Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Some notes and keys ahead of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game:

• Since throwing for 301 yards against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Carson Wentz's aerial numbers have declined — 238 yards in Detroit, 179 in Washington and 138 vs. Minnesota.

• Even though he missed two games with an injury, I still can't understand how Zach Ertz has been targeted only 16 times in four games this season.

• Dallas WR Cole Beasley is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Last November against the Eagles, he had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles' best slot cornerback, Ron Brooks, out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon, Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full trying to keep up with Beasley in the slot.

• Eagles and Cowboys defensive backs beware: Jerome Boger's crew is officiating this game. This season, Boger's crew has called 36 penalties for defensive pass interference, illegal contact or defensive holding.

• The Eagles' 20 sacks ties them for third-most in the league. Dallas has allowed just nine, second-fewest in the NFL.

• Does Doug Pederson still have faith in RB Ryan Mathews late in games? Mathews has fumbled with less than five minutes left in two of the last three games. The head coach says he has not lost faith in Mathews, and Mathews says he'll stop fighting for more yards late in games. Time will tell.

Eagles' trio of wide receivers is best group in team history

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Eagles' trio of wide receivers is best group in team history

Last year’s group of wide receivers was the Eagles’ best ever.

Not for long.

Alshon Jeffery is coming off a nine-touchdown regular season and exceptional postseason and should be fully healthy this fall. Nelson Agholor made huge strides in his third season, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be even better this year. And Mike Wallace, one of only nine receivers with 1,700 yards and a 14.0 average over the last two years, is a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith.

Try finding a better trio of receivers in Eagles history. You can’t.

Heck, there were a lot of years around here where the Eagles didn’t have one wide receiver as good as any of these guys.

The Eagles have a storied past in a lot of ways, but wide receiver has been a black hole for the franchise for most of the modern era.

Did you know that during the six-year period from 1998 through 2003, Eagles wide receivers combined for only seven 100-yard games in 105 games?

And during the 23 years from 1986 through 2008 — basically between Mike Quick’s heyday and DeSean Jackson’s first big year — Eagles receivers had a total of four Pro Bowl seasons? One by Fred Barnett in 1992, two by an aging Irving Fryar in 1996 and 1997 and then T.O. in 2004.

I mean, we used to get excited around here when Victor Bailey, Chris T. Jones and Reggie Brown were drafted.

It’s been that bad!

The DeSean-Maclin-Avant trio was the best in Eagles history until last year.

Then Jeffery proved to be a big-time big-play performer in his first year with the Eagles. He played hurt, he made crazy catches and he was incredibly consistent, especially in the postseason.

Agholor showed remarkable mental strength in shrugging off the disastrous start to his career and becoming a flashy playmaker.

Smith had his moments, but Wallace gives the Eagles the same sort of big-play speed as Smith with far better production (122 catches, 1,765 yards, 8 TDs the last two years compared to 56, 697, 5 for Smith).

Jeffery, Agholor and Wallace — then with the Steelers — each had at least 50 catches and at least 700 yards last year. Needless to say, the Eagles have never had three wide receivers the same year with 50 and 700.

This is going to be crazy.

How do you stop an offense that has Agholor, Jeffery and Wallace? What team has three corners that can match up with that trio?

And that’s not even considering Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at tight end and running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement coming out of the backfield.

Along with wideout depth from Mack Hollins and possibly Markus Wheaton, Shelton Gibson or Bryce Treggs.

And all of it operated by a quarterback who was enjoying a record-setting MVP season before he got hurt?

Good luck, NFL defenses.

You can’t stop this offense.

Best in Eagles history?

How can it not be?

Most of the great receivers in Eagles history never played with other really good receivers.

Mike Quick blossomed after Harold’s peak years, and the receivers he played alongside during his big seasons were guys like Kenny Jackson, Ron Johnson and Cris Carter before he got good. By the time Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams emerged as solid receivers, Quick’s knees were giving out and he was in his final season.

Harold Carmichael is the best in franchise history, but there was only one year in which a teammate had at least 600 yards — and that was the 1980 Super Bowl season, when Charlie Smith had his best year.

Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins had some good years together but there was a never a productive third receiver. T.O. had Todd Pinkston and James Thrash. Irving Fryar had Chris T. Jones.

Now, obviously the game has changed a lot, and the third receiver — which 30 years ago wasn’t an important guy — is now a crucial part of any NFL offense. So we’ve included below both a post-1990 list of the top Eagles wide receiver trios and a 1990 and earlier list with the top duos.

But the most important thing is that the group the Eagles have assembled now is experienced, versatile, fast and productive. They make big plays, they get in the end zone, and they’re durable.

The Eagles won a Super Bowl last year with the best trio of receivers in franchise history.

Then they went out and got better.

Top trios (since 1991)

Nelson Agholor [62 catches-768 yards, 8 TDs]
Alshon Jeffery [57-789, 9]
Torrey Smith [36-430, 2]

Jeremy Maclin [85-1,318, 10]
Jordan Matthews [67-872, 8]
Riley Cooper [55-577, 3]

DeSean Jackson [47-1,056, 6]
Jeremy Maclin [70-964, 10]
Jason Avant [51-573, 1]

DeSean Jackson [58-961, 4]
Jeremy Maclin [63-859, 5]
Jason Avant [52-679, 1]

Todd Pinkston [60-798, 7]
James Thrash [52-635, 6]
Antonio Freeman [46-600, 4]

Top duos (up through 1990)

Tommy McDonald [64-1,144, 13]
Pete Retzlaff [50-769, 8]

Ben Hawkins [59-1,265, 10]
Gary Ballman [36-524, 6]

Harold Jackson [65-1,116, 9]
Ben Hawkins [43-761, 8]

Harold Carmichael [48-815, 9]
Charlie Smith [47-825, 3]

Calvin Williams [37-602, 9]
Fred Barnett [36-721, 8]

More on the Eagles

• Foles is a legend, but Eagles still need Wentz

• Will Derek Barnett really compete to start in 2018?

• A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

• On his 35th birthday, a look at upcoming milestones for Sproles

• A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices 

The incredible, behind-the-scenes story of how Eagles' Super Bowl ring came to be


The incredible, behind-the-scenes story of how Eagles' Super Bowl ring came to be

By now, you’ve already seen hundreds of images and videos of the Eagles’ Super Bowl rings in all their glory. 

You’ve seen players, coaches, and staffers show off the blingy rings that include 219 diamonds, 17 green sapphires, plenty of symbolism and, of course, dog masks. 

They’re pretty incredible. 

But how did the rings come to be? Well, it was a pretty new experience for this ownership group. The Eagles had NFC champions ring back in the early 2000s, but the ring that represented the first Super Bowl in franchise history needed to be special. 

The process took “waaaayyy more hours” than Jeff Lurie thought it would. In all, it took months and contributions from dozens of people to pull off the design and creation of over 400 beautiful pieces of jewelry. It also took a ton of secrecy. 

“We were trying to design something special for the players and the organization, but was also inclusive and would commemorate the season with the season ticket members and with the fans,” Eagles president Don Smolenski said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We set out with that in mind.” 

Here’s how it all happened: 

Feb. 4 - Eagles win the Super Bowl 

You probably remember this day pretty well. The Eagles took down the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota and the celebration was underway. 

So was the sales pitch. 

Almost immediately as the confetti began to drop at U.S. Bank Stadium, the world-renowned jewelry company Jostens called the Eagles from their Minneapolis-based headquarters across town. The courting began. 

While the Eagles talked with other manufacturers, the Jostens pitch won out. Jostens VP/GM of Professional Sports Chris Poitras says name recognition — Jostens has now done 34 of 52 Super Bowl rings — helps their pitch. In those initial calls, the company outlines its plan, including design and development. Once the Eagles agreed, the process really began. 

Feb. 8 - Super Bowl parade 

Before millions of folks converged on the Ben Franklin Parkway to celebration the Super Bowl championship and listen to Jason Kelce’s epic speech, Lurie had an important question for his players. 

What kind of ring did they want? 

“Mr. Lurie asked us if we wanted it to be modest,” Malcolm Jenkins said earlier this month. “And the answer was a resounding, ‘No!’ Don’t want to be modest. It’s the first time, so let’s act like we’ve never been there before.” 

Feb. 14 - Jostens comes to town

Poitras said Jostens arrived in Philly about 10 days after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which would have been less than a week after the parade down Broad Street. 

By now you’ve seen all the little twists in the ring. The 52 diamonds in the Eagles’ logo to represent Super Bowl LII, the 127 diamonds to represent the Philly Special, the four rare green sapphires at the base to represent the four championships in franchise history, the 16 diamonds on the base to represent the number of wins in the season, the dog mask. 

But how did all that come to be? 

Well, it was an extremely collaborative (and lengthy) process between the Birds and Jostens. The designing of this ring lasted into April. 

There was a small group of people from the Eagles talking to Jostens, but Lurie and Smolenski were very involved. It was clearly important to them. 

“Jeffrey Lurie was as hands-on as he could be,” Poitras said. 

Poitras said Jostens’ goal is to create the best championship ring each time they create one. It’s also their goal to incorporate all the elements important to each respective team. The Eagles presented them plenty of challenges. 

“It’s kind of like, how do you want to be remembered 20 years from now?” Lurie said to the Eagles’ website. 

Philly Special

The now-famous play was going to be incorporated into the ring somehow. After all, Lurie called it “the most iconic play” he’s ever seen in football. But the question became how to do it. There were plenty of attempts before the winner. 

Eventually, someone in the Eagles’ public relations department came up with the idea of adding up the jersey numbers of every player to touch the ball on the play — Corey Clement (30), Trey Burton (88) and Nick Foles (9). Good thing Burton changed his number from 47 to 88 last offseason. 

“Then it was really a job for us of how we could find a place to put 127 diamonds on the ring,” Poitras said with a chuckle. 

The original design called for 108 diamonds on the bezel, but Jostens said they could go up to 130 without changing the design; so that’s what they did. 

Dog mask

The most unique feature on the ring wasn’t a slam-dunk. There was a lot of discussion toward the end of the process about whether or not the dog mask should be included. 

“The Eagles talk so much about paying honor to the fans,” Poitras said. “I think that’s one of those elements. … it was so prominent in the stadium, they felt like it was important to be a part of it.”

The Eagles had a lot of elements they wanted on the ring, Smolenksi explained. They wanted the logo, the trophy, the stadium, the score and the other wording on the ring. There wasn’t much room for a dog mask without making the ring too busy. But once the jeweler said they could sneak it inside, the Eagles were in. 

Engraving a dog mask is one of the more unique features Jostens have ever included in a championship ring. Poitras said it was pretty similar to when they engraved a billy goat on the Cubs’ championship rings a couple years ago.  

Sides of the ring

While the bling is on top, Smolenski was very impressed with the details on the band of the ring, specifically the stadium. 

"The one shank has an image of the stadium," he said. "The detail in that, for being on the side of a ring, you know that’s Lincoln Financial Field. That’s a nod to the season ticket holders. And you know that’s Lincoln Financial Field."

April 25 - Ring sizing 

This is the first time the Eagles publicly acknowledged the rings since Lurie said in March that the design process was already well underway. 

Even though the Eagles were fitted for rings this day, they still had no idea what they looked like. The organization was incredibly secretive about the rings; players really didn’t see them until they opened the boxes at the ring ceremony. More on that soon. 

May 1 - Production

The last few weeks of April were mostly spent figuring out the rare green sapphires. The Eagles wanted to have stones in their midnight green color, but first Jostens had to find them. They eventually did in a mine in Africa. 

Poitras said it took about two to three weeks to make sure the shade of those green sapphires was up to the Eagles’ standard. And they had to make sure they got them all from the same mine to ensure color quality control. Smolenski said the part of the process that surprised him the most was the detail. He said Jostens had to cut the sapphires just right to reflect a midnight green tone. They went through about four or five cuts before nailing it. 

Once Jostens had all the materials, it was time to get started. They had just five or six weeks to create them all. 

“You can make one ring and it’s beautiful,” Poitras said, “but our big challenge is to make sure all 400 rings are to the exact specification and beauty the first one is.” 

The real deal

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that the Eagles gave similar rings to everyone. That means the ring given to someone in the office wasn’t all that different to the one on Nick Foles’ finger. Poitras declined to disclose the value of each individual ring — Smolenski coyly called them "priceless" — but with over nine carats of stone in each, it had to cost a pretty penny. Even the limited addition fan ring, that isn’t the real deal, costs over $11,000. Then multiply that by over 400. We’re talking over 87,000 diamonds and 6,800 green sapphires in all. 

Poitras said Lurie was “extremely generous” by giving everyone the real deal rings. 

“I think that’s a reflection of Jeffrey and our organization,” Smolenski said. “We wanted to be inclusive. We talked about how the organization is a family, how people make compromises and sacrifices all so the football team can succeed on the field. If we talk about how we’re all in this together and everyone’s contributing, there’s no more powerful statement to deliver of the values of Jeffrey and the values of the organization then to share the ring with everybody.” 

June 14 - Ring party 

The first time anyone outside of that small group in the organization saw the rings was on this night at 2300 Arena in South Philly. Everyone was wowed. 

Just how small was that inner group? 

Smolenski said just five people in the organization knew everything, the design with the story. Later in the process, they needed to include the PR department to prepare materials to release and the marketing department to help with the fan jewelry line, but just five people including Lure and Smolenski knew it all. 

While Doug Pederson was shown a few elements along the way, even the Super Bowl head coach was left in the dark in terms of the finished product. 

So that night at the ring ceremony, Lurie and Smolenski got the pay off for months of design work and secrecy. 

“You’re trying to look around and you think you designed something that everyone would think is really one of a kind, but you don’t know because you’re so close to the process,” Smolenski said. “But seeing and hearing the players' reactions when they opened it and saw the different elements and you could hear them celebrating and when members of the staff did the same, you’re like, ‘that was really gratifying.’ You’re trying to be inclusive and then to see it come to life was really a special moment.” 

More on the Eagles

• Foles is a legend, but Eagles still need Wentz

• Will Derek Barnett really compete to start in 2018?

• A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

• On his 35th birthday, a look at upcoming milestones for Sproles

• A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices