During these extraordinary times, Head Coach Doug Pederson wanted an extraordinary group of players to serve as team captains for the 2020 season, to provide leadership not only on the field and in the locker room, but to represent the franchise. With that, the Eagles have eight captains for the year, including two players who have made an impact in a short period of time to gain recognition from the head coach.
The offensive captains for 2020 are familiar names – quarterback Carson Wentz, center Jason Kelce, and left tackle Jason Peters. On defense, the captains are defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, along with safety Rodney McLeod. And then on special teams, the captains are Duke Riley and Craig James, two players who joined the Eagles in 2019 and have asserted themselves quickly.
"It's a little bit of a different approach this year," Pederson said on Wednesday morning shortly after informing the players at the daily team meeting. "It is important to me to select players who are great leaders, who are going to be captains all year. I felt like these gentlemen represented what we're looking for in the way they've worked so hard and led the way for the team on and off the field. It's a group I'm proud to call our captains for the season."
James, signed by the Eagles to the practice squad last September, played 69 defensive snaps at cornerback last season and had his most notable moment preserving the win at Lambeau Field by tipping an Aaron Rodgers pass that linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted in the end zone in the final minute of the game. James also stood out on special teams, and this summer elevated his game, earned a contract extension through 2021, and is expected to play a key role in the defense's cornerback rotation.
"Craig is a nice young player for us who came on last year," Pederson said. "He really has put himself in a position to not only help on special teams, but on defense this season."
Riley was acquired in a trade from Atlanta last September and eased his way into the defense at linebacker while making himself a crucial member of Dave Fipp's special teams. He was named a special teams captain for the playoffs. Riley is expected to increase his involvement in the defense this season along with remaining a leader on special teams.
"He's come in and solidified himself as a four-core special teams player," Pederson said. "He's the leader of that group. Fipp relies on him each and every week. Duke is a rotational starter on defense at linebacker and he's really has come a long way. He's the guy who brings energy to the special teams."
The gameday protocol will be different for 2020. While all eight players will leave the Eagles' sideline together and walk toward the middle of the field, only one player from each team will be permitted to actually take part in the pregame coin toss. The other seven players for the Eagles, Pederson said, will stay somewhere around the numbers on the field as a group.
"It's different, like everything else, but you have to adjust and adapt," Pederson said. "What's important is that these are our eight captains and I think it's a great group."