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Which Eagles are playing more for themselves than the team?

I don’t think we have that problem this year. Guys who are more obsessed with personal stats than team victories don’t seem to fit in here anymore.

You look over the draft and free-agent signings from this past offseason, and I think you will find a very healthy mix of team-oriented egos.

For example, backup QB Nick Foles publicly came out and said he hopes starting QB Carson Wentz will break his team record of 27 TD tosses with only 2 INT’s which Foles set a few years back in the Chippah era…

I like that kind of brotherhood…

Torrey Smith has been busy teaching his young daughter the Eagles Fight Song… that is a beautiful thing.

Selfishness it seems has been purged out of the Eagles system.

The real test is when adversity strikes—and it sometimes rears its ugly head when you least expect it, when everything once looked great on paper.

It’s the human nature of the sport and the business. Suddenly you find yourselves at 2-5 as a team…maybe the little devil on your right shoulder tells you it’s time to take a few plays off.

I know what that temptation is. Sure, I never played anything close to pro ball, but I experienced taking a play off at the youth league level. It was a 12-15 league in Montclair, New Jersey. I was playing at cover-2 safety when the running back on a 3rd-and-7 play suddenly came into my coverage zone after beating our slot corner and linebacker on a wheel route. I had already given up on the play assuming the corner and/or the linebacker had him. Oh, did I mention we were losing 21-6 at the time?

The guy flies into my side of the field. I am the last man standing. Because I had basically already taken the play off, I am at least three steps behind in the coverage. Rather than taking the early angle on the kid and forcing the sideline issue, I have to sprint to catch up. He’s side-by-side with me and I foolishly try to push him out of bounds.  Ooops! He flips into an extra gear and blasts past me on the outside. I end up on the ground eating the clods of dirt flying off his cleats as he rambles 30 more yards for the score.

I was a bad player on a bad team. I took a play off because I was more concerned about myself than my team’s chances to come back from a deficit.

Like I said at the top, I don’t think we have that kind of mental defect in any of the veteran or rookie Eagles this year.

That’s a testament to the emphasis on high character that has been a hallmark of Eagles personnel management since— well, I hate to admit it, but since Chip Kelly had his 3-year stay here.

Back in 2012 there was a player named Jerel Worthy (defensive tackle) who was drafted by the Packers after they traded up with the Eagles to get him, this despite concerns Worthy’s effort level wasn’t always up to par at Michigan State.

Worthy essentially admitted that he took plays off—routinely.

“The film speaks for itself,” Worthy said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “People criticize and say I may take a play off here or there; but there’s nobody in the NFL game today or college or all the way down to pee-wee who plays every play full speed, full-go without getting tired. It’s impossible.”

“All I can say is I’m going to come in and try to continue to work to be a lot more consistent, and I’m going to be a lot more consistent,” Worthy said. “That’s going to be my goal. The plays that showed up in the highlight tape, that’s the same plays that I’m going to transfer up to the NFL and do it on a consistent basis.”

Counterpoint to the taking-off plays thing:

When Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was asked this year at the NFL Combine if he ever takes plays off to conserve energy, he almost looked like he’d been offended.

“You do that you won’t be playing at Alabama, I promise you that,” he said.

Later, a similar question was posed to then-Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. It was understandable. Whispers that Garrett’s motor sometimes idled came up during a junior season (8.5 sacks) that wasn’t spectacular like the two before it (22.5 combined sacks). There was a high-ankle sprain that caused him to miss two games and get limited playing time in a couple others, but the narrative persisted, especially after a lackluster performance against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.

So, was the criticism of the consensus All-American and potential No. 1 pick warranted?

“I know I’m getting after the ball when I can,” Garrett said. “Sometimes I’m not 100 percent running out there but I’m going to get after the passer or trying to run down the running back. Just trying to do what I can to make a play. Nobody is 100 percent every play, you know, eight, nine plays down the drive. Sometimes you do look back at it and say, ‘Dang, I could have given more effort there or I loafed it a little.’ But you work on those things.”

Hmmmm…

I just don’t feel that kind of la-de-da thinking in this year’s Eagles’ class.

It’s more like Hungry For the Good Things kinda feeling… I think the entire roster takes its motivational cue from the leadership of a young QB named Wentz. Funny how that works sometimes. I think Carson Wentz could have somehow motivated Jason Babin to perform unselfishly too had he been back there in the 2012 mix.

No, this current roster has the feel of overachieving as opposed to underachieving. Part of the reason for that is the big-name guys who are still here truly feel they are getting a fair deal.

And we have Practice Notes from Camp yesterday provided by PE.com to illustrate the premise that nobody is taking plays off:

1. “The biggest takeaway for me today was second-year linebacker Joe Walker. A 2016 seventh-round pick who missed his rookie year with a torn ACL suffered late last August, Walker looked like he was going to make the opening 53-man roster before his injury. A year later, the athletic linebacker stood out on the second day of camp, and it was apparent from the jump. Practice started with special teams individual drills, with a host of players practicing one by one on their ability to block on the kickoff return team. Walker, by my eyes, was the most impressive of the day, looking explosive, violent, and stout at the point of attack (veteran Ron Brooksand rookie Rasul Douglas also flashed during this drill).

“I’m feeling good. It’s good to be back out there. It was a long break from the football field, so I’m feeling good,” Walker said. “Mentally, I feel very good. Day 1 was to kind of break the rust away. I’m getting more comfortable every day.”

“In the last practice session of the day, Walker was integral to two interceptions down in the red zone. On the first, Walker got the defense lined up as the middle linebacker, helping fellow second-year player Don Cherry get lined up just before the snap. The ball was knocked up into the air, and Walker outleaped rookie defensive back Randall Goforth for the interception. Brooks, clearly impressed by the feat and maybe with a little bit of good-natured jabbing at Goforth, turned to the media and said, “Write that down, (Goforth) got out jumped by a linebacker.” Goforth shouldn’t feel too bad, however, because Walker was known as an outstanding athlete coming out of Oregon last spring, as his Pro Day test scores resulted in him being one of the most prolific athletes at the linebacker position in the last decade coming out of college.

“Just a few plays later, Walker helped create another interception, this time for Cherry. Quarterback Dane Evans put a pass right on the hands of rookie Greg Ward, but Walker got to the catch point at the same time, helping to knock the ball into the air for Cherry to pick the pass off to end practice. – Fran Duffy”

2.” Wentz looked sharp again on Tuesday, outside of one near-interception down in the red zone. In the first 7-on-7 period of the session, he hit Ward over the middle for a short gain before putting a pass right on the numbers to rookie Donnel Pumphrey in the flat, just out of reach of linebacker Nate Gerry. Pumphrey was very active in the passing game on Tuesday, as he moved all around the formation. Wentz finished the drive with a completion to second-year receiver Marcus Johnson on a shallow crossing route. The two hooked up again later in the day for a touchdown on a corner route, a throw that Wentz placed just between two defenders on the money along the sideline for a score. – FD”

3.”Backup quarterback Nick Foles took the reins from there, hitting Ward on a wheel route deep downfield. It was another impressive day for Ward, the former quarterback-turned-receiver. – FD”

4. “The interception by Cherry to end the morning was his second pick of the day, as he made a diving interception earlier in practice on a pass thrown behind rookie Mack Hollins on a deep curl route.

“Coach (Ken) Flajole is super-specific and always says, ‘The devil is in the details.’ It’s the little things that he talks about that I pick up on that make the difference between making an interception and being a second short,” Cherry said. – FD”

5. “Quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Dane Evans both threw a couple of picks on the day, but they finished on a high note. McGloin hit second-year receiver David Watford for a touchdown on a corner route over rookie safety Tre Sullivan, while Evans hit Hollins right on the money on a post route late in practice. It was a great route by Hollins, who was matched up on cornerback Rasul Douglas, as Hollins waited until the very last moment to break the route off, and Evans hit Hollins right in stride for the score. – FD”

6.” Sullivan did come up with an easy interception of his own in the first 7-on-7 drill as Evans badly overthrew Hollins on a deep pass down the right seam. – Chris McPherson”

7.” One area where Hollins needs to improve is in attacking the football. Hollins had a step on cornerback Jomal Wiltz in the back right corner of the end zone. The pass from Foles was a little high, but Hollins looked to track the ball in rather than use his 6-4 frame. – CM”

8. “ Douglas spoke to the media following Monday’s practice about how he used the time before Training Camp to study the playbook. It looks like the hard work has paid off early on. Douglas appears very comfortable in the scheme, able to communicate to his fellow defensive backs with ease on the field. This is a good sign for a rookie who could play a significant role early in his career. – CM”

 

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