Eagles

Mills a media star, the Pederson effect, and more in Roob's observations

Mills a media star, the Pederson effect, and more in Roob's observations

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Jalen Mills and Chris Maragos singing an Enrique Iglesias song, Trey Burton learning ballet, Harold Carmichael's rocket launcher and the Nick Foles-Carson Wentz-Nate Sudfeld Mind-Boggling Stat of the Day lead the way in Tuesday's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles Super Bowl Observations!

Don't go anywhere ... 10 more to come tomorrow! 

1. Mills has very effortlessly and comfortably and naturally settled into a role this week as one of the Eagles' media stars. It's not too surprising. The second-year cornerback has a great personality, he played very well this year and he's got a compelling story — seventh-round pick last year, Super Bowl starter this year. The green hair doesn't hurt. Mills embraced all the weirdness of media day Monday night, earnestly reading a cue card about the Chinese New Year in Chinese for a Chinese TV crew, eagerly singing an Enrique Iglesias song for a Hispanic TV crew (along with an unfortunate duet with Maragos) and then growing serious and talking about the challenges he overcame as a kid growing up outside Dallas while 30 microphones crowded him. The thing about Mills is that you never worry he'll say the wrong thing. He's colorful, funny, a tremendous storyteller. But he's also smart enough to know how to entertain the media without saying anything controversial or disrespectful. Pretty impressive for a 23-year-old kid.


Reuben Frank/NBC Sports Philadelphia

2. I just heard the Eagles are underdogs Sunday! Whoa! 

3. I'll tell you what, it's been impressive watching Doug Pederson in action this week. You never know how a young, inexperienced coach is going to handle the intensity of the Super Bowl spotlight, but Pederson has just been himself. He's been incredibly patient, answering the same questions over and over and over and over and over about the Eagles being underdogs throughout the postseason, about Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, about Foles and Wentz. He's thoughtful and insightful on the podium, good-natured, funny, relaxed. When you watch him in action, you realize why his players share those same qualities. They really are a reflection of him. I think it's a great sign for Sunday. If a coach is uptight and uncomfortable, his team is likely to play that way. Pederson is anything but, and neither are his players.

4. One of the more remarkable things about this team is just how different it is from the 2016 Eagles. There are 25 players on the 53-man roster who weren't on last year's team? Almost half the roster. Of those 25, eight signed as veteran free agents during the offseason, seven are rookie draft picks, five are veterans who joined the team since the start of training camp, three were acquired in trades, one is an undrafted rookie and one was promoted from the practice squad. To have a team this together, with this sort of chemistry when half the roster wasn't even here last year is remarkable. It really speaks volumes about Pederson's ability to take all these kids from different teams, different places, different backgrounds and different schemes and quickly and seamlessly blend them all together into a cohesive team: "It is a little bit of a challenge," Pederson said. "But you know what? You embrace the leadership of the football team, the veteran players who have been here, and they kind of understand my philosophy and the way I coach. So they can kind of embrace the new players and bring them into the fold. And then it's just up to that player. It's just how do they fit into the scheme offensively or defensively?"  

5. Foles was asked who his favorite quarterback is, and his answer was not what you might expect: "I'm going to say Harold Carmichael. He was a wide receiver, but he probably had the best arm in Eagles history. He said he could throw the ball 100 yards."

6. It was great to catch up with Dion Lewis at media night. What a remarkable story of perseverance. Lewis was the Eagles' fifth-round pick in 2011 but got only 36 carries with three catches in parts of two seasons before unsuccessful bids to make the Browns and Colts. Lewis was hurt in 2013 and out of the league in 2014. Any NFL team could have had him for minimum wage. Belichick specializes in reclamation projects and signed Lewis before the 2015 season. He played well in a reserve role in 2015 and 2016 but this year — his seventh in the NFL — he finally blossomed with 896 rushing yards, a 5.0 average and 30 catches. He's the first player in Patriots history to average 5.0 yards per carry (minimum 160 carries) with 30 or more catches. Here's my story on Lewis.

7. The Philly media hasn't seen much of Halapoulivaati Vaitai lately. "Big V" is never in the locker room when the media is allowed in, so when a few of us spotted him milling around at media night, we quickly cornered him to talk about how well he's played at left tackle down the stretch after a rocky start. Here's how the convo started:

Beat guy: "Hey, Big V. Where've you been? We haven't seen you in a while."

Big V: "Stretching."

Beat guy: "You've been stretching since October?"

Big V: "Yeah. Pretty much."

Then Big V laughed.

But he did have a cordial chat with us, and my story on Big V will be posted on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com on Wednesday.

8. Then there was the time Burton was learning ballet at media night:


Reuben Frank/NBC Sports Philadelphia

9. The first game of Donnie Jones' career was a Seahawks preseason game against the Packers at Lambeau Field on Aug. 16, 2004. The Packers' quarterbacks that day? Tim Couch, Brett Favre and Doug Pederson.

10. And the obligatory Nick Foles Mind-Boggling Stat of the Day is actually the obligatory Nick Foles-Carson Wentz-Nate Sudfeld Stat of the Day: Eagles quarterbacks have gone 20 straight games without throwing more than one interception. That's the ninth-longest streak in NFL history, according to Pro-Football-Reference. 

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

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AP Images

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

Greg Ward threw more touchdown passes in college than Carson Wentz and had a higher career passer rating than Nick Foles. 

These days, his job is catching passes, not throwing them. 

It’s quite a transition from big-time NCAA Division 1 quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, the former Houston Cougar knows where his future is.

Ward spent all of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, learning the nuances of a new position and figuring out how to think like a receiver instead of a quarterback. 

He looked surprisingly polished at wide out in training camp, caught nine passes for 63 yards in the preseason and then spent the season focusing on getting better.

“I still haven’t 100 percent gotten the position,” Ward said after a recent rookie camp practice. “I always feel like I can get better, always feel like I can learn something new, feel like there’ll always be something to improve on. 

“Last year was a big year for me. Just learning a new position, learning football period, learning from Alshon (Jeffery), Torrey (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor), it was a very important year for me.

“Just gathering every bit of information I could watching those guys practice and watching them in games and then learning how to apply what you’ve learned to your game.”

Ward never did get a chance to play, but he said he felt himself getting better as the year went along.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Ward, who led Houston to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State in Atlanta at the end of his junior year. 

“You’re a competitor, that’s why we all do this. But I was humbled and thankful just to be on a Super Bowl team. Just to be in the NFL period. Some guys aren’t able to play football at all. I’m just grateful to be on a football team. 

“But this is not the end of my story. I am going to get out there and I am going to play.”

Ward was with the Eagles during their postseason run and he was there in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

He used every moment, every day, as an opportunity to improve. Even if nobody could see it happening.

“The biggest thing I learned was just being patient, just being humble,” he said. “Our team last year, there was nobody that was selfish. Nobody who thought they were bigger than anybody else. I learned patience and the importance of doing extra. Getting extra work, studying more, watching more film. That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

The Eagles have quite a crowd at wide receiver, with Jeffery, Agholor and Mack Hollins back, Wallace and Markus Wheaton in the fold and guys like Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson and Rashard Davis all also in the mix.

But Ward doesn’t concern himself with the numbers.

“The next step for me is to separate myself,” he said. "As a competitor, especially coming from being undrafted, you have to separate yourself. You have to be different. 

“You have to catch whoever’s eye it is, head coach, position coach, catch everybody’s eyes. They have to see value in you. That’s where I am right now. Trying to separate myself.”

How long will it take?

“I’m leaving that up to God,” he said. “I know I’m putting in the hard work and I know one day it will pay off. I know that day will come.”

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

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AP Images

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is strongly denying accusations made in a lawsuit that he trashed a Los Angeles house after the Super Bowl (see story)

The lawsuit, as reported by TMZ earlier this week, accuses Ajayi of throwing three parties at the L.A. mansion he was renting even after the owner told him not to. Ajayi is being charged $25,000 by the owner. 

Shortly after the story broke on Monday, a representative for Ajayi claimed the lawsuit was bogus. 

Now, we have an even stronger detail from Ajayi’s camp. 

Ajayi’s publicist Melanie Wadden told the Miami Herald that Ajayi didn’t throw any parties and caused no damage to the property. 

Additionally, Wadden denied the home owner’s claim that Ajayi pushed him in a menacing manner after confronting him.

“Jay was not involved in any physical altercations,” she said. 

Ajayi’s publicist also told the Herald that Ajayi was a guest and not the renter and the owner wanted the group to pay cash instead of through Airbnb. 

"The entire group voluntarily left the property several days early — no security or police were ever involved or on-site," Wadden said. "They filed a complaint against the owner through Airbnb back in February that included screenshots of the owner asking for cash and trying to communicate outside of their platform [against Airbnb policy]."

Ajayi, who came to the Eagles in the middle of last season in a trade, has one year left on his current contract.