Eagles

Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Signs of dysfunction in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room began to show late last week when ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player criticizing Carson Wentz and the Birds' offense.

Head coach Doug Pederson wasn’t thrilled about it when asked prior to the Dallas Cowboys game, then the team went out and played a total dud. 

A new page in the drama was written this morning when WIP’s Howard Eskin reported on the air that he knew the identity of the anonymous player — Alshon Jeffery.

Not only did Eskin name Alshon, he also called him “foolish and stupid.” Eskin also criticized Anderson, “She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them.”

Here’s the full quote as transcribed by Crossing Broad:

Eskin: Yeah why not. Alshon Jeffery.

Cataldi: It is?

Eskin: Yes. The thing is, here’s why he’s foolish and stupid – He knows that she’s not out to have his back. The problem is, as a reporter, I’ve seen her do this. She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them. It’s just foolish and stupid. We all understand it’s not productive. But what benefit was there to say that? And the reality is, why would he worry about a defensive player (Jalen Ramsey) not being traded for? And when he talks about checking down, sometimes the back you check down to is blocked. Or he’s blocking and then can’t get off the block. That’s one of your checkdowns. So the whole thing was just stupid. But it’s not being productive for somebody like that.

This is interesting in part because Alshon denied being the source last week, Josina defended her source from Eskin — “He has zero knowledge of who I spoke to. #Zero” —  and also because Eskin appears on the Eagles radio broadcasts on game days, travels on the team plane, and even received his own Super Bowl ring. So the Inquirer’s Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane took all of that info to Pederson’s press conference on Monday, which led to a fascinating exchange.

“There was a report that Alshon Jeffery was the anonymous player who was giving quotes to ESPN," McLane began. "Is that true? And also, the person who reported it doesn’t technically work for the Eagles but he’s on the sideline with the Eagles, he flies [on the Eagles plane], he wears a Super Bowl ring given to him by the Eagles. Are we to assume just because he reported it, that the Eagles want it out there?”

Pederson appeared somewhat dumbfounded but didn’t “want to go there.”

“That has nothing to do with the Buffalo Bills or the Dallas Cowboys," Pederson said.

So pretty much a non-answer. But the interesting exchanges didn’t stop there.

Once the press conference ended, Eskin had some choice words for McLane who reportedly took the high road and avoided a confrontation, according to people in the room.

So maybe Alshon was the anonymous player, maybe not. It'll be curious to see how Alshon responds to the latest reports here. He had some unusually high praise for Carson Wentz in the locker room following the game last night.

"I still believe in each and every one of the guys in here," Jeffery said. "Carson is our guy. Everybody on our team, we’re together. On offense, Carson, O-line, me, Nelson, receivers, the skill group, we all have to be held accountable. I mean, that was unacceptable. That was embarrassing today.”

All we know for sure is there is plenty of drama surrounding the Eagles these days. That never bodes well.

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Does Howie Roseman finally see what he did wrong?

Does Howie Roseman finally see what he did wrong?

Taken alone, they’re not significant. Taken as a group, they just may give us an idea what Howie Roseman is thinking.

Roseman isn’t doing interviews these days, but we can get a sense of what he's thinking by what he's doing.

On Sept. 30, the Eagles shipped Johnathan Cyprien to the Falcons for Duke Riley. Cyprien is 29, Riley is 25.

On Oct. 14, they released Zach Brown, which meant playing time for T.J. Edwards. Brown is 30, Edwards is 23.

On Nov. 5, they waived Andrew Sendejo and signed Marcus Epps. Sendejo is 32, Epps is 23.

This might not be a trend, but it’s definitely a pattern.

The Eagles’ roster as Roseman built it through the spring and summer was too old.

We all knew it. We all saw it.

When the season began, the Eagles’ had the third-oldest roster in the NFL, and it wasn’t surprising to anybody when three of the most prominent older Eagles — 37-year-old Jason Peters, 36-year-old Darren Sproles and 32-year-old DeSean Jackson — suffered significant injuries.

You can win in the NFL with an older roster. The Patriots are the oldest team in the league, and the Saints and Chiefs are all among the top six in age. But it's risky because older players get hurt more often and generally start declining in their early 30s. You just can never predict when.

Any decent GM is going to have his eye not just on the current roster but the future roster, and if your older players aren’t producing, they’re just wasting space and blocking young guys who may develop into contributors.

Duke Riley? Who knows. He’s a linebacker by trade but has only played 11 snaps on defense in five games, although he has averaged 19 special teams snaps.

Marcus Epps? Who knows. He just got here, but he’s awfully small for a safety, although he should contribute on special teams if he gets on the field.

Why not at least get a look at younger guys when the older guys are giving you nothing?

The most significant beneficiary of these roster moves has been Edwards, who had 12 defensive snaps the first six games of the year but has 54 in three games since Brown was released.  

If you have a guy 31 or 32 who’s able to stay healthy and play at a high level, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s actually unusual. Only two Eagles since Brian Dawkins more than a decade ago have started 16 games after their 32nd birthday — Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.

That’s why the Eagles are in dangerous territory.

Most of their key players are 29 or older, and it’s safe to assume that in the next couple years key guys like Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Graham either won’t be here or won’t be the same players. We’ve already seen that dramatic decline in Alshon Jeffery.

If you don’t nail your draft picks — or replenish the roster with young talent in other ways — you’re in trouble.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not under any illusions that Epps, Riley or Edwards are going to change the world, although I do think Edwards has a chance to be a solid linebacker.

What’s important is that it looks like Roseman finally understands that the roster he put together was too old, that guys like Cyprien, Brown and Sendejo were mistakes, and that if the Eagles are going to be a winning franchise for the next five years they must continue the pattern of getting younger that he's started these last few weeks.

The Eagles are now the 10th-oldest team in the league, which still puts them in the top third, but it’s really what these moves represent.

Roseman didn't have a terrific offseason. Counting so heavily on Peters, Jackson and Sproles was a mistake. Bringing in guys like Sendejo, Brown and Cyprien was a mistake. Guaranteeing Jeffery’s contract was a mistake.

This wasn’t quite Dream Team-level reliance on older veterans, but it was close. And it’s just not a sound way to build a roster.

There are a few encouraging signs. Miles Sanders is getting better every week, and his backfield mate Jordan Howard is very good (although unsigned past this year). Andre Dillard has looked terrific. Derek Barnett has shown flashes. Dallas Goedert is solid. 

It’s a long way from watching Duke Riley and Marcus Epps run around on kick return coverage to developing a stable of young Pro Bowl talent.

The Eagles still don’t have any young superstars, but at least they seem to have a general manager that recognizes how badly this team needs them.

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Brandon Brooks and the power of positivity in rehab

Brandon Brooks and the power of positivity in rehab

Brandon Brooks didn’t wallow. He didn’t complain, he didn’t whine. Brooks was smiling the day after tearing his Achilles tendon in January as he talked about how much he looked forward to his rehab. 

Don’t misunderstand it. Tearing his Achilles sucked and there’s no way around that. But it happened, it was over, and he decided instead to put all his energy into rehab. 

“What I’m gonna do, man?” Brooks asked on Wednesday. “Be sad about this s—?”

He never was. Not for a second.  

And after Brooks on Monday was rewarded with a four-year extension worth over $56 million less than 10 months after suffering the injury, his recovery has become an incredible example of just how powerful positivity can be. 

“Really, to be honest with you, you talk about mind over matter, that had to have something to do with it,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said this week. “His attitude was so incredibly positive from the minute he got hurt right on through. I think that had a big part in it.”

The initial mindset

Brooks tore his Achilles on Jan. 13, 2019 and played in the Eagles’ season opener this season on Sept. 8, 2019. Less than eight months. 

That was always his plan. While others doubted how quickly a 330-pound man could recover from a serious Achilles injury, Brooks never did. His goal was always to be ready for Week 1 and he worked toward it. To top it off, Brooks’ second goal was to return as an even better player than he left. He did that, too. 

“From the second you f— something up, it goes like this,” Brooks said Wednesday with prayer hands as he separated them to take different paths. 

Presumably, one of those paths went down a road of self pity. That’s a longer road and one filled with wallowing and a bunch of people who aren’t going to feel sorry for you. Brooks went down the expressway to recovery. 

And all those doubters? Brooks heard them too. He heard folks question not just whether or not he’d be ready for the opener, but whether he’d be a significant contributor throughout the next season. 

“To me, it was never in doubt if I was gonna play in 2019,” Brooks said in July. “It was never in doubt that I wasn’t going to miss half the season. That was never a thought in my mind.”

Putting in the work 

The first call Brooks made after tearing his Achilles was to his former teammate Arian Foster. Then he called veteran NFL lineman Terrell Suggs. He wanted to talk to guys who had been through the same injury. 

And, for the most part, he wanted to talk to guys who had successfully rehabbed back from the injury, guys who had done it quickly or who had returned to a high level of play after it. Suggs is perhaps one of the best examples of a player returning from an Achilles tear quickly. 

“What were you doing? How did you feel?” Brooks said of the questions he’d ask them. “And I probably annoyed the s— out of some of these guys.” 

That also includes Dr. Robert Anderson, who did Brooks’ surgery. Anderson would routinely receive a call from Brooks once every couple of days, when Brooks would continually ask Anderson to clear him for more and more activity. 

During the offseason, Brooks was at the NovaCare Complex four days per week, arriving at around 9 a.m. and he worked hard. Each day, he would do a ton of upper body lifting and work on his left leg. Just his right, still recovering from surgery, was off limits for a while. A lot of hours were logged with Eagles assistant athletic trainer Steven Feldman, whom Brooks calls “Stevo," and Stevo was responsible for making sure Brooks didn’t push the envelope too much.  

Fletcher Cox remembers the first day after Brooks’ surgery, when he showed up to the training room ready to work and everyone else “was like, ‘nah, man, you have a while.’” 

The support system

That’s not to say there weren’t bad days or at least bad moments. There were. Brooks is human, after all. 

When those bad days came, his parents, Dorothy Brooks and Robert Parker, were there to listen. 

“Parents are supposed to do that, I guess,” Brooks said. “Cheer you up.”

And then there was Stoutland and Lane Johnson, former teammate Duane Brown, Anderson, Foster, Suggs, Stevo and plenty more friends and teammates that created a support system. 

That included his teammates who spent the offseason with him rehabbing. One of them was Cox, who also needed surgery from an injury suffered in the Saints playoff game. 

“We pushed each other,” Cox said. “Obviously, we were here the whole offseason, every day, 9, 10 o’clock in the offseason, trying to get back on the field because we know what we meant to this team. We know that this team wanted us back. We needed to get back on the field.” 

The pay off 

Brooks, 30, was eventually cleared to play in the Eagles’ 2019 opener, but it was a little closer than you might realize. 

“Honestly, it was up in the air as far as me playing Week 1,” Brooks said on Wednesday. “A lot of people don’t know that. I just tried to lobby my case. I get it, you guys are the trainers and I have respect for the medical staff. But me personally, how I feel and what I’ve been able to do, I got it. And I get it, a lot of guys probably tell you they got it and they go out there and they don’t got it. But all the stuff I was doing in the summer, all the agility drills, all the other stuff. I’m like, ‘yo, if I can do all this, I can definitely play Week 1.’”

Brooks, of course, was right. 

He was on a pitch count in Week 1 and smashed it. He was supposed to play just 30 snaps against the Redskins but ended up playing 55 and could have finished the game. Since then, he’s played every offensive snap for the Birds and is in the middle of what will surely be a third consecutive Pro Bowl nod. He’s in the middle of the best season of his career. 

To be playing within eight months of the injury is one thing. But to be playing at an even higher level than his former Pro Bowl level is another. 

“I think everybody is a little bit in awe, like ‘holy cow,’” Stoutland said. “But, to be honest with you, am I surprised? Not the way I saw him over the summer. I saw him with this mission-from-God approach. Really. So I’m not really surprised by it.”

Neither is Brooks. He always knew he’d be OK. 

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