Sat, 23 Jan 2021

Veteran ironmen serve as a lesson for young Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles
25 Nov 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

The saying in the NFL is that it's one thing to make it this level - very difficult, understood - but it's something entirely different to stick around. And for a pair of Eagles who, when they finish the game at their discretion, will go down as a pair of the greatest ever in franchise history, Monday's game against Seattle marks significant milestones.

For center Jason Kelce, a start on Monday night will mark his 100th consecutive regular-season start - the longest active streak among NFL centers. We last saw Kelce gutting his way through Sunday's loss in Cleveland after taking a shot to his left elbow and wearing a brace on the elbow to play in the second half. Kelce has been voted to the Pro Bowl three times and has also been a three-time All-Pro, and his place among the all-time greats in the NFL at his position is well established. The toughness part of it, and the durability part, is also to be applauded.

"It's a physical game and you have to prepare yourself for that," Kelce told me earlier in the year. "I love the game; I love the competition. I prepare the right way and, let's be honest, you have to be a little bit lucky out there, too. I'm just fortunate that I've been in the game as long as I have and I'm enjoying every bit of it and I'm appreciative of it as well."

Considering that Kelce, who was named the team's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2013 after missing 14 games with a knee injury in 2012, also started the last 38 games of his career at the University of Cincinnati, and you understand what an ironman he truly is.

The same can be said for defensive end Brandon Graham, who is two games away from tying former defensive end Trent Cole (155 games, 2005-14) for the most games played by a defensive lineman in Eagles history. Only three Eagles defenders have played more games - safety Brian Dawkins (183), linebacker Chuck Bednarik (169), and safety Randy Logan (159).

Let that be a lesson for all young Eagles players: It's great that you're here, that you've made the NFL. Sticking around and playing at a high level for year after year? That's the true mark of greatness.

1. Former Eagles cornerback Eric Allen on Tuesday was named for the first time a semifinalist for the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class. He's a member of the Eagles Hall of Fame and was voted by the fans as a member of the franchise's 75th Anniversary Team. A six-time Pro Bowl player in his career, Allen played seven seasons in Philadelphia and was voted into five Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro three times. He is tied for the franchise record with 34 career interceptions.

"I played the game the way players are asked to play it now," he said when we spoke in October as Allen was named a Microsoft Teams Eagles Legend of the Week. "Go get the football. Be tactical. I think my game would have translated well to now. Even then, hey, we all had opportunities. It was a blessing to come in under (former Head Coach) Buddy Ryan, who I think should be in the Hall of Fame. We had Reggie (White) and Clyde (Simmons) and all of those guys, so there were chances for us to get the football. I thrived in that environment. I loved Philadelphia. I think about it all the time, my playing days there. And it's because of the fan base. They reach out to me all the time and remind me of those great times."

2. Doug Pederson on what has happened with the Eagles offense: "Well, the last couple of weeks, there have been turnovers in the red zone, there have been penalties that have kept us out of the red zone. We haven't had as many drives that have gotten us into the red zone and the third downs. We're 2-for-21 in the last two games. If you're not staying on the field, you don't give yourself a chance. And, of course, if you're turning the ball over, you don't give yourself a chance. That's the two areas that have been addressed, that are going to continue to be addressed, and we've got to fix them."

3. No. 2 quarterback Jalen Hurts will play the role of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson this week as the defense prepares for Monday night's game against the Seahawks. Coordinator Jim Schwartz, of course, is familiar with Wilson, who is 5-0 with eight touchdown passes and one interception against the Eagles in his career (including playoffs), and always does damage with his legs.

"A lot of those escapes, he would give ground and things like that," Schwartz said on Tuesday. "I thought in our playoff game last year, we had one play we were in zone coverage and our linebackers are trying to get depth under these deep, play-action routes and Russell Wilson saw that and scrambled, I don't remember how many yards it was, seemed like it was about 50 but it was probably like 25 or 30. You have to keep track of him at all times. It's not just your pass rush. It's every layer of your defense and vision because not only can he scramble for yards, but he can keep things alive and make plays like we talked about before to (D.K.) Metcalf or any of those other guys. He's great at finding open guys when he's scrambling around. Adds another layer. I'm sure Jalen will give us a good look at that. That's in his skill set."

4. In a five-week span, wide receiver Travis Fulgham caught 29 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns and he was the team's go-to receiver and one of the most productive in the entire NFL. In the last two weeks he's caught two passes for 16 yards. Where has his production gone? What has happened to Fulgham in this offense? Pederson explains.

"He's been our top receiver, so teams have taken their best corner and matched him up over there or they've done some things different in coverage and so he has to understand that anytime that he gets challenged defensively that way, he should take it as respect and rise up to the occasion," Pederson said. "And we need to help him, I need to help him, maybe a little bit in play call and play design to get him in space and free some things up. He's still a big part of what we do and Carson (Wentz) still has a lot of faith in him and trust and he'll continue to improve."

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