Super Bowl spectacle causes sloppiness at Eagles practice

Super Bowl spectacle causes sloppiness at Eagles practice

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — After days of interviews and a lot of silliness the Eagles finally got on the practice field on Wednesday, but they didn't bring their pads. 

The team hit the field at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex on the campus of the University of Minnesota for a lighter practice than they've had in recent weeks. In fact, the team won't strap on pads all week. 

"We had a great week last week, honestly, back in Philly," head coach Doug Pederson explained on Thursday morning. "Had all our prep last week. This is about just fine-tuning, keeping the guys fresh for Sunday. We had a great practice yesterday from a tempo standpoint. Guys were flying around and doing what I've asked them to do this week. I just decided to back off this week and keep them fresh for Sunday."

This week's practices are closed to media aside from one designated pool reporter.  

During Wednesday's session, the Eagles simulated the extended Super Bowl LII halftime break when Justin Timberlake will take the stage. They broke for 30 minutes during practice, but when they started up again, things were sloppier than Pederson would have liked. 

"I think just addressing it early in the week before the game is huge," quarterback Nick Foles said. "The guys are aware of it. Coach does a great job of teaching in those moments. Glad it happened now." 

The head coach noted that it was a few days since the Eagles' last practice, suggesting that could have been one of the reasons for the sloppiness. Pederson said he didn't start "browbeating" his players but simply talked to his veterans. 

"We're so late in the season now, we know how to practice," Pederson said. "Just making sure that we understand the importance of (it), that's why I put us in that situation. Now we understand it. So it's a very teachable moment for our guys, our coaches for how to prepare for the second half of the football game."

When asked about the sloppiness coming out of the simulated halftime, tight end Zach Ertz definitely didn't seem concerned. He noted that Wednesday practices in the NFL are typically sloppy and he never feels great after one day of work. 

Really, no one seemed too concerned. 

"We're not going to put too much stock into it," Ertz said. "I expect a better practice today."

The Eagles finished up their media obligations for the week on Thursday morning before practice. Because of the schedule during the week, they'll get their last two practices after their obligations are through. The Patriots practiced Thursday morning, but still have one more media session on Thursday afternoon. 

After days of a bunch of hoopla, the Eagles were just happy to finally get on the field and begin to narrow their focus to Sunday's game alone. 

"We were really excited to get back out there, get moving around," Foles said. "The first couple days here were great. A lot of obligations, but we enjoyed them. Just being back out there playing football, going through walkthroughs, that's what it's about. Just getting the work in, it took a little bit to get warmed up, get things flowing, but I feel like we got a lot of good work. As coach said, the second half of practice after the halftime wasn't as clean as we wanted, but at the same time watching practice, learning from it. I felt like there was a lot of improvements going into this game, so that's great."

Eagles mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

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Eagles mailbag: Lead back, Mack Hollins, the LB position

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend. The Eagles are probably enjoying it too — because on Tuesday, they’re back to work. 

That’s when the team’s second round of OTAs begin. The Eagles will have a few more weeks of the voluntary offseason program before the mandatory minicamp June 12-14. 

Let’s take a dip into the mailbag: 

Yeah, I’d consider Jay Ajayi the lead back for this coming season. I really think the Eagles are going to ride him a little more than they did last year now that he’s had plenty of time in the offense. But I still don’t see Doug Pederson or Duce Staley abandoning the running back-by-committee approach. So while I think Ajayi will get the bulk of the carries, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles will still play plenty. 

Ajayi will be the feature back, but Pederson will want to keep him fresh for the playoffs too. Sure, the Eagles want to use him up on the final year of his deal, but they shouldn’t do it before they really need him. 

The Eagles really like Mack Hollins and it’s not hard to figure out why. He’s a nice, humble kid who works extremely hard. As a rookie, Hollins played in all 16 games and had just 16 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. He was even less productive in the postseason, when he caught one pass for nine yards. 

To answer your question, yes, I think Hollins will be more involved. It also can’t hurt that the Eagles brought in his college position coach, Gunter Brewer. The problem is that as long as everyone’s healthy, he’s still behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor. He’ll get snaps, but they’ll be limited. He’ll have to make the most of them. 

Quick Hollins story: Late in the season, I asked him about his lack of offensive production and he looked me dead in the eyes and said his job isn’t to catch passes. I probably looked confused. “My job is to help us win,” he said. “And I’ve been doing that.” 

Got a few questions about bringing in a linebacker and I understand why. On the first day of OTAs, the Eagles cut Mychal Kendricks and lost Paul Worrilow for the season. Earlier this week, I looked at the depth the Eagles have. I still wouldn’t worry about the position. 

I think it’s very possible the Eagles bring in another veteran linebacker, but I’m not sure there’s a huge rush. What might have been lost this week is that to cut Kendricks, the Eagles must feel really good about Jordan Hicks’ recovery. And remember, the Eagles are in two-linebacker sets most of the time. Corey Nelson will have a chance to be the weakside guy with Kendricks gone. And there's still decent depth. 

Maybe the Eagles add a player this summer, but it’s also possible they wait a bit to see what they have. For what it’s worth, I’d at least take a look at Bowman to see if there’s anything left.  

Corey Graham is still available and Pederson seemed more than open to bringing him back, so that’s very possible. Graham was a really important addition last offseason because, like you said, it allowed Jenkins to move closer to the line.

A lot of Jenkins playing that hybrid LB position was out of necessity with Hicks gone. According to ProFootballFocus, he played 42 percent of his snaps at LB, so it’s hard to imagine him doing it more in 2018. Still, Jenkins' versatility and his importance to the team can’t be overstated. 

Lane Johnson not pleased with ranking on NFL's top 100

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Lane Johnson not pleased with ranking on NFL's top 100

Lane Johnson had a breakout season in 2017, holding down the right tackle spot for the Eagles on his way to his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. 

And he even made the NFL Network’s Top 100 players list, which is voted on by players. 

All the way down at No. 95. 

“Obviously, I think it’s a joke to be honest with you,” Johnson said on the Mike Missanelli Show Friday afternoon. 

That’s when fill-in co-host Eytan Shander interjected: “Good it is a joke. You were robbed.”

Johnson, 28, is considered by most to be the best right tackle in the NFL and there will likely be plenty of the guys he shut down during last season on the list ahead of him. 

“Yeah, but that’s alright,” Johnson answered. “Better luck next year. That’s what they tell me. I think it’s just … there’s so many great players, it’s hard to put them in order. I guess just being on there is cool. Hoping next year, I’ll be a little bit lower on the list.”

Johnson isn’t the only Eagles player who might have a beef with where they’re slotted on the list. So far, the bottom 50 have been revealed and the Eagles have four players so far: 

68. Zach Ertz 
69. Fletcher Cox
95. Lane Johnson 
96. Malcolm Jenkins  

Johnson also talked about a few other topics on Friday shows, which was co-hosted by Shander and Geoff Mosher. He mentioned that he’s obviously hated in Boston and loved in Philly for his comments about the Patriots. 

He also talked about his relationship with Jason Peters, becoming a more vocal leader, and, of course, this …