Eagles

Michael Bennett Q&A, Part 1: The challenges of transitioning to Eagles

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Michael Bennett Q&A, Part 1: The challenges of transitioning to Eagles

It’s been a difficult year for Michael Bennett. A frustrating first month, some challenging changes, a hard, honest look at himself and finally some of the best football of his career.

Bennett had just one sack after five games and was frustrated with his lack of playing time, but he has seven sacks in the Eagles’ last nine games and has been dominating lately. 

He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he’s been playing like one.

After practice on Thursday, the 33-year-old defensive end reflected on his season. In Part 1 of our Q&A with Bennett, the veteran defensive lineman talks about his Pro Bowl snub and the challenges he faced early in his first year with the Eagles. 

You can find Part 2 of our Bennett Q&A here.

Q: "Were you disappointed you didn't make the Pro Bowl team?"

A: “I think not starting at the beginning of the season is the reason why you don’t have a chance to be there, but to me it’s one of my best seasons because I felt like there was a lot of adversity, a lot of change for me. I switched from being on the left to doing it on the right and I still made plays. So for me, I feel like it was a productive season. Quarterback hits, pressures and tackles for loss, I was leading (the team) in a lot of those categories, and I think it’s just exciting, actually. And I think next year’s going to be even better. I don’t know if I’m going to be next year, but if I am here.”

Q: "What made this year so challenging?"

A: “Just transitioning in my career later on. I’m transitioning to a whole new organization, having to move my family, having to come to a new system. I’m used to certain ways of playing the game and then having to find a boundary of where that is. I think for me as a player you give so much to a team and an organization and you wonder to yourself, ‘Am I able to give myself at that level? Am I able to give to my teammates? Am I able to give to the city the way I gave to another city?’ And I think for me that was really hard, to find that place, to kind of find that balance of moving on, and I had to be able to move on from Seattle and be able to come here, so there was a lot of adversity for me personally. So at the beginning of the season I was kind of finding my way. Like, ‘Where do I fit in?’ Then I had to just be like, ‘No, I’ve just got to be me and just keep pushing forward.’”

Q: "Have you done that?"

A: “I think I’ve done a great job of that. I think I’ve embraced the city. I love Philly, I love the organization, I love the fans here, and I think the fans like me here, so it’s becoming my own now, you know? And I’m excited about the possibilities.”

Q: "When did things start to click?"

A: “I think after Week 3, after Week 4, it was just hard. Because I wasn’t playing and I wasn’t used to not playing. At critical moments I’m just sitting on the sidelines like, ‘I got skills! And I'm over here! And I can do this! Put me in the game!' Once they started putting me in the game things started flowing my way, and I feel way more comfortable now.”

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Jets ask for permission to interview Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas

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Philadelphia Eagles

Jets ask for permission to interview Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas

It looks like familiarity with Jets head coach Adam Gase is a prerequisite for the GM job in New York.

For a while, we’ve heard reports that Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas is a favorite to replace Mike Maccagnan, but now we know his competition.

Douglas and Gase worked together briefly in Chicago for a season. Gase and Kelly worked together in Chicago and Denver.

Kelly is the Bears’ assistant director of player personnel. He just finished his second season in that role with Chicago. Kelly and Douglas also worked together in 2015, when Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting and Kelly was the Bears’ director of pro scouting.

It has been previously reported that Douglas is Gase’s pick for the job, so we’ll see how much power the head coach wields in this process.

There has also been a thought that Douglas to the Jets is a done deal. While that might be unsubstantiated, if the Jets do want to hire Douglas, they wouldn’t have to interview any more candidates than these two because Kelly would fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and GM jobs.

While losing Douglas would be a blow, the Eagles have likely been preparing for that possibility for a while.

"At some point, we are going to lose executives," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in March. "When you’re winning, you’re going to lose executives. I think we’re in a great position to be able to deal with that. We don’t want to put a cap on how many good executives we have in football operations. That would be a competitive mistake."

Douglas could theoretically wait for a more stable offer to appear, but there are just 32 of these jobs available. And if the Jets do give Douglas final say, it would probably be pretty hard for him to turn it down.

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Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

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Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

The Eagles aren’t saying it. Nate Sudfeld isn’t saying it. But Sudfeld is the Eagles’ backup quarterback.

Who an organization brings in this time of year to compete with its backup typically speaks volumes about how they feel about said backup. When executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman proclaimed in February the Eagles were looking at veteran signal callers, people thought Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe Tyrod Taylor.

The Eagles used a fifth-round draft pick on Clayton Thorson and signed free agent Cody Kessler a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Sudfeld received a second-round tender from the club as a restricted free agent this offseason — the second-largest qualifying offer — signing for over $3 million in April.

“It was really exciting,” Sudfeld said after Tuesday’s practice. “That really kind of gave me a vote of confidence and just was really exciting because again I wanted to be here and I have another year to keep getting better and developing here.”

Sudfeld’s contract isn’t guaranteed or anything, so in theory, Kessler — a former third-round pick with 12 not-awful starts under his belt — could steal the job. Yet, even listening to the language Eagles coach Doug Pederson used, it’s clear what the expectation is.

“Nate has an opportunity to really compete and solidify the No. 2 spot,” Pederson said on Tuesday. “He gets an opportunity and it’s a great opportunity for him to do that.

“Depth brings a lot of competition. At that spot, there is no exemption. Looking forward to that.”

Some might think it a gamble for the Eagles to hitch their wagon to a backup who’s thrown just 25 passes in NFL regular season games. Then again, the club’s trust in Sudfeld has never waned, going back to his rookie year in 2017 when he served as Nick Foles’ backup throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Clearly, the Eagles see something in the 25-year-old the rest of us simply haven’t yet had the chance to experience. They stashed him on the 53-man roster for the better part of two seasons. They’ve watched him grow as an athlete and quarterback.

“I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of ways since Washington,” Sudfeld said, referring to where he got his start as a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016. “I think physically I’ve developed a lot. I think I was kind of a late bloomer, so I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the weight room, faster on the field. I just feel like physical development’s been huge. And then just being in the NFL a couple years, some great systems and great coaches, just understanding ball a lot more and seeing situations and being able to apply it.

“I think arm strength has improved, velocity, weight room just in general, core, everything. I just feel a lot better.”

That doesn’t mean the Eagles will simply give Sudfeld his spot. Kessler is an intriguing prospect — he was reasonably accurate and took care of the football (64.2 completion percentage and 5 interceptions in 17 career games) as a member of bad Browns and Jaguars squads. Thorson, too, while likely more of a project, could take a surprise leap at the next level.

Whether because he’s confident in his ability or simply understands the situation, Sudfeld doesn’t seem to be sweating the competition.

“Nothing’s ever going to be handed to you, and you don’t want it that way,” Sudfeld said. “There’s no sense of entitlement. Everything’s earned. I’m just trying to improve myself as much as possible, try to be the best version of myself, work on my craft. I know if I can keep improving and become a better player, it’ll all take care of itself.”

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