Eagles

This offseason, Eagles targeted players with something to prove

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This offseason, Eagles targeted players with something to prove

The Eagles rode the underdog theme to a Super Bowl last season, but it’s hard to be a team full of underdogs when everyone is wearing a gaudy Super Bowl ring. 

So this offseason has been about trying to recreate that mentality. 

Last week, Jason Kelce said on Good Morning Football he thinks the Eagles probably still aren’t getting the respect they deserve. And when Howie Roseman spoke at the Wharton People Analytics Conference earlier this spring, he spoke about the idea of people thinking the Super Bowl win was a “fluke.” 

Roseman was the subject of a half-hour interview that was posted by Penn on May 9. He talked about various topics, including the Super Bowl celebration, the use of analytics and sports science in the NFL and about the trade two years ago to get Carson Wentz.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Roseman said during that conference wasn’t about analytics at all. It was about trying to repeat as champions and avoiding the same fate as many teams before which haven’t been able to duplicate championship success. 

“From our perspective, we know we have to change the chemistry,” Roseman said. “We know we have to create competition, we have to make everyone feel the same kind of urgency we had. So how do you do that? You get more people who have that urge, who have that underdog kind of feeling that we had, who feel like they’ve been kicked to the side, who have this need to win. 

“And what we feel will happen is, you bring in a bunch of competitive people, with inherently competitive people who are maybe just kind of going through the motions a little bit for a while. And all of a sudden, they have a competitive moment and you bring out those competitive juices. Will it work? I have no idea. But we’re going to try.”

A quick look back at the players the Eagles brought in this offseason and it’s not hard to find that “underdog” quality about a lot of them. You can almost hear Kelce yelling about these guys next February. 

Michael Bennett: He’s getting old! He’s too socially active!

Corey Nelson: Nelson’s just a special teamer! 

Haloti Ngata: Ngata’s too old and injured!

Mike Wallace: Remember when Mike Wallace was good?!

Paul Worrilow: Paul Worrilow was undrafted!

Markus Wheaton: Wheaton can’t stay healthy!

Matt Jones: Matt Jones fumbles too much!

You get the idea. 

“We understand that it’s hard to repeat,” Roseman said at the owners' meetings in March. “You have to add some guys with the same chip on their shoulders that we brought in last year.”

Now, adding guys with chips on their shoulders coincided nicely with the Eagles' salary cap situation. The good thing about players with something to prove is that they’re cheap. And the Eagles needed that. 

All of their free agents this offseason signed either one- or two-year deals and it’s similar to the contracts the Eagles handed out last offseason when they brought in Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long and Patrick Robinson. All those guys were hits and it helped with the championship. But these signings aren’t always hits; there are going to be misses too. 

When talking about moves, Roseman likened it to gambling, which is really what it is. The analytics play a role in making sure the odds are in their favor, but there are plenty of variables like injuries that still make every move a gamble. It’s all about maximizing the odds. 

If the Eagles did that again, they might be able to succeed where many other teams have failed. 

“I think it really goes through all organizations, not just sports,” Roseman said. “When you have success, how do you continue to have success? I think it’s easy when you think about these teams and some of the process because the season goes six weeks longer, and so I know all of us are a little bit more tired and everything comes on us quicker and the same thing for the players. … 

“How do you get that energy? How do you change the dynamic? For me, the resources that I’ve been exposed to not only in sports but outside of sports about people who have built great organizations, who have won championships and then gone back, talking to them about what you have to do.”  

Will Jason Kelce be a Hall of Famer?

Will Jason Kelce be a Hall of Famer?

Jason Kelce is the latest in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL.

Friday, July 19: Fletcher Cox
Saturday, July 20: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Today: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Kelce hasn’t missed a game over the last four years. He and Malcolm Jenkins are the only Eagles to start all 69 regular-season and postseason games since opening day 2015.

Kelce has started 110 games since the start of his rookie year in 2011. He’s one of only three Eagles left on the roster from the 2011 season.

Postseason numbers: Kelce is one of 10 Eagles who started all five playoff games during the Super Bowl run in 2017 and again last year. Along with Fletcher Cox, Nick Foles and Lane Johnson, he’s one of four Eagles to start all the team’s playoff games since 2013.

Honors: Has made All-Pro or Pro Bowl four of the last five years, but oddly the two years he’s made first-team All-Pro (2017 and 2018), he hasn’t made the Pro Bowl. He was a Pro Bowler in 2014 and 2016. He’s actually one of only six players in NFL history to make first-team All-Pro in two separate seasons in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl and the only non-kicker to achieve that in the last 50 years.

Favorite stat: Kelce is one of only four centers in NFL history drafted in the sixth round or later to make first-team All-Pro more than once. The others are Hall of Famer Jim Ringo and New Jersey native Bob DeMarco for the Cards in the 1960s, and more recently Tom Nalen of the Broncos.

Records and rankings 

• Kelce has started 110 games in an Eagles uniform. The only center in franchise history to start more games than Kelce is Guy Morriss (151).

• Kelce is one of only three NFL centers to start all 64 regular-season games since opening day 2015 and the only one to do it for the same team. Ben Jones and Alex Mack have also started every game at center over the last four years, but Jones has been with both the Texans and Titans and Mack with the Browns and Falcons.

• Kelce is also the only NFC center in the last 30 years to start for a Super Bowl championship team and make All-Pro at least twice. The last NFC center to accomplish that was Jay Hilgenberg of the Bears, who started on the 1985 team and was an All-Pro in 1988 and 1989. Since then, the only centers who’ve been Super Bowl champs and multiple All-Pros are Tom Nalen of the Broncos and Jeff Saturday of the Colts.

Analysis 

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Kelce still needs to beef up his résumé with a couple more All-Pro or Pro Bowl seasons to be in the mix, and considering he’s been thinking about retirement recently, he may not play long enough to get those honors.

But Kelce is already a two-time All-Pro, and of the 17 centers in NFL history who’ve been selected to three All-Pro teams, 15 of them are in the Hall of Fame. The only exceptions are Les Bingaman, who was a three-time All-Pro in a very short career in the 1950s with the Lions (4½ years as a starter) and Clyde Smith, who played in the 1920s.

What hurts Kelce is that he’s only made two Pro Bowls in eight seasons, even though he’s clearly been deserving of more. The voters won’t know that.

What works for him is his durability — he missed signifiant time only in 2012 and has started 98 of 102 games since 2013 — and how rare it is for a sixth-round pick to have this kind of individual success and his importance to the Super Bowl offense. Even his parade speech helps because there’s not a lot of centers who get that kind of attention.

But Kelce is 31 now and realistically needs a minimum of two more Pro Bowl seasons or one more first-team All-Pro season to be a serious contender for Canton.

Verdict: Will not be a Hall of Famer. 

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The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

In less than five years, Doug Pederson has gone from a mostly unpopular coaching hire to being considered one of the top head coaches in the league. 

Earlier this week, NFL.com ranked Pederson as the fifth-best coach in the league. And after the last two years, that’s hard to argue. 

A big reason folks were so skeptical of the hire back in 2016 was because of Pederson’s relative inexperience. Ten years earlier, he was coaching high school ball, he had been an offensive coordinator for just three seasons and a play-caller for minimal time. But even as he enters Year 4, Pederson still isn’t a finished product. He’d be the first to admit he has more to learn. 

But before his team broke for summer, Pederson was asked about where he’s grown most as a head coach in his first three seasons on the job. 

He named three areas: 

Situational football 

“Situational football, you know, in the last three years has really been a top priority of mine. I think I've learned a lot from in-game decisions and different third-down decisions, fourth-down decisions, when to go for it on two-point conversions, things like that. And listen, I've got help in that area, but I think I've become better educated, I've studied that a little bit more, I've grown in that area, quite a bit.”

My take: If you’ve been paying attention to Pederson’s press conferences, especially during teaching times in minicamps and training camp, you’ll already know how important situational football is to him. We’re talking about third downs, fourth downs, red zone, backed up. Success in these situations is paramount to overall success and Pederson realizes it. This is where experience helps and there’s no expediting the process of acquiring it. Remember, Pederson didn’t have much time as a play-caller in K.C., so he’s been learning on the job and doing it well. 

We all know the Eagles use analytics, but some of it comes down to Pederson’s gut, too. He’s managed to find a real balance of the two over his first three years. What’s been most impressive is that in three years, Pederson managed to find his aggressive style fairly quickly. He knows the type of coach and play-caller he wants to be and backs it up with gutty calls all the time. In his first three seasons, the Eagles have gone for it on fourth down 76 times, the most in the league. The next closest team (Green Bay) has 65 attempts. The average of the other 31 teams during the three-year span is 46. 

Managing personalities

“I think just overall managing the football team with a lot of the different personalities that kind of come and go with your team and, you know, being able to handle the LeGarrette Blounts and Jay Ajayis and now DeSean Jackson back on your team and guys that are unique personality types and profiles, I mean, just being able to manage all that and listen to the team. I think I've had a pretty good handle on just listening to the guys and understanding where they are.”

My take: You’ve heard the cliche, but it’s true. The locker room really is a melting pot. This is where we get back to Jeff Lurie’s “emotional intelligence” comment during the coaching search of 2016. Pederson has emotional intelligence and his time as a player in the league has informed his knowledge about the variance of personalities in a locker room. He holds his players accountable, but he doesn’t treat them all the same; they’re not. Treating players the same is a high school/college mentality that doesn’t seem to fly when you’re coaching professional athletes who are making a ton of money and are at varying stages of their careers and lives. This is something Chip Kelly never seemed to understand. 

One of the most important things Pederson has done was when he set up his veteran council to report back to him with concerns of the whole team. Pederson immediately understood the more players are listened to, the more invested they’ll be, which can never be a bad thing. 

Building a staff

“And then I just think building a staff each year, because coaches are going to come and go, and being able to replace them with quality guys and teachers. And I think that's another area where I've gotten better in the last four years.”

My take: This is important for a team that’s having success because coaches will leave for promotions. I think it’s fair to question some of these decisions — promoting Mike Groh, hiring Gunter Brewer — but overall, the Eagles have so far been able to remain successful from a coaching standpoint. Promoting from within is something always stressed by Andy Reid and Pederson seems to feel the same way. Pederson got off to a good start in 2016 by bringing on Jim Schwartz and then having the humility to keep a bunch of good coaches from Kelly’s staff. Pederson thinks he’s grown in this area, but it’s hard for us to judge this just yet. We’ll learn more about this skill in the coming years. But Pederson’s willingness to listen to his coaches makes finding quality coaches to surround him even more important.  

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