Eagles

Malcolm Jenkins, 3 other Eagles raise fists in protest during national anthem

Malcolm Jenkins, 3 other Eagles raise fists in protest during national anthem

CHICAGO — As tenor Jim Cornelison settled himself before belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Soldier Field in advance of Monday Night Football, Malcolm Jenkins and a few of his teammates raised their fists in protest.

Jenkins was joined by teammates Steven Means, Ron Brooks and Marcus Smith (see story).

Jenkins first revealed that some Eagles were planning on some sort of demonstration while on 94 WIP on Friday. At that time, he didn’t know who would be involved or what the protest would look like.

This wave of anthem protests began with 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the preseason. Several other players from other teams have joined him in various ways.

“Everybody wants to be a part of it and I feel like it's no different on our team,” Jenkins said Friday on 94 WIP. “We got guys, especially myself, who feel very strongly about the topic.”

Jenkins, one of the more respected Eagles in the locker room, said several players thought about protesting during the anthem in the opener but decided against it because of the anniversary of 9/11.

The next day, he clarified his comments and talked in greater detail about his plans in a 15-minute interview by his locker at the NovaCare Complex. 

There was a thought that the entire Eagles team would do something during the anthem together, but that didn’t happen.

Here’s what Jenkins said on Saturday, when asked about the importance of not causing a locker room divide by the protest:

“It’s important, but you obviously walk a fine line. Your goal is not to divide people but the goal is also not to beat around the bush. If it comes down to making somebody feel uncomfortable by speaking the truth, then I’d always make you uncomfortable with the truth than make you feel comfortable with a lie. It’s always a fine line to walk when you’re talking about a team atmosphere and making sure that your cognizant of the guys next to you, but at the same time, you know, this is bigger than football.”

If the entire team did do something together, head coach Doug Pederson said he would join as a sign of team unity. Jenkins spoke with Pederson last week and told him his plans.

“Malcolm, he’s a class act all the way,” Pederson said on Saturday. “He does a lot of things in the community here and he speaks out on a lot of things and he’s a great leader on this football team, and I appreciate him coming to me first and just letting me know.”

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Learning on the fly, Eagles’ interior DL needs to lead defense

Learning on the fly, Eagles’ interior DL needs to lead defense

As we’ve learned over the last four seasons, Jim Schwartz’s entire defense is predicated on getting pass rush from the front four. 

That won’t change in 2020.

Where that pass rush specifically comes from, however, might. 

Because after a year when the Eagles interior defensive line was completely demolished by injuries, the Eagles now boast an impressive group of defensive tackles that might just be the best in the entire league. 

It’s no secret: Those defensive tackles will need to be the engine that powers the defense in 2020. 

With us three healthy, and it being a really good rotation, that it should be really good for this team,” Fletcher Cox said on Wednesday. “… The defensive line, we have to be the group that leads this team. I’m really looking forward to it.

In 2019, the Eagles were forced to sign guys off the street to play next to their perennial Pro Bowler, Cox. But even Cox wasn’t his usual self last year after coming back from offseason toe surgery. 

In 2020? 

Cox is fully healthy and having a full offseason to prepare. Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway both return from injuries that ended their 2019 seasons early. And the Eagles went out and signed Javon Hargrave to a three-year, $39 million contact. This defensive line is legitimately four deep with guys who are starter caliber. 

“I think it’s a really good group,” Cox said. “It’ll be a solid group along with all the other guys that’s in the room that I played with last year. It’s a really solid group and I’m really looking forward to getting back to football with those guys, with Malik and [Javon] coming in. It’ll be a really good rotation, whatever we decide to do. I’m just excited for those guys.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains. Because obviously Cox is still the centerpiece of the defensive line and, really, the entire defense. But he hasn’t played much — or at all — with the three guys who will be playing next to him. 

Take a look: 

Cox and Hargrave: Have never played together 

Cox and Jackson: Have half a game together 

Cox and Ridgeway: Started five games together 

And with Jackson, that half of football came after a training camp where Cox was limited coming off injury. So Cox has the most experience with the defensive tackle who is expected to play the least. Hargrave is expected to be a starter and Jackson will be a rotational player who might play a lot of snaps at defensive end too. 

It’s going to take time for these guys to learn to play with one another. And this offseason is obviously an unusual one thanks to COVID-19. There were no OTAs and there’s an abbreviated training camp with no preseason games. 

“When Timmy (Jernigan) was here, it took a while for us to get on the same page,” Cox said. “You just don’t learn those things over night. I didn’t have a training camp with Malik. We only had like half of a game under our belt. We never really got into that same groove. It’s going to take some time. 

“I think the main thing for [Hargrave] is going out, playing fast, learning the defense, which he’s doing a really good job at, catching onto things that we do. The realest thing is just going out and getting the repetitions with him. It think it’s going to take a lot of repetition for him and me to get on the same page, a lot of communication. So far, so good.”

On paper, this is the best group of defensive tackles ever assembled with Cox. And Hargrave ought to be the best complement next to him we’ve ever seen, surpassing the likes of Jernigan and Bennie Logan. But we’ve got to see it first. 

The Eagles better hope these guys figure out how to play next to each other pretty quickly. The 2020 defense is relying on them. 

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Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

The Eagles on Friday released two players, including a defensive tackle who played in 11 games over the last two years and a Philadelphia native trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

The moves, along with the additions of Vinny Curry and Marcus Green, leave the roster right at the 80-man training camp limit.

The team released defensive tackle Bruce Hector and cornerback Prince Smith, an undrafted rookie who played at New Hampshire.

Hector originally made the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent out of South Florida in 2018. He bounced up and down between the active roster and the practice squad three times and played in eight games, with 82 defensive snaps and 19 more on special teams. 

Hector, 25, was with the team in last year’s preseason but was traded on Aug. 22 to the Cards in exchange for safety Rudy Ford. But when the Cards released him nine days later, he rejoined the Eagles on Sept. 1 on the practice squad. 

He had two more stints on the practice squad and two on the active roster last year, playing 53 defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps in three games. He was active for the Seattle playoff game and got five defensive snaps and seven on special teams.

After cutting ties with Hector, the Eagles have six defensive tackles remaining on the roster - Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and Anthony Rush, who were all with the team last year, Steelers free agent Javon Hargrave and undrafted rookie Raequan Williams.

Smith grew up in Philadelphia and played high school football at Imhotep Institute Charter in West Oak Lane. He signed with the Eagles on April 30, just after the draft.

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More on the Eagles