Why Eagles needed dogfight with Giants

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Why Eagles needed dogfight with Giants

They were supposed to blow the Giants out. They should have blown the Giants out. The best team in football against one of the worst?

It didn't happen that way. And looking back at the way things unfolded Sunday at the Meadowlands, Doug Pederson says now there may have been some value in the way everything happened.

The Eagles escaped East Rutherford, New Jersey, with a way-too-close win over a last-place team, and Pederson says now being down two touchdowns to a two-win team on the road with your backup quarterback maybe wasn't the worst thing for this football team to experience.

"The beauty of it is, we were in a dogfight and we needed to be in a dogfight," Pederson said Wednesday.

The Eagles overcame a 13-point second-quarter deficit and a late Giants drive down to the 6-yard line to win 34-29 Sunday, clinch a first-round bye and improve to 12-2.

After a series of blowout wins, the Eagles over the last three weeks have lost to Seattle and overcome deficits against both the Rams and Giants.

Pederson conceded Wednesday the Eagles may have been looking past the Giants.

"I think sometimes it’s human nature," he said. "We’ve all been in situations where sometimes you just know you’re probably going to win the football game. At the same time, you either look past it or whatever goes through your mind.

"I can remember when I was coaching high school ball, and you kind of go through the week like, 'Oh, we got this,' and then you’re in a dogfight.

"The beauty of it is, we were in a dogfight and we needed to be in a dogfight the other day."

The Giants scored three touchdowns in the game's first 16½ minutes and led 20-7. The Eagles outscored them, 27-9, the rest of the way.

"I talk about starting fast every week on offense, defense and special teams and obviously, we didn’t start fast enough on defense and it was that wakeup call, and it’s going to happen," Pederson said. "Listen, it’s going to happen.

"Offense might be sluggish and the defense has to step up, and last week, it was the offense coming through. That’s the beauty of football. It’s a team sport. We were in a dogfight and we figured out how to win the game."

Sunday's game was the first the Eagles have won after trailing by 13 or more points since the Chip Kelly Eagles upset the Patriots in Foxboro in 2015 after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter.

"We rebounded and had a great second half and found out what our team was made of," Pederson said. “I just think it shows character, it shows grit, determination, the ability to pull out a game in the fourth quarter.

"The things we’ve talked about all season with this football team, that we learned from a year ago, and really understanding what’s at stake for us. What’s on the line. Just bearing down and doing your job and finding ways. Sometimes as ugly or sloppy as it can be, you figure it out."

During their nine-game winning streak, the Eagles outscored their opponents by an average of 17 points.

The last three weeks? They lost by 14 and won two games that were decided in the final minutes.

But the Eagles are now 4-0 in games decided by six or fewer points, and that doesn't include the Rams game, which was a two-point game until no time was on the clock.

Last year, they were 1-5 in close games.

Pederson said the Eagles need to understand how to win these close games with the playoffs on the horizon.

“Going to be in that (close) game," he said. "Because now, you’re talking about six teams that can win, the know how to win, who are there for a reason. Everybody is good and you have to practice well during the week and prepare well during the week and come to play.

"That’s definitely something we can lean on and learn from going forward, but we just can’t have those lapses during the postseason."

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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