Getting newcomers on same page was huge for Eagles' loaded D-line

Getting newcomers on same page was huge for Eagles' loaded D-line

Brandon Graham was here back in 2011, so he knows that simply signing big-name Pro Bowl veterans isn’t enough to make a difference.

He’s also seen enough this summer to know this isn’t a repeat of the dreaded Dream Team of seven summers ago.

In 2011, it was Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. This year it’s Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata.

“You know how it is on paper when you bring in good players,” Graham said this week. “Sometimes some people expect for it to show up on Sunday but they don’t put the work in.

“It’s tough sometimes. You got guys that come in and they’ve been veteran players and they’re established and sometimes it’s hard to get them going. But that’s not the case with these guys.

“Haloti’s out there terrorizing the middle. You got Michael Bennett who just wants to go out there and get sacks and have fun doing it. You’ve got a lot of smart players and I’m just happy because everybody knows how to work.”

You never know how it’ll go with older veterans.

Bennett turns 33 in November, but he’s been a Pro Bowler in each of the last three seasons and has 48 sacks since 2012.

Ngata turned 34 in January and is a five-time Pro Bowler, though it’s been five years since his last one.

It would have been easy for the Eagles to stand pat with the same defensive line as last year.

The Eagles won a Super Bowl, and the defense ranked 4th in the NFL in yards allowed, 2nd in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed, 3rd in third-down percentage and 4th in points allowed.

But one thing Howie Roseman understands is that every team – even championship teams – have to constantly upgrade across the board.

Stay the same and you’ll fall behind.

You don’t stay on top by keeping the same roster. So Vinny Curry and Beau Allen are gone, and Bennett and Ngata take their place. 

And look for a significantly expanded role also for Derek Barnett. Last year's first-round pick had 5.0 sacks last year playing just 28 snaps a game. That figure will go up.

“It is exciting,” Graham said. “At the end of the day, you want to make sure you know you’ve got good players but you want to make sure you all work together, too.”

The Eagles open their Super Bowl defense against the Falcons Thursday night at the Linc, and other than a few snaps here and there in the preseason it will be our first chance to see this new-look defensive line.

Jim Schwartz loves to rotate guys, so expect Graham, Bennett, Barnett and Long to take turns attacking the quarterback from the outside, and Cox, Ngata and Destiny Vaeao inside. We'll also see Graham and Barnett lining up inside on occasion.

Good luck stopping this group.

“When I came in last year, the guys who were already here made it easy for me,” Long said. “They showed the new guys how things are done here and we kind of just do the same thing. Haloti and Michael, those guys are hard workers, they’ve been around a long time, they know how to do their jobs.

“We’re a good team so people want to be here, and when you’re somewhere where you know you have an opportunity to win, you’re going to do what you need to do.”

With all their talent, the Eagles only ranked 15th in the NFL in sacks last year with 38.

The club record is 62 in 1989, and the Eagles haven’t had more than 50 since 2002, when they led the NFL with 56. That group was led by Hugh Douglas (12 ½), Ndukwe Kalu (8.0), Darwin Walker (7 ½) and Brandon Whiting (6.0).

This year?

Less than 50 would be surprising.

“I think we can be better,” Cox said. “Having guys coming in like Haloti and Michael, just getting them on the same page to the way we do things around here, has been huge.

“They’re vets, and they catch on pretty quick and when you get guys like that on the same page you just keep stacking the chips.”

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Erase Jay Gruden's name from your Eagles coaching wish list

Erase Jay Gruden's name from your Eagles coaching wish list

Another of the most qualified remaining candidates for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator vacancy is off the board.

Jay Gruden, recently fired after six mediocre years as the Redskins’ head coach, is close to joining the Jaguars to fill their offensive coordinator vacancy, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Assuming the deal is completed, Gruden will become the Jaguars’ third offensive coordinator in three years. He replaces former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, fired last week after just one year in Jacksonville. DeFilippo replaced Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired and spent this past year in the same position with the Packers. DeFilippo was recently hired by Matt Nagy as QBs coach of the Bears.

Ten teams were in the market for an offensive coordinator when the regular season ended.

Of those 10, the Eagles are one of only two still hanging a "Help Wanted" sign on their front door. 

The other is the Vikings, whose offensive coordinator this past year, Kevin Stefanski, was named last week as head coach of the Browns.

Gruden, whose older brother John was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator under Ray Rhodes from 1995 through 1997 and is now head coach of the Raiders, spent 2011 through 2013 as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator before replacing Mike Shanahan as head coach of the Redskins in 2014.

His teams went 38-57 in six years and reached the playoffs only once, losing a wild-card game to the Packers in 2015.

In Jacksonville, Gruden will presumably be working with 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who was the Jaguars’ opening-day quarterback this past year but was hurt much of the season and then benched later in the year for rookie Gardner Minshew.

It’s not known whether the Eagles had any formal interest in Gruden, but he was certainly one of the most intriguing remaining candidates for the opening.

The Eagles fired Mike Groh 12 days ago after two years as offensive coordinator one day after head coach Doug Pederson said both would remain on his staff.

Among the candidates the Eagles have been linked with who are now expected to remain in their current position are Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, Ravens QBs coach James Urban (who spent three years as Bengals WRs coach under Jay Gruden) and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

Other qualified candidates who are off the board include Chan Gailey, hired as Dolphins offensive coordinator; LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who was hired by the Panthers; Joe Moorhead, who was hired Tuesday as Oregon’s offensive coordinator; and former Eagles offensive coordinator and recently fired Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, who was hired as OC of the Broncos.

Earlier Tuesday, we outlined some of the top remaining candidates, including current Eagles position coaches Duce Staley and Press Taylor.

The Eagles also remain without a wide receivers coach, a secondary coach and a defensive line coach. The team fired receivers coach Carson Walch and d-line coach Phillip Daniels, and secondary coach Cory Undlin accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Lions.

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Here's a sneak peak of the 2020 NFL Draft venue ... and it's 100% Las Vegas

Here's a sneak peak of the 2020 NFL Draft venue ... and it's 100% Las Vegas

The blueprint for the 2020 NFL Draft venue has been revealed and it's just what you would expect it to be in Las Vegas.

The draft has become quite a production in recent years, but this has to top all previous attempts if it's executed the way they're saying.

Reportedly, players will be transported to the stage by a boat. Which could be an epic moment for the draftees ... but could also add a significant amount of time to the already long night of events.

The red carpet stage has a more traditional look when it comes to a draft setting, but since it's Vegas, it's go big or go home.

There are currently mixed opinions about it all, but here are some of the funniest:




The draft will be held from April 23-25 where the Eagles currently hold the 21st overall pick.

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