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Lawlor: Great Moves Paved Way For A Super Season

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I have given out a lot of credit for the Eagles' amazing season. Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense got most of the attention. I've offered a fair amount of praise to the defense for its great play. I have written a lot about Doug Pederson and his coaching staff. They have been absolutely brilliant this year.

One group that definitely deserves a lot of credit is the personnel department.

Howie Roseman was recently named the Pro Football Writers Association's NFL Executive of the Year for the great moves that he and the scouting staff made to build this team. That was before the NFC title game. Roseman and his crew look even smarter after the 38-7 demolition of the Vikings.

Minnesota led 7-0 in the first quarter. Case Keenum dropped back to throw a pass. Chris Long came hard off the edge and hit Keenum as he threw. The pass was off-target and picked off by Patrick Robinson. Rather than settling for the interception, Robinson crossed the field and began reading his blocks. He scored on the play to tie the game at 7-7. That play changed the game.

What made that pick-six all the more interesting is that Long and Robinson were signed on the same day back in March. Neither player was heralded as a major signing. These additions came after the first wave of free agency. Who would have guessed that a couple of veterans signing mid-level contracts would pair up to make the biggest play of the year?

It is easy to focus on the splashy offseason moves. Adding players like Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Derek Barnett generated plenty of buzz. There wasn't nearly as much excitement with Long and Robinson, but they proved to be incredibly valuable this year.

Roseman and the personnel department were aggressive, creative, and thorough in building this roster. Just think about Nick Foles.

The Eagles let backup quarterback Chase Daniel go and went after Foles. That meant a lot of money would be invested in the backup quarterback position. The Eagles were fine with that. They knew how critical the position is and also thought very highly of Foles. To them, that was a smart investment.

Anyone who watched the win over Minnesota would certainly agree. Foles was worth every penny.

Roseman is the preeminent deal-maker in the NFL. This goes back to him being creative and aggressive. You aren't always going to find good players in the draft and free agency. Sometimes you have to look at other rosters and see who might be available.

The Eagles traded for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan back in early April. Roseman didn't even have to give up a player or a pick. He swapped picks with the Ravens, letting them move up while the Eagles went down. There is no way the Eagles finish with the top run defense in the league without Jernigan helping to anchor the middle.

Roseman and his staff don't ever stop working. They traded for Ronald Darby in the preseason and then added Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline on Halloween. The Eagles felt those players could help right away and were young pieces who could also be part of the future.

You always hate to give up draft picks, but this team probably isn't in the Super Bowl without Darby and Ajayi. Darby made game-changing interceptions against the Giants and Raiders. Without those wins, the Eagles wouldn't have hosted the NFC title game.

One of the reasons you hate to give up picks is that Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, and the scouting department have done such an excellent job of finding college talent.

Barnett had a strip-sack against the Vikings that killed a drive that was in scoring range. Rookies aren't supposed to make impact plays in conference championship games, but Barnett sure did.

Mack Hollins contributed on offense and special teams. Shelton Gibson and Nate Gerry were special teamers. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement had a huge catch-and-run to convert on third down on a touchdown drive and pitched the ball back to Foles on the flea-flicker touchdown pass to Smith.

College and pro scouts had a hand in the Jake Elliott signing. Most teams struggle when their kicker goes down. The Eagles signed Elliott off the Bengals' practice squad back in early September. He has the strongest leg I've ever seen from an Eagles kicker and has hit some incredibly clutch field goals. I don't think anyone will ever forget his 61-yard bomb to beat the Giants.

Sometimes knowing your own players is crucial. The Eagles re-signed guard Stefen Wisniewski in the offseason. I think a lot of people expected him to move on. Instead, the Eagles brought him back and he's been crucial to the offensive line' success.

The Eagles re-signed Jaylen Watkins back in March. That didn't get too many people fired up, but Watkins proved to be key for the Eagles early in the year when there a lot of injuries to players in the secondary.

The team re-signed Bryan Braman late in the regular season. They had lost Chris Maragos to injury and felt the special teams units needed a veteran presence. Braman has given special teams a nice boost since his return.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make. There was a lot of speculation that the team might trade Jason Kelce and/or Mychal Kendricks in the offseason. Roseman assured the media that wasn't happening and it's a good thing the Eagles kept both players. Kelce was chosen for the All-Pro team and Kendricks was fifth on the Eagles in tackles. Both players were critical in the team's run to the Super Bowl.

Let's go back to the Vikings game for a minute. The Eagles scored five touchdowns, all by free agent signings (Robinson, LeGarrette Blount, Jeffery (twice), and Smith). Both interceptions were by free agents (Robinson, Corey Graham). The fumble recovery was by a free agent (Long). The player of the game, Foles, was a free agent signing. The man doing all the kicking, Elliott, was an in-season signing.

It is crazy for offseason moves to offer that kind of impact in the NFC title game.

Roseman and the personnel department have built a tremendous roster. The fact the Eagles have dealt with so many big injuries and just kept winning games tells you all you need to about what an incredible job they've done.

The only question left is whether they built a Super Bowl champion, a contender built for sustained success, or both.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the editor of IgglesBlitz.com.

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