In surprise twist, Chance Warmack key in Eagles' win

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In surprise twist, Chance Warmack key in Eagles' win

Most everybody expected the Eagles to beat the Giants on Sunday, but there was a surprise twist: They couldn't have done it without Chance Warmack.

Filling in at left guard for the injured Stefen Wisniewski, Warmack appeared to struggle early in the contest. The fifth-year veteran failed to reach some of his landmarks in the running game and lost his footing on a number of occasions. Pretty much the same issues that had prevented Warmack from winning the job or holding it down in the first place.

Only this time, Warmack seemed to get more comfortable as the game wore on, creating running lanes and holding his own in protection — and the Eagles' offensive line became a cohesive unit in the process.

"That's football," Warmack said following the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants at New York. "You get a feel, and sometimes it comes faster than others. After you get a feel for it, that's called reading the game.

"I felt like a little kid out there. It was good to play football and not think about anything, just go."

Signed as a free agent in March, and his contract subsequently extended in September, Warmack already had multiple opportunities to earn more playing time. Prior to Sunday, none of the chances had gone particularly well.

Warmack started Week 3 at left guard after Isaac Seumalo played himself out of the job, but he didn't perform at a high level and quickly found himself in a rotation with Wisniewski. The experiment ended after three weeks. Then with the injury to Wisniewski against the Rams, Warmack got another shot, only to wind up being benched for the second half for Seumalo.

The Eagles' reclamation project appeared to have hit a wall, but Warmack never gave up.

"Are you going to watch film and get better, or are you gonna to put your head down," Warmack said. "I don't care how bad I get beat, I'm gonna keep coming. That's my motto. Keep coming, keep fighting, keep playing. That's the game."

It may have helped Warmack was able to start and finish the entire game. It was the 26-year-old's eighth appearance of the season and his second start, but the first in which he played every snap (or even half).

Warmack refused to blame his previous poor play, though, on the quick hooks.

"I can't use that as an excuse," Warmack said. "Whatever happened in the game, I have to take that head-on, learn from that and get better. Whatever the situation is, accept that and keep moving."

The Eagles ran the football 27 times against the Giants for 108 yards — a solid 4.0 average. Nick Foles was sacked only once and hit a total of seven times, as the O-line was generally able to provide a clean pocket and keep the quarterback upright.

Obviously, all five guys up front deserve credit for the success of the offense. However, unlike the rest of the unit, Warmack didn't have nearly a full season's worth of games to prepare for the Giants.

"Great job," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "(The Giants) have a big front, so this is a good game for him. He's a big guy, and it's going to be hard to overpower a guy like that.

"I was really happy for him. They give you a lot of different looks at times and they can make it challenging, and he listened, he was locked in and he did his job."

Foles called Warmack's performance, and the ability of the Eagles to overcome injuries all season, a "story."

"I've worked with him on scout team. I've seen him work every single day," Warmack said. "Going in there in this environment, (he) did an awesome job."

Everyone knew Warmack, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, has this in him, if not more. That's why the Eagles went out and signed him despite his four disappointing seasons with the Titans, reuniting him with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, his tutor at Alabama.

Sunday was a sign that Warmack is continuing to improve, and he'll be ready when his number is called again. If and when that time comes, this most recent outing could serve as a foundation of sorts moving forward.

"That's what it's all about," Warmack said. "Once you feel comfortable with what you're doing, just build off of that."

Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

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Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

Wendell Smallwood working his way back into the running back picture, the bizarre NFL career of Bryce Brown, Michael Bennett and Shakespeare, the handshake that never was and Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason.

Only one place you’re getting all this!

It’s all this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations, and it starts here:

1. It’s been interesting watching Wendell Smallwood this preseason. He’s a guy who when training camp began I didn’t give much of a chance to, only because he’s never been able to stay healthy and the Eagles went into camp with a deep, talented stable of backs. But while Matt Jones, Josh Adams and Donnel Pumphrey have been banged up and on and off the field, Smallwood has not only stayed healthy, he’s made the most of his reps. He looks terrific. I’ve always felt Smallwood is a talented kid. I wrote about him last week and how he spent the offseason learning how to take better care of himself, and so far it’s paying off. Much of making an NFL roster is simply handling the workload during camp and proving to your coaches that they can rely on you. And Smallwood hasn’t missed a rep. This preseason. Not one. So far he’s outlasted the other guys in that battle for the fourth running back spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles. Has he done enough? With a couple weeks before final cuts, it’s too early to say. But he’s definitely worked himself from the brink back into the mix.

2. I’ve been disappointed by Mack Hollins’ training camp. He’s one guy I expected to make a big leap in Year 2, and while he still might, he hasn’t flashed yet. Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs have both outplayed Hollins in practice. Hollins has that great size and is a valued special teamer and as a second-year fourth-round pick he’s probably got the team made. But I expected to see more. Treggs is another guy who was off the radar when camp began but has that great speed and keeps showing up at practice. And Gibson simply looks like a different guy from last year. The depth the Eagles have at wideout is insane. Guys like Rashard Davis, Greg Ward Jr. and DeAndre Carter probably have no shot to make the team, but once upon a time, they would have been starters around here.

3. Michael Bennett is an interesting dude. Someone in the locker room used the phrase, “All’s well that ends well,” and he said, “Where’s that phrase from?” I said it’s the name of a Shakespeare play, and he said, “A lot of people think Shakespeare wasn’t a real person.” I said, “Yeah, there’s a theory that he was three different people.” His response: “I’m three different people.” 

4. I know a lot of people think the whole “Tom Brady hasn’t shaken Nick Foles’ hand” thing is overblown, but it really bothers me. There are certain customs in sports that are there for a reason. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever, and he should have sought out Nick either on the field immediately after the game or somewhere after the game — the lockers weren’t too far apart. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but sportsmanship means a lot to me. I know one thing: If the Patriots won that game, Nick Foles would have found Tom Brady, told him “Great job,” and shook his hand. 

5. Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason was insane. He rushed 20 times for 141 yards against the Giants and 13 times for 116 yards against the Saints. His average of 7.8 yards per carry is second-highest in NFL history in a single postseason (minimum 30 carries) behind Hall of Famer Marcus Allen’s 8.03 in 1983. He’s the only back in NFL history with back-to-back playoff games with 100 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and a touchdown. His 257 rushing yards are third-most in NFL history by a back in a two-game postseason (behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1985 and Arian Foster in 2011). 

6. I love listening to Doug Pederson talk about why he’s so aggressive as a play caller. Because generally, he admits he really has no idea. I think it almost evolved by accident. He started going for it on fourth down in 2016 with nothing at stake and it started working, and he just felt comfortable doing it, and he just got in that habit, and the team got used to it and enjoyed it, and by the time the Super Bowl came along it had developed into his personality and the team was completely in step with him, and the success of the Philly Special was the product of that. You can’t run that play if you’re the least bit tight or indecisive, but the team had gotten so used to Pederson doing anything at any time in any situation it was just another play. The man is a genius.

7. Chip Kelly and Pederson have the same number of regular-season wins after two years. 

8. You figured that had to be wrong so you looked it up, didn’t you!

9. I’ve never seen an assistant coach grow as much as Frank Reich did in his two years with the Eagles. When he first started out as Doug’s offensive coordinator, he seemed to be painfully shy around the media, gave one-word or brief answers during press conferences and appeared generally uninterested in providing anything remotely revealing about football or the players he coached. By the time he left, he was one of the most interesting, insightful and quotable assistant coaches I’ve ever been around, and his commentary after the Super Bowl about Nick Foles’ performance was brilliant. I’m convinced this transformation had a lot to do with him getting the Colts head coaching job. Teams don’t want a head coach who can’t handle the media, and Frank in a very short time went from a guy who wasn’t comfortable in those situations to one who embraced them.

10. Bryce Brown had one of the strangest career arcs in Eagles history. He averaged 15 yards in his first 10 NFL games and 19 yards in his last 30 NFL games. In between, with LeSean McCoy injured, he ran for 178 yards on just 19 carries against the Panthers and 169 yards on 24 carries against the Cowboys, with two TDs in each game. Only three players in NFL history have had consecutive games with 165 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and 2 TDs — LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and … Bryce Brown. Other than those two historic games in a seven-day span, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 18 yards per game. But for a brief bit of an otherwise forgettable 2012 season, he made NFL history. 

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Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

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Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the likelihood of Carson Wentz not being healthy for the regular-season opener. Is this the best team Doug Pederson has had in Philadelphia? Also, how do players approach the second preseason game?

1:00 - Updating Carson Wentz's status.
4:00 - Guys still confident Wentz will start against the Falcons?
7:00 - Doug Pederson says this is the deepest team he's had.
10:30 - Doug Pederson and Nick Foles speak about preseason snaps.
15:00 - How do players approach the second preseason game?

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