Isaac Seumalo

5 unsung heroes from Eagles’ last quarter push to playoffs

5 unsung heroes from Eagles’ last quarter push to playoffs

The Eagles took care of business in the last quarter of their season, winning the last four games on their schedule to clinch the NFC East. 

Plenty of players have been very deserving of praise and have gotten it. Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins, Sidney Jones, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert and Greg Ward have all been praised. 

But here’s a list of five other players who have meant a lot to the team during the winning streak but have flown under the radar: 

Tim Jernigan 

Earlier this season, Jernigan missed six games with a foot injury but he’s been back now since the game before the bye week and he’s made a big difference. Jernigan is never going to be a big sack guy but he’s getting solid pressure and giving Fletcher Cox a decent player next to him. 

“Timmy has been really on the rise and has been playing some impactful ball for us over these last few weeks,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “And we're going to need it. We got a tough chance ahead of us, not only stopping the run game, but trying to affect the quarterback.”

Jernigan has dealt with injuries throughout his time with the Eagles, dating back to 2017. But we’re starting to get a reminder of what a healthy Jernigan can do. 

Josh Perkins 

While Scott and Ward have gotten most of the headlines, Perkins has really helped too. He’s a tight end who also plays receiver for the Eagles. Remember, he didn’t even make the roster out of training camp because the Eagles elected to keep Alex Ellis instead. 

But all of Perkins’ offensive snaps have come in the last four games. He has played 128 in four weeks and had nine catches for 87 yards and a huge touchdown against the Giants. He’s played well. 

Anthony Rush 

Early this season, the defensive tackle position was a mess, but it has shored up recently. The combo of Cox, Jernigan, Rush and Bruce Hector has been getting the job done. Rush is a rookie out of UAB. He was with the Eagles during the spring and didn’t come back to the Eagles until Oct. 21. Since then, he’s played 152 defensive snaps and has played fairly well. 

Nigel Bradham 

Bradham hasn’t had a great season. Earlier in the year, he missed some time with a high ankle sprain and maybe it took him some time to recover. But recently he’s played much better. Probably not enough to warrant exercising his option after the season, but he’s been pretty good recently. 

Bradham had 10 tackles against the Giants, 5 tackles and a TFL against Dallas, a touchdown against Washington and 4 tackles and a PD against the Giants the first time around. 

Isaac Seumalo 

Jason Kelce has played every offensive snap this season but Seumalo is right behind him. The Eagles’ starting left guard has played 1,181 of 1,183 snaps this season. Sure, he had a terrible game against the Falcons in Week 2 but he’s been mostly fine since then. Is he a Pro Bowler? No. But he’s been solid and in recent weeks, he’s been a big part of the screen game. That’s where we see his ability to get downfield and let his athleticism take over.

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Isaac Seumalo has settled after disastrous game a couple weeks ago

Isaac Seumalo has settled after disastrous game a couple weeks ago

Since his disastrous performance in Atlanta on Sept. 15, it has been a quiet couple of weeks for Isaac Seumalo.

Quiet is good.

It means he’s doing his job.

After he gave up six hurries and two sacks to the Falcons in Week 2, Seumalo vowed to learn from his mistakes. He vowed to get better. And he has.

“Every player has a game or two that they don’t feel like they played very well in or they could have done better in,” Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said this week.

“I think Isaac feels that way in that particular game. He could have done some things better. I love the way Isaac responds, though. I love the way he learns from that experience and that time, takes it to the next game. That only made him better. Believe me. Our players have a lot of respect and a lot of confidence in Isaac and his game.”

Unlike in 2017, when he was benched after a similarly bad game in Week 2, the Eagles didn’t bench him this time. Instead, they stuck with their former third-round pick and have watched him play better over the last two weeks.

That’s incredibly good news for the Eagles, who are really counting on Seumalo this year. After Seumalo put together a really good offseason, they were expecting big things. And this year, they don’t have a backup with as much experience as when they had Stefen Wisniewski on the roster. This is Seumalo’s job.  

I asked Stoutland if Seumalo would have been able to respond from a terrible game like this just a few years ago and he said he didn’t know, but he knows now.

What does Seumalo think?

“Probably not.”

That’s something I had to learn,” he continued. “It sucks you have to learn it. You have to go through s----- situations to play better and learn from it, but it’s just kind of the way of the world. If this game was easy, you’d see everybody doing it. It’s one thing to get into the NFL; it’s another to be a really good player. That’s always what I’m striving for, especially playing next to these four other guys.

It’s worth noting that Seumalo is the only player on the Eagles’ offensive line who has never been named to a Pro Bowl team. The other four starting offensive linemen have a combined 15 Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro selections. That’s a high standard.

Before this season, on the Eagle Eye podcast, we each gave a bold prediction. Mine was that Seumalo would become a Pro Bowler this year. My thinking was that Seumalo had greatly improved, was getting talked up by every player I spoke with (on and off the record) and would be a part of a dynamic offense and a good team. That bold prediction still doesn’t look good right now (I’ll own it), but at least Seumalo hasn’t let one bad game spiral into a bad season.

It’s sort of two-sided. On one hand, it’s great that Seumalo responded after a terrible game. On the other hand, he’s in Year 4 and terrible games like that shouldn’t happen.

While there was a spotlight on Seumalo after his performance in Atlanta, his process didn’t really change. Sure, he wanted to learn from the tape, but he also wanted to move on. That’s his mentality after every game — good or bad.

That has been his process for the last couple of years and he thinks it has helped.

“It’s obviously more dramatic when it’s a bad game,” Seumalo said. “But when you have a good game too, you have to move on. You know what I mean?”

Stoutland raved about Seumalo this week. He raved about him in the run game, as a pass protector and as an intelligent piece of the offensive line capable of being a problem-solver on the field.

That support from Stoutland means a lot to Seumalo.  

“He knows,” Seumalo said. “He knows I’m a good player and I’m a guy you can trust out there at any position. He knew, I knew, that the Atlanta thing wasn’t me. It’s the exception, not the standard.”

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Eagles need that type of performance from offensive line every week

Eagles need that type of performance from offensive line every week

They kept their quarterback clean. They opened running lanes. They were in control.  

We saw a dominant game from the Eagles’ offensive line on Thursday night in a much-needed 34-27 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field. Dominant. They finally looked like the unit that ProFootballFocus said was the best in the NFL heading into the 2019 season. 

Now, that is the type of performance the Eagles need from their O-line every week. 

“I think as a group they played extremely well,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “This was a good defensive front that they played against — 55 (Za’Darius Smith), 91 (Preston Smith), those guys are good players and they did a nice job against them.

“And then it's just a mindset. Going into these games, short week, probably feeling a little bit of pressure of trying to perform and win a game, as we all did probably going into the game. They blocked their tails off and allowed no sacks. They did a great job.”

For the first time all season, all five members of the Eagles’ offensive line played every snap (62 on Thursday), a feat they struggled to accomplish last season. 

They didn’t allow a sack against the Packers and gave up just two QB hits on Carson Wentz. 

In Wentz’s career, he’s now 6-0 when he doesn’t get sacked. And he’s 13-2 when he’s sacked one or fewer times. Two of those games are the Eagles’ two wins this season. (In their two losses in 2019, they’ve given up three sacks in each.) 

The Eagles also rushed for 176 yards on 33 carries behind great run blocking from the five guys up front. 

“I think we have found our identity,” Lane Johnson said. 

It turns out that when the Eagles’ offensive line has dominant performances, they’re dominant in both phases. In those 15 games when Wentz has been sacked one or fewer times, the Eagles have also been able to run the ball. They are averaging 144.3 yards per game in those 15 contests, compared to 102.9 yards per game in their 37 other games since the start of the 2016 season. 

And when the O-line has a game like they did on Thursday night, the Eagles probably aren’t going to lose. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, the Eagles are 7-0 when they rush for 176 yards and don’t give up a sack. 

The Eagles boast four Pro Bowlers in their five positions on the offensive line and Pederson was quick to point out that Isaac Seumalo (the only one without a Pro Bowl on his resume) bounced back from an awful performance in Atlanta two weeks ago. 

Sure, the Eagles have plenty of talented skill players on offense. They can be a dangerous offensive team. But make no mistake about it: the strength of this offense is supposed to be its offensive line. 

They need more dominant performances like the one we saw Thursday night. 

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