Alumni Alley runs throughout the season on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and features a former Eagle who writes about his time in Philadelphia and his perspective after his NFL career ended. This week: Former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson, who played for the Eagles from 2003 through 2011 after he was signed as an undrafted rookie from Delaware State. Follow Jamaal on Twitter: @CenterStage67*
It's been fun to watch this Eagles team mature throughout the season and get into a position to win the NFC East division. It's time to finish it off, and that can be something that's hard for a young team to do.
When I played, we were usually in the midst of making a run at this time in the season. We were positioning ourselves for the playoffs, and we learned to do it well down the stretch. Head coach Andy Reid did a great job backing off on us after a long Training Camp and a long season. Our practices were shorter. We spent more time watching film and doing mental prep work, rather than going out and exhausting ourselves on the field. It paid off for us in December.
The Eagles have a lot going on for Sunday. A 1 p.m. game has been moved to 8:30 p.m., so the players are going to spend the day in the hotel relaxing and, I'm sure, paying attention to the Dallas-Washington game. Some guys just love watching football, so they will watch. Some guys will ignore the game, but it's almost impossible not to know the results. It's important to focus on one thing – beating the Chicago Bears.
By the time I started playing on a regular basis we understood how to win and how to finish a season. It's something that every team has to learn, so these are important games for the Eagles.
I love watching it all come together. Chip Kelly has these guys playing great offensive football. The system is so fast. I love the tempo and from staying in touch with Todd Herremans and Tra Thomas, I know the players have bought in to what Coach Kelly wants. I know that Jason Kelce loves being the center in this offense. It's perfect for what the Eagles have.
Sunday is going to be a fun day. The fans are going to be on top of what's happening with the Cowboys, and then the Bears are in for the 8:30 game. I miss times like this. I would love to be out there playing, but I have no complaints. Life is great. I have young children and I'm trying to figure this parenting thing out. It's a lot of fun and it's gratifying.
But I know how the players are feeling right now. There's a lot of excitement. You get to this point in late December and the games are different. They mean more. The playoffs are right there.
Now it is a matter of finishing for the Eagles, whether that happens on Sunday night or in Dallas the following week. The Eagles have to learn to close, because once they do that, they're going to understand what it's like to be a big-time team in this league.