Improved offensive line play is biggest reason for Eagles' turnaround

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Improved offensive line play is biggest reason for Eagles' turnaround

The Eagles have faced a murderers’ row of great pass rushers during their four-game winning streak. 

Guys like Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Kerrigan and Khalil Mack have the ability to completely destroy games. 

Didn’t happen against the Birds. 

Because during the Eagles’ late push into the playoffs and then in their wild-card win in Chicago, their offensive line has been playing at an extremely high level. So go ahead and give credit to Nick Foles and the defense (they deserve it). 

But, to me, this offensive line has been the biggest reason for this team’s turnaround. 

I’ve said this all season long, we've got a ton of confidence in our entire offensive line unit, and we just found a little bit of a groove, I guess,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. 

“Got some traction and guys are playing confidently, playing well and really preparing hard and preparing smart and taking advantage of the reps that we get every day out there at practice. We're going out there and we're executing at a high level right now.

It’s not all about sacks, but that’s part of the story. Check it out: 

• In the first 12 games of the season, the Eagles gave up 32 sacks (2.67 per game)

• In the four-game winning streak, they’ve given up just five (1.25 per game)

So the Eagles have cut down on the number of sacks given up by half. Some of that credit goes to Foles for getting the ball out quickly, but the bulk of the kudos needs to go to that healthy and stout offensive line. 

Here’s what Foles said about this group: 

They’ve done a great job this whole season. They’re the best group I’ve ever been around. As a group that can communicate and play well with one another, they’re the best. Our offense runs off of them. If they’re blocking, doing their job, it helps us … you know, they’re the key to our offense. I can’t say enough. The last couple years I’ve been here, we’re fortunate to have a great group of guys up front that are the best in the game.

In the playoff win against the Bears, the O-line gave up just one sack to that extremely talented front seven. No, the Eagles didn’t have a ton of success running against the Bears, but no one did this year. 

Let’s take a look at each member of the starting offensive line and figure out how they got to this point: 

LT Jason Peters: The future Hall of Famer played every snap Sunday and pretty much shut down one of the best defensive players in the league. At 36, it wasn’t easy for Peters to come back from his torn ACL and he wasn’t completely healthy until about Week 8, he estimates. And from there, he’s had a myriad of other injuries. During this season, he hurt his biceps, quad and ankle. But he’s also playing his best football right now at the perfect time. 

LG Isaac Seumalo: It raised some eyebrows when the Eagles went back to Seumalo for the wild-card game. Seumalo missed the previous three games with a pec injury and the Eagles were winning with Stefen Wisniewski, who was the starting LG in the Super Bowl. But the Birds went back to Seumalo, who is bigger, stronger and more athletic, and it worked. He had a good game and has played pretty well all season. 

C Jason Kelce: He hates to admit it, but Kelce was hurt earlier this season. He had a significant knee injury and played through it. Since that knee has healed, he’s been back to his normal dominant self. For the second straight season, he wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl but was an All-Pro. He means so much to this team, not just athletically, but as a brilliant mind at the center position. 

RG Brandon Brooks: Of every offensive lineman, Brooks has been the most consistent this season on the way to his second straight Pro Bowl bid. He had some trouble with Akiem Hicks last week, but Hicks is pretty monstrous. Brooks has been able to stay healthy this season and his ability to remain a mainstay at right guard has really helped the team. 

RT Lane Johnson: The Eagles should hope Johnson gets snubbed for the Pro Bowl every season. Because since that happened, he’s been incredible. Johnson, like Kelce, had an MCL sprain earlier this year and that came after a high ankle sprain. Once he got healthy, Johnson has been back to his normal level of play. He’s been one of the best tackles in the league recently. 

The other part of all this is that, aside from Seumalo, these guys have been able to play a lot more together since everyone has been healthy. That has paid off with their communication and cohesion. If this game Sunday becomes a shootout, the Eagles have the firepower to stay in it … but only if the O-line continues to dominate. 

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Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Eagles reportedly have a new secondary coach

Marquand Manuel is the Eagles’ new secondary coach, according to a tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The 40-year-old Manuel replaces Cory Undlin, who had served in that role since 2015, first under Chip Kelly and the last four years under Doug Pederson. Undlin was named Lions defensive coordinator two weeks ago.

Manuel and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz go back a ways. Manuel played for the Lions in 2009 when Schwartz was their head coach.

Manuel was not in the NFL this past year. He spent the previous four years under Dan Quinn with the Falcons, two years as secondary coach and two years as defensive coordinator before getting fired following the 2018 season.

The Falcons reached the Super Bowl in his second year in Atlanta, losing to the Patriots in Houston.

Before Atlanta, Manuel spent three years working under Quinn with the Seahawks, holding a variety of titles on the defensive staff.

Manuel, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, was the Bengals’ 6th-round pick in 2002 and spent eight years as a safety in the NFL with six different teams — the Bengals, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers, Broncos and Lions.

He played in 116 games, starting 58, with two interceptions and a pick-6 while he was with the Packers in 2006 off Jon Kitna of the Lions.

The Eagles also reportedly interviewed Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker for the position.

The Eagles already have a safeties coach on the staff, former Eagle Tim Hauck. He was Pederson's teammate with the Eagles in 1999 and has been on Pederson's staff since 2016.

Quinn had this to say about Manuel on the Falcons’ web site back in 2018:

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

The Eagles still have openings to replace the three assistant coaches Doug Pederson fired: offensive coordinator Mike Groh, wide receivers coach Carson Walch and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.

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Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the Eagles weren’t going to lose Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry because it looked like the Browns were going to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else has dropped out of the race.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has taken himself out of the running to be the Browns’ next general manager, which means Berry is now the new favorite, according to Cleveland.com

This is certainly an interesting turn of events.

According to Cleveland.com, “Paton was reluctant to accept the initial interview because he assumed the job would go Berry.”

Now it might.

It would have made plenty of sense for the Browns to hire Paton, who has a long-standing relationship with new head coach Kevin Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. But according to reports over the past few weeks, it seems like Berry has been a favorite of ownership and the front office.

While Berry and Stefanski have never worked together, they did get to know each other during the coaching search in Cleveland a year ago. After that search, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and Berry left for Philly. But now, Berry and Stefanski might actually get a chance to work with one another.

The Harvard-educated Berry, 32, was with the Browns from 2016-18 as their Vice President of Player Personnel before he joined the Eagles last season in a role they created for him. Berry initially came up in the Colts franchise, first as a scouting assistant and finally as a pro scouting coordinator. He’s been a quick-riser in the NFL world.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a Vice President job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

Final say is something Berry will likely never have here in Philadelphia. Despite a few missteps in recent years, Howie Roseman has pretty solid job security and he isn’t going anywhere. If Berry is going to become a GM, it’s going to be in another city. And it seems like that day might be coming soon.

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