On a Tuesday that's a football Wednesday for the Eagles given the Saturday prime-time kickoff against Dallas, the Eagles held a walkthrough practice and have their focus on the Cowboys. They have a dozen players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, so it's an unusual week in a lot of ways. It's also history making as the Eagles will play their 17th game in this regular season. With that, here are some news and notes and observations as the Eagles prepare for what's ahead.
1. Josh Sweat, a force off the edge
Defensive end Josh Sweat continues to improve, and on Sunday he dominated Washington with 1.5 quarterback sacks, five tackles, two quarterback hits, and two passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. Impressive stuff, enough to merit some high praise from Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
"He did a really good job. You look at the first two plays he made two tackles, just very active, violent plays," Gannon said. "And playing the things that we ask him to do, playing at a high level. He affected the game in the run game and pass game. He was hard to block. They had to pay certain attention to him as the game got going. You saw they chipped him a couple times, doubled him a few times. He's one of our premier players and he stepped up. He doesn't know this, but he's going to be the player of the game. He did, I feel like helped us, one of the main reasons we won that game."
Sweat has a career-best 7.5 sacks this season to go along with a career-high 4 passes defensed and he's tied his career best with 45 total tackles.
"I feel like I'm making progress and I'm excited about that," Sweat said after the win at Washington. "But I know I'm not finished. I have more to go, more growth in me. I just keep working hard and I know I'm going to get there. Our whole defense is coming together, so I'm out there doing my thing to contribute."
2. No stats are just fine with Jake Elliott
Jake Elliott doesn't spend much time looking at his statistics. He knows, in general, that he's striking the ball well, but when I asked Elliott on Tuesday if he knew his 2021 kicking numbers, he honestly said he didn't.
"I've always just kind of stayed away from that because they can be misleading," Elliott said. "I just concentrate on striking the ball and making good contact every time I'm out there."
Elliott is making great contact this season, as he's connected on 28 of 31 field goals for a career-best conversion percentage of 90.3. He's made all 42 of his PAT kicks and Elliott has scored a career-high 126 points with a career—most 58 touchbacks on 88 kickoffs in 16 games. Why the success?
"I worked on some technical things in the offseason, the operation has been great with Rick (Lovato, long snapper) and Arryn (Siposs, holder) and I can't say enough about the way the coaches have gotten everybody ready to play and had us prepared," Elliott said. "But honestly, I'm just trying to make every kick a great kick. That's the focus for me. I know that in this game you're only as good as your next kick, so consistency and keeping my focus is what I'm always working on."
3. The message has stayed the same all season and it means something
Once upon a time, the Eagles were 2-5 coming off a loss at Las Vegas. Then the Eagles turned the season around and have won 7 of their last 9 games. Why? What has changed? Linebacker T.J. Edwards says the message from the coaching staff has been consistent and the players have appreciated that approach.
"At the end of the day I think the thing that Coach (Nick) Sirianni has done so well is keeping the messages the same," Edwards said. "There's never been a panic and even when we were down at our worst there's never been a time when everyone is freaking out. Obviously, after a loss there is a lot of disappointment and frustrated with how we're playing and things like that, but our process has stayed the same this entire time, whether we're winning or losing. I think from that standpoint, honestly it's been really cool to see the things we've been doing and focusing on all week come to fruition. Now we're seeing success from all of those things.
"All the roots and all the talks we've had in the past – all those things we doubled down on, are really helping us right now, so it's awesome to see."
4. A playoff reaction from T Jordan Mailata
Offensive tackle Jordan Mailata was on the team's Injured Reserve list in both 2018 and 2019 when the Eagles reached the postseason, so while he was happy for the team, he didn't feel part of the success on the field. Now Mailata is, of course, a huge part of things. And reaching the postseason is extremely meaningful for the fourth-year player and he's not hesitant to express his feelings.
"Obviously, making the playoffs is a big deal and especially for me starting my first year and playing with the guys on the line and the rest of my teammates. It's such a special feeling when you have bought into the system, the process that your head coach and your coaches are implementing. For us, when we look back at that 2-5 start, we knew we were going to go somewhere," Mailata said. "We knew the weapons we had on our team. We understood the process, but trusting in that process was the next step that we had to take. Once we started trusting in the process and listening to the coaches, going through the details and making sure we weren't repeat offenders making the same mistakes over and over again, holding each other accountable, that's when the ball started rolling.
"Everybody said we got off to a slow start, but we understood the weapons and the assets that we had on our team so we were more than confident moving forward that we knew what we had, we just had to make it click and toward the end of the season the ball started rolling."