Eagles

Man of few words, Jordan Howard finally admits importance of win over former team

Man of few words, Jordan Howard finally admits importance of win over former team

Jordan Howard is a quiet guy. Like, a really quiet guy.

Since he got traded to the Eagles this past offseason, his new teammates have learned that about him. He’s a man of few words.

“Jordan’s so … you can’t really read Jordan,” fellow running back Miles Sanders said.

Because of that, it might have been a little tough for his teammates to recognize just how important this matchup against his former team was for him. The Bears drafted Howard in 2016, he became a Pro Bowler there and then they traded him away for a late-round pick.

On Friday, Howard said the right things and he said them briefly. He downplayed the importance of the game.

And even after the 22-14 win, it wasn’t like the newly-turned 25-year-old was doing cartwheels. That’s just not him.

But he finally admitted it.

“I definitely was amped up for it a little bit more,” Howard said.

There was no fooling some of his teammates who had been in a similar situation before.

“Let me say this: whenever you play a former team, man, there’s always extra juice,” Brandon Brooks said. “I cannot be any clearer than that. I felt the same way when I played Houston last year. You don’t have to get up for that game. I mean, you’re going to wake up ready for that.”

On Sunday afternoon at the Linc, Howard carried the ball 19 times for 82 yards, including his 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He was so amped up for this game that he nearly made a huge blunder.

Just watch how close Howard was to dropping the ball before he crossed the goal line in the third quarter, à la DeSean Jackson.

“I almost pulled a D-Jack,” Howard said. “I almost tossed the ball too early. I was glad I crossed the line before I threw it back. It was just great.”

While Howard admitted he was a little more amped up for this game, he wasn’t trying to prove anything to the Bears. He really has moved on. In fact, in a contract year, he’d like to make his situation in Philly more permanent.

Howard didn’t see Sunday as a revenge game.

“I don’t need any validation from anybody,” he said. “Whatever they do, I don’t worry about that because I’m here now. It’s not for me to worry about.”

Late in the game, Howard did get banged up, but standing at his locker after the game, claimed he was fine. He declined to say where he was injured and with the bye week coming, he’ll have some extra days to heal.

He’ll also have a few extra days to enjoy the win over his former team in a game he really tried to say didn’t mean more to him. It, of course, did.

“He don’t really say a whole lot ever,” said the ever-loquacious Lane Johnson. “I know it meant a lot to him and you can just tell by how he runs. He speaks a lot with his actions. I know this was a big one for him.”

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Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

A couple years ago, when the Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata in the 7th round of the NFL draft, I asked him a question and he gave an answer that has followed him. 

How much did you know about American football just a few months before the Eagles drafted you? 

“Mate, as little as peanuts.” 

By the end of his first training camp, Mailata said he had reached a quarter of a bag of peanuts. And it’s clear he has made progress. But now, entering Year 3 in the NFL, it’s time to start asking if Mailata has finally filled that bag. 

In other words, is this the year Mailata goes from a project to a real NFL player? 

“Look, I’m always as honest as I can be. I don’t want to lead you down a garden path, OK,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “So I always try to tell you that absolute truth; you guys know that. … I can’t answer that question right now.” 

Hopefully, we get our answer soon enough. 

Stoutland said the reason he couldn’t answer that question is because he needs to see Mailata do it on the field. That might have hit a snag last week, when Mailata was one of three Eagles placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he either tested positive for COVID-19 or was exposed to somebody who did. Lane Johnson said publicly that he tested positive. 

So, obviously, everyone is hoping Mailata is healthy; that’s more important. But he also can’t afford to miss any grass time, especially in a training camp that won’t have preseason games. With such limited game experience in his life, those preseason games were more important for Mailata than any other player on the roster. And now he’ll have only training camp practices and that will only happen once he’s off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

The good news is that Stoutland is very optimistic. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

This offseason, Halapoulivaati Vaitai left in free agency and got a big contract with the Detroit Lions, which means the Eagles’ depth at offensive tackle took a big hit. But then they drafted two players with tackle experience and brought back Jason Peters to play guard and also be insurance at tackle. 

So the Eagles have options if Mailata doesn’t work out or if he isn’t ready. But in Year 3, it’s probably time to get past the project phase. 

Mailata is still just 23 but in his first two NFL seasons he still hasn’t played in a single regular-season game. And he has ended both years on Injured Reserve with back injuries. 

But all the traits the Eagles saw in Mailata when they drafted for former rugby player to play offensive tackle are still there. 

Mailata is 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, incredibly strong, athletic and willing to learn. And in last year’s preseason, he looked good. We saw progress. Really, we’ve seen progress every time Mailata steps foot on a football field. 

But is he ready to be an NFL player and not just the guy trying to become an NFL player? 

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

On Friday, two days before Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, several of his assistant coaches spoke about how effective they believe the Eagles’ safety protocols are inside the NovaCare Complex and how safe they consider the facility.

The Eagles, under the direction of vice president of football operations and compliance Jon Ferrari, reconfigured the South Philadelphia facility over the last several weeks to comply with NFL safety measures once the players arrived.

On Monday, the Eagles' so-called IDER plan – that stands for Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan – was approved by the league, meaning the team's plan to deal with the virus in the facility met the safety standards required by the league and the players' association.

Yet here we are.

Without knowing how or where Pederson contracted the virus, it’s impossible to determine whether the safety measures are working. 

If nobody else in the building contracts it, they’re working. If it turns out there are additional positive tests within the building in the coming days, it’s possible that even the strictest adherence to the safety measures isn’t enough.

We’ll know more in the coming days, but offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, running backs coach and assistant head coach (and interim head coach) Duce Staley and special teams coach Dave Fipp all spoke on Friday about how effective the measures the Eagles took to create a safe working environment appeared to be.

Stoutland: “Coming through the front door, going through the gate, getting tested each morning, I gotta tell you guys, I’ve never felt more safe in my life. I told my wife that, I told my kids that. Mr. (Jeff) Lurie, he cares about his team, his coaches, and just proves it once again with the group of people that he’s put together to organize this whole operation. It’s all different, it’s all new, (team president) Don Smolenski, Jon Ferrari, it’s unbelievable. Every little detail that’s going on right now, the door handles, everything that I notice, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, they think of everything to keep us safe.’ That part of it is great I think for all of us because it kind of lets you (know), ‘OK, let me just focus on my job and detail what I have to do and the other stuff, we’re good. We’re going to be in good hands.’”

Staley: “We have to be careful, that’s something that all coaches are being redundant with. We’re talking with our players, we’re talking amongst ourselves. We’re all reminding each other how serious this is, reminding ourselves as coaches and reminding the players. This is a different time for us and as a team we must make the adjustments so we can be successful down the road. We must make the adjustments. I think the Eagles, this organization, Howie, Jeffery, along with Jon Ferrari, they’ve got a great plan here for us while we’re in the building, so we feel 100 percent safe in the building. Now, we understand everything going on, how it can be contracted, but we feel safe.”

Fipp: “I think common sense is the biggest thing. Gotta be smart, obviously. There’s definitely an issue going on out there. I think we feel good about it as long as we wear masks and take care of our responsibility outside the building. I feel great about being inside the building.”

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