Eagles

Under Doug Pederson, much should change for Eagles — except special teams

Under Doug Pederson, much should change for Eagles — except special teams

The offense will huddle.

The defense is back to a 4-3.

The Eagles' special teams ... should remain the same.

Oftentimes when a new head coach comes in, he’ll bring in an entirely new coaching staff, replacing most, if not all, of the coordinators. But Doug Pederson chose to keep Dave Fipp around, and for good reason. 

“[Pederson] still lets Fipp do what Fipp’s done for the last three or four years,” special teams stalwart Trey Burton said Monday. “I don’t think anything has changed.”

Two players that haven't changed are returner Darren Sproles and punter Donnie Jones. Sproles has made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist the last two seasons. Jones in the last three years has become the franchise's record-holder in both net and gross punting average. 

In 2014, the Eagles’ special teams ranked No. 1 in the league, according to columnist Rick Gosselin, who annually ranks special teams for The Dallas Morning News.

That year, Sproles, kicker Cody Parkey and long-snapper Jon Dorenbos all made the Pro Bowl for special teams.

Last year, the Eagles finished second in punt return average (11.4) and sixth in net punting average (41.6). 

But special teams is more than just kickers and return men. The guys behind the scenes — guys like Burton, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman and Najee Goode — are what help make this unit so great.

Last year the Eagles recorded three special teams TDs and finished fifth in Gosselin's rankings.

“We were one of the top special teams in the league last year, so our main goal is to try to stay in the top five,” cornerback Denzel Rice said. “Our focus level is the same for the most part.”

Rice is on the cusp of cracking the Eagles' roster, so with seemingly more depth at the cornerback position, standing out on special teams may be his ticket to a roster spot.

“Special teams is special for a reason,” Rice said. “We have to hone in on our technique and our focus so that we can excel during the season.”

Burton has carved out a role on special teams after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He logged 420 special teams snaps last year, second most on the team behind Braman, and led the team in special teams tackles with 19.

“It’s extremely important,” Burton said. “In my scenario, I was the fourth tight end, so there was no chance of me playing on offense. You just have to understand your role and a lot of times it’s on special teams, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

It didn't take long to see special teams to make an impact this preseason. On the opening kickoff last Thursday against the Buccaneers, Goode punched the ball out, and Maragos recovered it inside the 20-yard line.

“I think it’s been really cool to see how [Pederson] values special teams,” Maragos said. “The importance of field position, he understands what our special teams unit can do from an explosive standpoint and helping our team win ballgames. He’s all on board, he gives us the time we need to go out there and practice.”

Jeff Lurie's production company announces Hitler documentary

Jeff Lurie's production company announces Hitler documentary

The timing is a coincidence. But it's a fascinating coincidence.

On Thursday afternoon, just days after Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson was condemned by the team for sharing "appalling" social media posts citing quotes he thought were from Hitler, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s new film production company announced the completion of a documentary, “The Meaning of Hitler.”

A release from Cinetic Media and Play/Action Pictures, a documentary film production company founded by Lurie, described the movie as “a provocative interrogation of our culture’s fascination with Hitler and Nazism set against the backdrop of the current rise of white supremacy, the normalization of antisemitism, and the weaponization of history itself.”

The movie has been in production for three years, the announcement of the film was planned several weeks ago, and the timing is a total coincidence. 

But the fact that Lurie, who is Jewish, has been working on this project for several years does give us an idea of how important this topic is to him and gives us a sense of how hurtful Jackson’s actions must have been to him.

The film is based on the award-winning 1978 book, “The Meaning of Hitler,” by Raimund Pretzel, who wrote under the pseudonym Sebastien Haffner. The book won several international awards, including the Wingate Literary Prize.

Lurie is listed as co-executive producer of the film along with Marie Therese Guirgis, who won the 2018 DuPont Award for Documentary Feature for On Her Shoulders.

Before he bought the Eagles in 1994, Lurie produced several movies, including Sweet Hearts Dance, I Love you to Death and V.I. Warshawksi. He’s won two Academy Awards - one as executive producer of Inside Job, which won Best Documentary in 2011, and another as executive producer of Inocente, which won Best Documentary Short Film in 2013.

According to the release from Lurie’s production company, the film took three years to produce and was filmed in nine countries. It was directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, who produced a series of acclaimed documentaries about the Iraqi war, and features contributions from numerous noted historians.

“As fears of authoritarianism and fascism now abound, the film explores the myths and misconceptions of our understanding of the past, and the difficult process of coming to terms with it at a time in our history when it seems more urgent than ever,” the release states.

“We couldn't be prouder that The Meaning of Hitler is the first completed film made by our new documentary production company, Play/Action Pictures,” Lurie said in a statement. “I envisioned Play/Action to be a leading creative force for films that engage with the most crucial and challenging issues of our time. The rise of white supremacy and neo-fascism in the United States and the world over are among the most important and serious threats we face today."

Lurie’s company is currently working on three other documentaries, including “Black Woodstock,” directed by Philly native Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson), an author, movie producer and drummer in the Roots.

The press release from Lurie’s production company does not mention Jackson.

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NFL rumors: League's nonsensical jersey rule rightly clowned by star players

NFL rumors: League's nonsensical jersey rule rightly clowned by star players

Pro sports leagues are trying to find ways to safely play games and entertain fans amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is obviously a tough and tall task.

But the NFL's latest proposed measure missed the mark... completely.

The league is looking to ban the popular post-game jersey swap tradition, according to NFL.com, as a proposed safety measure:

Under proposed NFL-NFLPA game-day protocols, teams would be forbidden from interactions within six feet of each other following games, and jersey exchanges between players would be prohibited, per sources informed of the situation.

If you think that sounds like a total waste of a rule, after the teams are engaged in hand-to-hand action for three hours, you're not alone.

Why the NFL feels the need to distance players after allowing them to breathe, sweat, and bleed on each other during a game is unclear. The league didn't provide an explanation.

Probably because there isn't one.

These are uncharted waters for sports leagues, and mistakes will be made, but sometimes it helps to just use common sense.

A few Eagles players were quick to point out the seeming absurdity of the rule on Twitter:

And a couple other star players from around the league chimed in as well:

Interestingly, NFL.com's Kevin Patra included this qualifier at the end of his story about the ban:

The proposed protocols are set to be in effect during any preseason action, if agreed to. As are all things during the pandemic, they're subject to change as the science, data and situations develop.

That sounds like the league already setting itself up to change the rule down the line, considering the initial reception from players. 

We'll see if it lasts an entire season.

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