It took a while for Stefen Wisniewski to see some meaningful football games in December.
In his first six seasons in the NFL (four with the Oakland Raiders, one with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and one with the Eagles), Wisniewski never played on a team that finished with a winning percentage greater than .500. Only twice did he play on a team with more than five wins.
But that changed suddenly in 2017.
The left guard anchored an Eagles offensive line that won the NFL’s Offensive Line of the Year Award on the way to his first playoff appearance and a Super Bowl title. Now, Wisniewski comes into Training Camp with an entirely different outlook on the upcoming season.
“It’s honestly more exciting,” Wisniewski said. “I know we have a really good team here. My expectations are high, personally, and I know as a team we have high expectations, and it’s honestly much more exciting knowing that you’re going into a season with a legitimate shot to compete for a Super Bowl.”
Wisniewski, who primarily played center in Oakland and Jacksonville, switched and started 11 games at left guard after serving mainly as a reserve at the position in 2016. Although 2017 was one of his best seasons individually, Wisniewski has remained team-first, choosing to focus more on the impressive performance of the offensive line as a whole.
“It’s really fun,” Wisniewski said. “A lot of work goes into it but the work’s fun when you have a bunch of guys that have good attitudes, who are working hard, and genuinely trying to get better every day. There’s just a lot of talented guys here so it’s a fun group to play with and I’m excited to get another year with these guys.
“It’s a great group of guys,” he added. “We laugh a lot, make fun of each other, we have fun, but when it’s time to work we know it’s time to work.”
The award-winning line allowed the Eagles’ offense to finish third in the regular season in rushing yards and points per game. For this season, Wisniewski said the goal is to build upon those numbers and allow a potentially dangerous offense to thrive.
“We want to be one of the best rushing teams in the league,” Wisniewski said. “I think we were top five last year. We’re definitely trying to do that again, and then we always want to keep the quarterbacks clean. So, keep the sacks limited, keep the hits and pressure limited as well.”
Wisniewski has also stepped into a newer role as a veteran leader and teacher to the younger players. During practice at the NovaCare Complex, Wisniewski can be seen practicing one-on-one battles off to the side of the offensive line drills, critiquing footwork and positioning after several hits.
“I try to help anyone I can,” Wisniewski said. “Guys like Chance (Warmack), Isaac (Seumalo), Darrell (Greene), whoever wants to ask a question, I’m willing to answer. I learned things from (Jason) Kelce, Kelce learned things from me and (Brandon) Brooks, same thing. We’re always teaching each other, helping each other. I think that kind of cooperative atmosphere has really helped everyone on the O-line to get better.”
And that cooperative atmosphere will be crucial for the offensive line’s success in 2018. As defending Super Bowl Champions, a target will undoubtedly be placed on the Eagles’ backs throughout the year. But after a breakout 2017 season, a lot of that attention will be focused on the Eagles' talented line.
That doesn’t seem to worry Wisniewski at all.
“I don’t think it changes anything for us,” Wisniewski said. “We set our own expectations, and we’re not really worried too much about what anybody else is thinking. We know what we’re capable of and we have a very high standard that we set for ourselves, and that’s the standard we’re accountable to.”