The NFC Champions are deep into Super Bowl preparations before heading west to Arizona. The biggest stage in all of football awaits the Philadelphia Eagles who assembled purely dominant performances throughout the playoffs. I'll take you inside the locker room and around the NovaCare Complex as a desert battle with the Chiefs is on the horizon.
MADE IN PHILADELPHIA
Ten of the Eagles' 11 offensive starters who will take the field in Super Bowl LVII have all been drafted by the organization. The NFL Draft is a tough business – talent evaluations and selecting the best pieces to your puzzle is just the beginning. Not all prospects are going to unfold the way you hope, but over the years here in Philadelphia, the coaching staff has found a way to develop young talent. And not only develop talent, but cultivate players with longevity and poise to make a Super Bowl run.
"I think what the Eagles pride themselves on is finding raw talent, especially in the later rounds," said left tackle Jordan Mailata, who was a rugby player-turned offensive tackle, selected in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. "They love to develop players that can be cornerstones in that position and in the locker room for generations to come. They've put great people in power such as Howie (Roseman, Executive Vice President/General Manager) to find those guys, his scouting team, and then the coaches."
The oldest player on the offense, center Jason Kelce, was selected by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Since then, he's cemented himself as one of the best centers to ever play the game – a Super Bowl Champion, six-time Pro Bowl selection, and five-time first-team All-Pro.
Then there's wide receiver DeVonta Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner and top-10 draft pick. There are high expectations for a player like Smith – with all the college success, awards, and accolades comes the pressure of living up to the "hype." The 2022 season was highly productive for Smith's second year in the NFL, recording 1,196 receiving yards.
"Shows the faith that they have in us to draft us here to keep us here," Smith said. "Everybody just coming in, living up to the expectations and things like that." Smith keeps it simple. And I think it's safe to say he's been a home-run draft pick.
Players like Mailata, tight end Dallas Goedert, and quarterback Jalen Hurts had to sit back and learn before their opportunity came their way. Mailata said it's all about being a good student, mental reps, taking notes in class, and buying into the process.
It's been a long process for many of these homegrown players, but it will be worth it if they're lifting the Lombardi Trophy next week.
THE ROAD TO 57
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have played in the Super Bowl in three of the last four years. They are accustomed to the bright lights and big stage. Although there is young talent on this Eagles team, they'll stick to what has worked for them all season long, staying focused on the task at hand.
Defensive end Brandon Graham said he always believed he would get to one Super Bowl – it took him eight years to get to the first one. But two? He said seeing the offseason moves that were made that he knew this group had a shot after a strong Training Camp.
"All it was, was our consistency to just want to be better every day. And it's been working and Coach (Nick Sirianni) definitely led the way," Graham said.
Cornerback Darius Slay has spent 10 years in the NFL, and this will be his first trip to the Super Bowl. He says this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
"Ten years. It took me that long, but I'm here now. I'm ready for the opportunity," Slay said. "I'm going to go out there and give it my all like always. And the outcome should be what I want it to be."
He shared that he feels blessed to have ended up in Philadelphia. It was for moments like these.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a 13-year veteran, won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011. He's been here before, and he's committed to having ongoing conversations with the younger players to keep them focused.
"Day by day, one step at a time," Joseph said. "Understand this is a great opportunity, don't want to pass it up, and just be calm, cool, and collected, and enjoy the moment."
PACKING CONFIDENCE FOR ARIZONA
The Eagles' defense stacked dominant performances throughout the playoffs, allowing just 14 total points, fewer than 200 total rushing yards, and eight team sacks across two games. This defense always knew they were good, it just took the rest of the league time to realize it.
Their two postseason performances have bred confidence amongst the group heading to Arizona, but they also know the challenge that lies ahead with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.
"We always go into the game with confidence," Slay said. "But they are a high-powered offense – Future Hall of Fame quarterback, future Hall of Fame tight end. They got a lot of weapons around them, so you have to tip your hat off to them guys. We're just looking forward to the challenge."
Joseph said this is the most talented group he's been a part of – "In every position room, you just have depth. And it's kind of hard to have depth continuously. Power out to this team and we have to take advantage while we can."
No one is interested in the outside noise. Just stay on track is the message in this locker room.
"At the end of the day, we know what we're capable of doing. When you have doubters and haters, it just motivates you to be better. At the end of the day, we're just trying to win and be the best version we can be and we're doing it," Joseph commented.
The latest addition to the gallery is a look at the Super Bowl Media Day with FOX in preparation for the network's broadcast of the big game.