Eagles

If Eagles can avoid letdown Monday night, they can deliver a dagger

If Eagles can avoid letdown Monday night, they can deliver a dagger

They're the hottest team in the NFL. And Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wants to make sure they stay that way.

Pederson revealed Thursday he constantly preaches to his team the importance of staying focused and not letting the growing outside noise surrounding the team affect its preparation.

In other words, ignore everything swirling around you and keep doing the things that got you to 5-1 with a league-best four-game winning streak.

"Yeah, I do focus on it and I have to," he said. "And for me, it's about winning this week and nothing further. [There's] a lot of football left. Remember, we were 4-2 this time last year and we've got to be mindful of that.

"Those are the things that motivate us and keep us going. There can't be a letdown. It's my job not to have that letdown with the team, so I continue to address them and keep them focused that way."

The Eagles were 4-2 after six games last year before losing seven of their next eight games to tumble out of the playoff race. They haven't reached the playoffs since 2013 and haven't won a playoff game since 2008.

But this year's team is 3-1 on the road, has lost only to the 5-2 Chiefs at Arrowhead, is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in all the major NFL polls and plays its next three games at home, where it's 8-2 under Pederson.

"I talk a lot to the team about ownership, and this is that time of year we're getting in that stretch of games, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, where teams begin to separate themselves, and we can't have any letdowns, setbacks, and we've just got to be full steam ahead," Pederson said.

"It's about doing the little things now. Meaning rest, hydration, extra study, extra conditioning, things that sometimes you lose sight of in all the wins and success that the team has had. And again it falls back on my shoulders to make sure the guys are doing those things this time of the year."

With a win over the Redskins Monday night at the Linc, the Eagles would have a three-game lead in the NFC East with 10 games to go.
 
That means if they went 5-4 the rest of the season, the Redskins would have to go 9-1 to get ahead of them.
 
It's been 21 years since Pederson won a Super Bowl ring as the Packers' holder for placekicks and third-string quarterback behind Brett Favre and Jim McMahon.
 
But the lessons he learned that fall are ones he shares regularly with his team today.
 
"The biggest thing that I remember from that team is it was always just the next game," he said. "It was always focused on the next game.
 
"You could honestly throw the wins and losses away, it was winning that week, being 1-0 that week, and if you stack enough of those up, obviously you put yourself in a position to be in the postseason."

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

Brian Dawkins always had a symbiotic relationship with Eagles fans.

He loved them, they loved him, and there isn’t a single Eagle in the last 50 years who was as universally adored as Dawkins.

Try to find an Eagles fan that didn’t like him. You can’t do it.

In 18 days, Dawkins will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and on Tuesday he talked about the Eagles fans who cheered for him about every autumn Sunday from 1996 through 2008.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I believe if a Philadelphia Eagles fan had a chance to play, if all of a sudden they woke up and they woke up in the team hotel and they knew the game plan and they had knowledge of the system, athletic ability to run and to jump and they played the position that I played, the safety position, I believe the majority of them, if not all of them, would play the game the way that I played it,” Dawkins said.

“They would dance, they would be having a good time … and they would go out and enjoy the opportunity to be on the football field and show it and not be afraid to show their emotions, to play with passion and give everything that they have because that would be the only chance that they would ever get to play the game of football, and that’s how I played.

“I played with a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to have a good time, I danced, I celebrated after plays, I celebrated with my teammates, and they saw that.”

Everybody loves Dawkins. Not just because of his boundless ability, production in big games and peerless leadership, but because he connected on such a deep level with Eagles fans.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you could tell he felt every loss just as profoundly as even the most rabid Eagles fan.

“It was genuine,” he said. “I was a genuine player when it came to, I’m going to give everything that I have, I’m not going to make excuses for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the burden upon myself. Even if it’s not my fault, it’s going to be my fault. I’m going to take it away from my teammates and put it on myself.

“I’m never going to make excuses. I’m going to try my best and never make those mistakes [again] that I made in the game. And I believe that they saw that, they recognized that, and the feeling is mutual.

“I love Eagles fans. Yeah, they’re crazy. They’re twisted in some ways. But I love them, because I am. There are a lot of parts of me that are twisted in a lot of different ways. That’s why I did some of the crazy stuff on the field that I did. So like, we fit. Like hand in glove, we fit.”

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

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