Eagles

Super Bowl win would be extra special to these 4 Eagles

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Super Bowl win would be extra special to these 4 Eagles

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- At one point this season, Dannell Ellerbe, Kenjon Barner, Will Beatty and Bryan Braman were all free agents on the street.

Now they're in the Super Bowl.

All three — from the different times they've joined or rejoined the team — have helped them get to this point. And there's a decent chance all four will be able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night. It's been a crazy few months.

"It has [been crazy]," Braman said. "I feel like it's just all a part of the job. But this was the first time I've experienced this situation. But it's pretty special, man. It's kind of how they say the thing can go. One minute you can be jobless, the next minute you're playing in the Super Bowl.

Braman, 30, is a career special teams player. This week, he admitted it was tough for him to watch most of the 2017 season until he was signed on Dec. 12. As the season went on, he couldn't help but think about his future as the situation became more and more stressful.

Barner has a much different story. The running back was released on Sept. 2, but on the very next day, he went to Lake Havasu in Arizona to go wakeboarding and wakesurfing. He obviously wanted to be back in the NFL, but the 28-year-old was strangely at peace.

"Everybody was asking me, 'how are you at ease?'" Barner recalled. "'How are you doing what you're doing? You should be upset.' About what? Something I can't control? I'm not going to sit here and worry about anything I can't control. Me having faith, that's what made it so peaceful."

Twenty-four days later, the Eagles placed Darren Sproles on injured reserve and Barner's phone rang. He's been their return man ever since.

Ellerbe, 32, was pretty calm as well. He played just last season, so he patiently waited for the right call to come in. According to Ellerbe, other teams were interested in him, but he waited until he found the right situation. That came with the Eagles on Nov. 13.

Since then, the former Super Bowl champion has gone from a backup to the team's starting middle linebacker in its base package.

"It's definitely a blessing," Ellerbe said. "I knew the call was going to come. ... I never once got discouraged because I didn't go through a whole season without getting picked up. I knew I was eventually going to get picked up."

Just one day after the team added Ellerbe, it brought in depth on the offensive line in Beatty. Another former Super Bowl champ, Beatty joined the team and has been trying to make the most of his second chance.

A former second-round pick, many think Beatty never lived up to his potential with the Giants. Since joining the Eagles, he's been working with the team's scout team and tries to give the team's defensive ends the best possible work he can in practice. He takes pride in knowing he's elevating their play.

While he didn't boast confidence like Ellerbe, he tried to not let his time without a team wear on him.

"You never know what the future's going to hold," he said. "You have to make sure you're mentally strong. ... When I had time to sit and wait to see where I'm going to go, I had a lot of time for reflection. Ever since I got with this team, I'm like 'how can I let this team know I'm thankful for the opportunity? Thankful for the second chance and for what they saw in me.' Whatever you saw in me, it was only a glimpse of what I can do. Show them I can do more. How can I help this team each and every week?"

The group of players watched plenty of the Eagles from afar, so when they joined the team, they thought there was a decent chance they might end up in Minnesota in February for the Super Bowl.

"That's always the hope," Beatty said. "That's always the dream, that you're playing in this game on the big stage. You're working every week to be in the playoffs. I had that opportunity to experience that but I didn't take full advantage of that moment. I want to make sure that I'm living in the moment now, I'm embracing the moment."

Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

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Eagles Mailbag: Sidney Jones, rookies, ice cream

We answered half of your questions in yesterday’s mailbag (see story), but there were plenty more. 

So in between scarfing down hot dogs and burgers, take some time to check out these answers. 

To give some background on this question, cornerback Sidney Jones has been working in the slot during OTAs. Last year’s second-round pick, who missed most of his rookie season with that Achilles injury, looks good and is ready to be a real player in this league. 

It seems like the Eagles really want to give Jones a chance to learn the nickel corner position and take control of it. It’s a new spot for him, but he should be talented enough to handle it. If he doesn’t look good in the slot, they could always move him outside on those downs and slide Jalen Mills inside. 

As far as Jones simply being a starter … it seems unlikely now, just because Mills and Ronald Darby are still ahead of him. As long as they’re both there, Jones is the third guy in. Either way, he’s going to play a ton this year and I’m on the record predicting a big year for Jones. 

Nah. Gotta trust the doctors and trainers. As I understand it, the stuff Carson Wentz is doing right now is just a part of his rehab. He hasn’t done any work outside of individual drills and has to start throwing and working on footwork at some point. It seems like he’s doing a lot, but he really isn’t yet. Although what we’ve seen is a good sign. 

The Eagles aren’t rushing Wentz. They’re making sure he doesn’t rush himself. If anything, they’re going to end up being too cautious.  

I have seen just one practice, so I don’t have a ton to work off of. I like the look of defensive end Josh Sweat. He’s long and slender and could get on the field in pass rush situations this year. It’s way too early, but if Sweat ever lives up to his potential, we might look back at him as a steal. 

As far as guys under the radar, I don’t think anyone is making a big enough deal about Mike Wallace. Most people know he’s an upgrade, but he should be a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith and it should really help the Eagles’ offense be more dynamic. 

If I had to guess now — and, again, I’ve seen one practice — I’d say, Jones. Doug Pederson talked about Jones like he actually has some plans for him this season. We’ve already seen him have success in the NFL and he’s not that far removed from it. 

Adams had a good college career, but there are some clear flaws in his game, which is why he went undrafted. I know everyone looks at Corey Clement from last year, but that’s rare. Adams might be a better fit on the practice squad this year, if they can sneak him there. 

I’ll revisit this in the summer once the pads go on. 

Well, those smoothies are still around. Pederson kept a lot of that stuff but made it more voluntary. Players still get personalized drinks. 

The easy answer here is ice cream. Doug likes his ice cream. Plain vanilla. Can’t believe Häagen-Dazs hasn’t found a way to get Pederson in some ads. 

Aside from that, I know wings in the cafeteria have been a big hit on Fridays. The cooks — who are great, by the way — make non-fried wings with plenty of different sauces to choose from. A couple years ago, a player from Rochester, New York, introduced Boss Sauce and it became a hit among the players. I think the wings are still around. 

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 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.