It was a slower week in South Philadelphia as the Eagles navigated their first-round bye. When Wild Card Weekend kicks off on Saturday, the Eagles will be home awaiting their Divisional Round opponent. There were two padded practices this week – guys were loose, energy was high. I'll take you inside the locker room and around the NovaCare Complex as the Birds get ready for postseason ball.
'THE BEST DUO IN THE LEAGUE'
Wide receiver DeVonta Smith concluded his rookie season in 2021 with 64 receptions, 916 yards, and five touchdowns. In Year 2, Smith has eclipsed over 1,000 receiving yards and set the record for most receptions by a wide receiver in franchise history with 95.
Smith was on a steady climb throughout 2022, but he certainly hit a late-season surge. In Weeks 15-17, Smith stacked three-straight 100+ yard games. Quarterback Jalen Hurts said Smith has always been a good player and he, paired with A.J. Brown, has created complementary football – lending to the receivers soaring this season.
"They've been, I think, the best duo in the league, and they showed that in the back half of the season for sure how they've been able to make plays," Hurts said. "I think they feed off of each other, they give this whole entire offense energy, and we're gonna need big-time ball from them."
PRIMED FOR THIS MOMENT
Last year at this time, rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis had just won a National Championship at the University of Georgia and would begin preparing for the NFL Draft. Twelve months later, Davis is just over a week away from his first NFL playoff experience.
Davis said the bye week is a great opportunity to work on the mind, body, and soul – to remember what makes this team great. He also said not knowing their opponent allows the players to focus internally, quoting his college coach Kirby Smart, "It doesn't really matter who's in front of us. It's a faceless opponent."
You would never know he was a rookie based on his mature mindset and sincere understanding of how big the stage is. It's as if he played in the SEC under the brightest lights in college football.
"Definitely, the atmosphere in college is great, but I just feel like the NFL is a little bit different," Davis said. "I'm excited to see for myself. I'm grateful to be in this position, to see actually, because I know a lot of my teammates from last year – some of them don't have the opportunity to play in the playoffs. Definitely grateful for the opportunity."
THE JOURNEY TO NOW
The Eagles were winning before the season began. The various moves Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman made to beef up the roster through free agency have proven to be some of his best work to date.
Two players signed in the offseason that have become integral parts of the 2022 squad are linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry.
In one season in Philadelphia, Reddick has become one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL with 16 sacks and a league-leading five forced fumbles. Although it's a bye week, it's been an exciting time for the defensive wrecking ball: He won NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors and was announced as a second-team All-Pro selection.
On Friday, Reddick expressed immense gratitude and appreciation for the various honors. "It's been a hard couple years trying to get there – get some type of recognition – just finally getting something, it means a lot to get to this point."
Reddick said he's just taking these victories as they come, but has his mind set on team goals. Perhaps with some downtime, he'll be able to give thought to what he's accomplished throughout the regular season.
"We're preparing right now to make a playoff run and try to win our way into the Super Bowl," said Reddick. "I'll have some time this weekend to really think about it and reflect on it and send out mass texts out to everyone that I'm appreciative of – I'll soak in the accomplishments this weekend."
Reddick joked that it's nice not cleaning out his locker this time of year. "Usually, I'm planning what trip I'm about to go on."
For Bradberry, he was also named second-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. "Feels great, simple as that," Bradberry commented at his locker. "I wouldn't be able to get the accolade without my teammates," he continued, crediting the front seven who "dominated" this year.
I'd say Howie Roseman hit a home run this offseason, and the Eagles are reaping the benefits in January.
FLYING INTO THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
Four former Eagles were named to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class this past weekend: Brian Westbrook, Troy Vincent, Jeremy Maclin, and Tim Tebow.
Westbrook spent eight seasons in Philadelphia and retired an Eagle in 2012. In the early 2000s, the running back became a household name, cementing himself as a Philadelphia legend. He's the first Villanova player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
Vincent was in Philadelphia from 1996-2003, overlapping briefly with Westbrook. The defensive back was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro throughout his NFL career.
Maclin, an Eagle for five seasons, was the last Philly wide receiver to go for 1,000 receiving yards until A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith did so this season.
Tebow was named a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was with the Eagles through Training Camp and the preseason in 2015.
This group will officially be inducted during the 65th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 5, 2023 in Las Vegas, in addition to recognition at their respective universities throughout the fall.