Eagles

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

Anything the Patriots can do, the Eagles can probably do better. It could be winning the Super Bowl, or executing the exact same trick play.

In the Eagles’ first meaningful contest since winning the Super Bowl six months ago, with a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field immortalizing the game’s most famous moment, Doug Pederson shocked the world once again with his gutsy play-calling Thursday. On 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter, his team trailing the Falcons by three, Corey Clement took the handoff, then pitched the football to Nelson Agholor — who quickly threw it to quarterback Nick Foles for a 15-yard gain and a first down.

The stadium went crazy. The internet exploded. Who could believe they would do it again?

“It’s Philly Philly,” Pederson said of the call, the famous words Foles spoke to his head coach before catching a touchdown in the big one.

But if the play looked familiar, it wasn’t just Foles doing his best Alshon Jeffery impression. It wasn’t the same play the Eagles ran in the Super Bowl, either.

It was the same design the Patriots tried — and failed — to execute against the Eagles because Tom Brady dropped the wide-open pass.

“That's where we got it from,” Pederson said. “We just put different people in the game,” noting the Eagles were in 12 personnel at the time, while the Patriots ran it out of 11.

Initially, Pederson stated matter-of-factly that Philly Philly was part of the game plan, and it was the right down, distance and spot on the field to make the call. There was more to it than that, though. At that point in the game, midway through the third quarter, Foles was still struggling to find his rhythm, and the Eagles had scored all of three points.

“Offensively, we were sort of misfiring a little bit early in the game, first half in particular,” Pederson said. “We came out in the second half, and just the same type of thing, and just were looking for a big play, somebody to make a play, and you kind of look for that from time to time.

“Again, just felt like it was the right time to make that call, and the guys executed it well.”

The Eagles needed a spark, and Clement had a feeling before the game Philly Philly might be the play to provide it.

“I think something about this play was definitely going to make an impact,” Clement said. “It got the crowd into it, got us into it. It gave us a little boost, and that’s what we needed.”

Foles’ catch extended the drive, ending in a touchdown to give the Eagles their first lead. They would only reach the end zone one more time in an 18-12 victory, but the offense seemed to loosen up from that point on.

There was never any concern the Falcons would know what was coming, either. The Eagles varied the look enough that the defense would never suspect it.

“We knew what we were getting on this play,” Clement said. “Catch them on their toes and hit one over the top.”

People joked about the possibility Pederson could pull such a stunt again, but who actually saw this coming?

“Coach Pederson has a great gut feeling, and when he feels like something needs to be called, he just lets it go and believes in the players to make it happen,” Clement said.

The guys in that huddle must have some great poker faces. No cracking a smile, no laughing, no running to the line of scrimmage with extra gusto. Nothing before the snap can give the defense the slightest hint of what’s to come.

“You don’t want to give it away,” Agholor said. “You don’t want to get too excited and somebody’s thinking trick play. You just have to make the play.”

Easier said than done for Agholor, who had arguably the toughest job of all on Philly Philly, running to his right and delivering a perfect strike to Foles streaking down the field. Trey Burton made it look easy in the Super Bowl. Of course, Burton — a tight end by trade — played quite a bit of quarterback, even in his college years at the University of Florida.

Agholor was the backup quarterback for his high school team but hadn’t been under center since he was in “little league.” And the last time he attempted a pass in an organized setting did not go so well.

“Spring game in college,” Agholor said. “Interception.”

Despite his lack of experience, Agholor’s pass earned the approval of Burton, who was watching the his former teammates while awaiting his Bears debut Sunday.

Then again, maybe Agholor’s task wasn’t as difficult as it looked. After all, Foles is proving himself to be quite the receiver.

“Nick Foles is an absolute athlete,” Agholor said. “Ultimate frisbee, like All-American. As long as I just give him an opportunity, he’ll go get it.”

First, Foles needs to get the record straight about something. There seems to be a lack of clarity regarding which play was "Philly Philly," and which was the "Philly Special."

“The first version was the ‘Philly Special,’” Foles said. “This is actually ‘Philly Philly.’ I miscalled it, I guess, in the Super Bowl, so it got both. Now, we have a ‘Philly Philly.’”

Foles really is a good receiver, by the way, or at least he works on it. Neither the Patriots nor the Falcons seemed to take notice, but a reporter observed the quarterback running some routes during pre-game workouts Thursday.

It turns out, that wasn’t a signal to opposing defenses or anything at all. That’s just Foles being Foles.

“I actually do that every warm-up,” he said. “It’s a way for me to go out there and be a kid for a little bit. Warm up the body, catch. I’ve done it my entire life and it’s something I still do. Coaches probably think I’m crazy for doing it, but it’s something I enjoy doing.”

One coach who almost certainly does not think Foles is crazy is Pederson. To the contrary, those two are apparently on the exact same wavelength when it comes to this trickery.

When Foles — incorrectly — requested Philly Philly during the Super Bowl, his coach was already considering it. Six months later, different play, different opponent, different building, different personnel, different situation, but Foles and Pederson still on the exact same page.

“Honestly, we were both thinking the same thing at the same time,” Foles said. “I went over there to talk to him to say this might be a good time and he pointed to the call sheet and it was like, ‘That was what I was coming over here for.’”

They say Pederson is a players’ coach, after all. He was just giving his quarterback and the rest of the team what they want.

“I love having plays like that,” Foles said. “Our team loves it. I mean, everyone loves a good trick play.”

And why not when it’s working?

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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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