Eagles

Long snapper Rick Lovato ready to make most of opportunity with Eagles

Long snapper Rick Lovato ready to make most of opportunity with Eagles

Rick Lovato is a specialist. 

Whether he’s on the football field or working at his family owned restaurant in Lincroft, N.J. — Joyce’s Subs and Pizza. 

“I’m great at making breakfast sandwiches, subs,” said Lovato, who hails from north of the sub-hoagie Mason-Dixon line. “Those are my two specialties. I can make pizza, but I’m not the best at it.”

For the next three weeks, the Eagles won’t ask the 24-year-old to touch an egg or pizza dough. They won’t put him to work in the kitchen. Instead, they’ll ask him to perform his other specialty. They need him to be a long snapper. 

With longtime Eagle Jon Dorenbos out for the season with a wrist injury that required surgery, the Eagles signed Lovato, an Old Dominion product, this week to fill in. 

Until Washington signed him for 10 days in November, Lovato had spent the season working at Joyce’s, working out and practicing long snapping with his dad, Rick. The 'Skins released him on Nov. 29 when they didn’t need him any longer; their long snapper Nick Sundberg returned from a back injury. 

So Lovato went back home and waited for his next chance. He didn’t have to wait long. He was actually out snapping with his dad when his phone started getting inundated with calls and texts from people who were watching the Eagles game. 

“My phone died while I was trying to look at who was contacting me,” Lovato said. “Run to my car, plug my phone in the charger and everyone was like, ‘Philly’s long snapper is down, you need to contact your agent and do all this to get ready.’ As soon as I go home to watch the game and Brent Celek’s in snapping and I’m like ‘Oh jeez, this is bad because Dorenbos wasn’t even snapping.’”

It was bad. Dorenbos had surgery on Sunday night and the Eagles called on Monday. The Eagles didn’t work out a bunch of long snappers like head coach Doug Pederson said they planned on doing. According to Lovato, they called him and him alone. Apparently seeing his two games with the Packers last year and two games with Washington this season was enough. 

The relationship between a long snapper and the punter/holder is such an important one. Dorenbos and Donnie Jones have been friends for over a decade and have worked together since 2013, when Jones arrived to Philly. 

Lovato and Jones don’t have that long to get acquainted. Just a few days in practice this week, but Jones thinks it’ll be enough. 

“It’s good,” Jones said. “We’ve had two field goal sessions, we’ve had two punt sessions, so I feel good about it. Unfortunately in this game, injury happens. We’re going to miss Jon. But he’s going to come in and fill his shoes, which are obviously big shoes to fill. I feel good about it.” 

There isn’t much of a future in Philly for Lovato, even if he’s perfect. On Thursday, he said he would love to be with the Eagles long-term and hopes it happens, but he probably knows it won’t. Dorenbos is the longest-tenured Eagle and just signed a new extension last month. 

But Lovato is hoping three more weeks of film will help him finally help gain a full-time gig that will keep him out of the family business for a while. 

“Now that my resume has built up so much, I’d like to be on a team permanently and not just jumping around and filling in for guys that get hurt,” he said. “It all started last year when I was with Green Bay. It sucks to fill in for a guy that gets hurt but it’s an opportunity you have to take advantage of. That’s how jobs like these work.”

If the NFL doesn’t work out, at least Lovato makes a mean breakfast sandwich. 

A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

This is a story about how Chip Kelly helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl. 

Really. 

So in the summer of 2012, when Kelly was still the head coach at the University of Oregon, he was in Miami visiting some friends on the Dolphins’ coaching staff. He was hanging around the facility waiting for one of those friends to get out of a meeting, when he stopped in the office of the Dolphins’ new quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. 

On that exact day, Taylor had a visitor of his own. His younger brother Press, then a graduate assistant at Tulsa, happened to be on his summer break and was visiting Miami. 

So the three — Zac, Press and Chip — sat in a room at Miami and talked football for a couple of hours. Then they went their separate ways. 

Until Kelly was hired as the Eagles’ head coach and was looking for a quality control coach. 

That’s when another tie came into play. Greg Austin, who was Kelly’s graduate assistant at Oregon and became the Eagles’ assistant offensive line coach on that original staff, happened to be a college teammate of Zac’s at Nebraska. In fact, Austin was a part of the offensive line that protected Zac, the quarterback. So Austin suggested the name Press Taylor and Kelly remembered that long chat in Miami. 

“So when they got here, they had an idea for what the position looked like and they called me,” Press Taylor said last week. “It didn’t take much longer for me to say yes and show up here.” 

Five years later, Taylor is still just 30 years old, but he’s risen to the level of quarterbacks coach, replacing John DeFilippo, who is now the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Last year, Taylor was responsible for mining the "Philly Special" from a Bears-Vikings game in 2016. He then watched that play help the Eagles win Super Bowl LII (see story)

And it all wouldn’t have happened without that chance meeting in Miami. 

Taylor never expected that day in Miami to lead to all of this. 

“No, I did not,” Taylor said. “At the time, Coach Kelly is at the University of Oregon, I’m at the University of Tulsa. I was just grateful to sit and talk football with anybody. It was just fun. I didn’t anticipate it being this.” 

Kelly brought Taylor to Philly, but Doug Pederson had just the right amount of missing ego to keep him. Taylor was one of several coaches Pederson kept on his original staff. Not only did Pederson keep Taylor, but he promoted him to assistant quarterbacks coach, a title he held until getting promoted this spring. 

During the 2016 offseason, after Kelly was fired and while the Eagles were looking for a replacement, Taylor was back at home in Oklahoma with his wife, mining information about possible new bosses with the same zeal with which he mined the "Philly Special."

“Trying to find connections I had with that person because, ideally, I wanted to stay,” Taylor remembered. “I really liked my time here in Philadelphia for the first three years, knew what kind of talent we had on our roster and really enjoyed coaching in the NFL. I was hoping to stay and really followed it all throughout that.”

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

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5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

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