How Jeff Stoutland's last-minute phone call helped the Eagles land Andre Dillard

How Jeff Stoutland's last-minute phone call helped the Eagles land Andre Dillard

It was the Saturday before the first day of the NFL draft, and Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had some unanswered questions.

He knew the Eagles were very interested in drafting Andre Dillard in the first round if he dropped down into the 20s.

But because Dillard was projected to be gone long before the Eagles picked at 25, Stoutland never had a chance to visit him at Washington State.

I like when you go out to the school, you get a chance the night before you go sit down with him, you sit in the classroom, the next morning you wake up, you do the workout, and if there’s anything else you need to do you hang around a little longer,” Stoutland said. “I didn’t have that chance to do that with him. … You try to make sure you know everything about every player, but to be honest with you, everybody thought he was kind of out of our reach. You can’t go everywhere. You can’t go out and visit all the players and work them all out. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time.

But Stoutland wasn’t comfortable enough to really go to bat for him. Not yet.

If the Eagles were on the clock and owner Jeff Lurie or executive vice president of football operations suddenly asked Stoutland some crucial questions about Dillard, did he truly have the answers?

When Mr. Lurie or Howie asks me a question about a particular player, I better have an answer, that’s my job,” Stoutland said Monday. “With (Dillard), I needed more information.

What exactly was Stout looking for? 

“Just the football intelligence part of it and how important is the game, the whole makeup,” he said. “I wanted to just double back on it all.”

It was way too late to bring Dillard into Philly or set up a visit on campus.

So five days before the draft, on what would have been a normal, quiet day off for the veteran offensive line coach, Stoutland decided to call Dillard and just try to get a better feel for who he was as a person and as a player.

“My wife goes, ‘Where are you going?’” Stoutland recalled. 

“And I said, ‘Look, I’m going in the other room, everybody just leave me alone for a little bit, I need to make one phone call and I’m good for the rest of the day.’”

Most mock drafts and draft analysts had Dillard going in that 12-18 range, with some projecting him a little higher and some a little lower.

Stoutland knew he could be wasting his time, contacting a kid who was projected to be long gone by the time it was the Eagles’ turn to draft.

But he picked up the phone anyway.

I called him, it was early in the morning, he said, ‘Give me half an hour,’ and then he called back and we Skyped and I had a chance to speak to him,” Stoutland said. “(I told him), ‘You never know in the draft what can happen,’ and I said I’m just making sure. We had a nice conversation. … I felt very, very comfortable and very good with that conversation. Never thought anything would come of it, to be quite honest with you.

On draft day, with the legendary position coach now comfortable with Dillard and Dillard dropping, the Eagles moved up three spots to select him at No. 22.

“You’re sitting there watching the draft and they’re selecting all the defensive linemen and now all the (offensive line) quality is getting pushed back and you’re saying, ‘Holy cow, we might have a shot at this,’” Stoutland said. “And it all worked out.”

Stoutland has been coaching offensive linemen at a high level for a long time, going back to the early 1990s at Cornell. 

What did Dillard share with Stoutland during that conversation on April 20?

I just liked the love of football,” he said. “The importance of it to him. Being prepared. I liked the fact that he’s looking for somebody that’s going to challenge him. … I would say also an increased football intelligence, probably better than I thought. I did ask him some detailed questions, which he answered really good. Sometimes when you have a 1-on-1 conversation with somebody when there’s not a lot of people around, you learn a lot more.

It’s too early to tell whether Dillard will carry on the left tackle tradition of Tra Thomas and Jason Peters, but Stoutland said the 23-year-old Dillard so far has been everything he expected in practice.

If Dillard is what the Stoutland thinks he is, the Eagles will be set at left tackle for a decade once Peters finally retires.

All because of that one extra phone call that Stoutland just had to make.

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Eagles-Lions NFL Week 3 predictions 2019

Eagles-Lions NFL Week 3 predictions 2019

The Eagles (1-1) will try to get a pretty important win against the Lions (1-0-1) in Week 3 at the Linc at 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

These two teams haven’t played since 2016 (a 24-23 Eagles loss) and the Lions have actually won three of the last four in the series. But from 1996-2010, the Eagles were 5-0. 

To the predictions: 

Reuben Frank (1-1)
It’s a game the Eagles have to win and a game they will win. Even without three of their top weapons. The Eagles are 21-6 at home under Doug Pederson and 17-3 in their last 20 games at the Linc. The Lions have the ability to put up some points with Matt Stafford and that trio of wideouts, but they’re not a complete enough team to come into South Philly and win a football game. They don’t run the ball well and they don’t stop the run. They’re 25th in the league in yards per rush and 26th against the run. The Eagles have never lost a home game under Doug Pederson when they’ve rushed for 100 yards — they’re 18-0. And when they allow less than 100 yards at the Linc, they’re 16-2. If they can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run against this team, they’re in trouble. I'm confident they will. 

Eagles 33, Lions 30

Dave Zangaro (1-1)
Because they play the Packers on Thursday night in Green Bay, this game is pretty darn important, but I think the Eagles will be up for the challenge. I expect Carson Wentz to have a solid game, even throwing to backup receivers, who at least have a week to prepare. This Eagles team should have beaten the Falcons on the road last week. They will beat the Lions at home on Sunday. I think Detroit is a mediocre team. They have some decent players, including at receiver, but they don’t exactly scare me and they shouldn’t scare the Birds. If the Eagles really are Super Bowl contenders, I don’t care who’s hurt, they shouldn’t be losing at home to Detroit. 

Eagles 24, Lions 17 

Derrick Gunn (1-1)
The Eagles not only lost to the Atlanta Falcons, but they came out of that game with lost players. Tim Jernigan is out indefinitely with a foot injury. DeSean Jackson has an abdominal strain and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks. Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert both have calf strains and are in question for this Sunday. Then there’s a whole laundry list of players with aches and pains that forced Doug Pederson to cancel practice on Wednesday and conduct a walkthrough instead. Young players on both sides of the ball will have to step in and step up against a Detroit squad that’s coming off the high of slipping by a short-handed Chargers unit.

The Birds’ pass rush needs to improve (just two sacks in two games), and the secondary has leaks, allowing big pass plays. Matthew Stafford who has averaged almost 38 passes in the first two games has a pair of wideouts in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. who can get deep. The Lions’ defense is stout in the trenches (six sacks) and Darius Slay is their big play cornerback on the back end. Carson Wentz has gotten off to slow starts in both games, but finished with a flourish. Some of the nicked-up Eagles will be game-time decisions, but whoever suits up, they still have enough talent to tame the Lions. 

Eagles 24, Lions 14

Ray Didinger (2-0)
The Eagles will be without many of their big play weapons Sunday and this is a game they cannot afford to lose. They have a very tough Thursday night game in Green Bay next week so if they lose to the Lions on Sunday they could very well find themselves in a 1-3 hole. That would be a major problem, especially with Dallas likely to be 3-0. The Cowboys host the pathetic Dolphins on Sunday.

That's why I don't see the Eagles losing this game. They know how important it is. Even in their depleted state, they are still a better team than Detroit. The coaches had an entire week to put together a game plan that doesn't include Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson so they will not be drawing up plays in the dirt the way they were in Atlanta. With time to prepare, I think JJ Arcega-Whiteside could have a big game.

Through two games, the Lions have committed six penalties on special teams, fumbled a punt, had a punt blocked and missed two kicks. Big advantage to the Eagles in that area.

Eagles 24, Lions 14

Andrew Kulp (2-0)
Dave is pushing me to submit my prediction without seeing the final injury reports, probably because I'm now ahead of him and most of the group. Fortunately, I'm confident in my choice.

(Editor’s note: Kulp was the last one filed this week)

Believe it or not, without Jackson no Jeffery, no Goedert, I think this is the week where the Eagles get off to a fast start. We watched Carson Wentz and the offense move the ball at will against the Falcons — once his ragtag group of receivers knew where to go — not to mention Nelson Agholor dropping the potential game-winning touchdown pass. I like Zach Ertz and JJ Arcega-Whiteside to be factors, the latter having a week to prepare for a role this time.

The Lions might be a bit better than preseason projections indicated, but they have some injuries too, specifically on the defensive side. If the Eagles can build an early lead on that unit, we should see the pass rush finally get going, with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett picking up some sacks.

Eagles 23, Lions 21

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New Eagles-themed beer is available at Linc with a quirky nod to Super Bowl LII

New Eagles-themed beer is available at Linc with a quirky nod to Super Bowl LII

Philadelphia Eagles fans absolutely love everything about Super Bowl LII, so a beer that gives a subtle nod to that legendary championship will likely please them as well.

That's what the new FLY-PA from Goose Island in partnership with the Eagles does with it's 5.2% ABV and can that reads "brewed for champions," coming soon.

You can enjoy the new Eagles-themed beer at the Linc this weekend, where it's available on 10-plus taps throughout the stadium.

The IPA is described as being "brewed with an abundance of oats, bright citrusy hops, and plenty of hometown attitude, FLY-PA features intense waves of citrus (grapefruit, lemon, orange) spread over an oat forward malt bill."

Some on social media have expressed displeasure with the fact the Eagles have teamed up with a behemoth such as AB-InBev rather than a more local brewer, but the Fly-PA beer is actually brewed locally right here in Philadelphia at the Goose Island brewhouse in Fishtown.

It's currently only available on tap, so if you want a taste this weekend you better have your tickets to the Detroit Lions game at the Linc on Sunday. Or you can head over to the Goose Island Brewhouse and enjoy a few cold ones.

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