great players and the great teams that are able to have that sustained success.” And that right there is the mantra for this football team. Last year was incredible. But it’s in the past. It’s time to move on. It’s time to go to work.

2. Five quarterbacks in NFL history have had a passer rating of 101.9 or higher in their second NFL season [minimum of 200 attempts]. Three of them are Hall of Famers – Otto Graham, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino. The other two are … Carson Wentz and Nick Foles.

3. This is insanity, but there’s no doubt in my mind T.O. can still help a football team. I know, I know. He’s 44. The oldest player in NFL history to catch a pass is Jerry Rice, Owens’ former teammate, who was 42 years, 67 days, when he caught his last three career passes – 3 for 25 yards from Matt Hasselbeck for the Seahawks against the Jets on Dec. 19, 2004. The only other player to catch a pass in his 40s is Brett Favre, who caught a batted pass that he threw (for minus-two yards) against the Rams at 40 years, 1 day, for the Vikings in 2009. I know T.O. hasn’t played since 2010, when he caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine TDs playing for the Bengals. But T.O. is different than other human beings. He’s a freak of nature. He could play till he’s 50. But considering his history, no team is ever going to take a chance on him. It’s a shame, but that’s the reality.

4. It still blows my mind that the Eagles won the Super Bowl just two years after Chip Kelly was fired. Think about that. Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman and Pederson overhauled the entire franchise from late 2015 train wreck to 2017 NFL champs in 769 days. 

5. During that span, the Browns have won one game.

6. Kind of lost in all the Super Bowl insanity – Philly Special, Nick Foles’ performance, Brandon Graham’s strip-sack, the 4th-down conversion to Zach Ertz – was LeGarrette Blount’s remarkable performance. Blount’s 6.4 rushing average that day (14 for 90) is highest in NFL postseason history by a back 31 or older. The previous record was Tiki Barber’s 5.3 for the Giants in the 2006 wild-card game that the Eagles won at the Linc. Blount destroyed that record. And it came after a stretch in which Blount had averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in his previous eight games. Blount wasn’t here long but what a tremendous impact he made both as an unfailingly unselfish leader and as a battering-ram running back.

7. Hard to believe DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the only Eagles draft picks with a 1,000-yard receiving season since Fred Barnett, who was drafted 28 years ago. I expect Nelson Agholor to do it this season.

8. I’m still sad Brent Celek is sitting there with 4,998 career receiving yards. 

9. Wondering what the heck the Redskins are thinking is a way of life around the NFL, but it still blows my mind that they believe they have a better chance of winning with a 34-year-old Alex Smith and than with a 29-year-old Kirk Cousins. 

10. LeSean McCoy has averaged 101 yards from scrimmage per game in his brilliant nine-year NFL career, and he now has 13,470 net yards from scrimmage – eighth-most in NFL history by a player before his 30th birthday (behind seven Hall of Famers). Every back in NFL history who’s gained 16,000 yards from scrimmage — and there are 10 of them — is in the Hall of Fame. At his current pace, Shady would get to 16,000 in Week 9 of the 2020 season. I’m sure as heck not betting against him. 

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