1. Eagles Ready To Get Back On Track
It's no secret that the Eagles didn't want to be 2-2 after the first quarter of the season. After losing a hearbreaker in overtime at Tennessee, the Eagles set themselves up for a pivotal game this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. They need to get on track against talented, NFC opponents as they reach the most difficult part of the schedule. And the Vikings badly need a win too. It wont't be an easy task, but Eagles' Insider Dave Spadaro writes that the Eagles believe they will be back on track this weekend:
Sunday's game against the Vikings is big for a lot of reasons. One, it's an NFC opponent coming to town, so that heightens the importance. Two, the Eagles go back to back in the conference on a short week with the Giants road trip on Thursday following Minnesota and then Carolina after that. Three, the NFC East is all bunched up with Washington and Dallas playing good football after slow starts.
"It's important that we stay the course and play football the way we know we can," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We aren't happy that we let one slip away against Tennessee, but the important thing is to put that behind us. We've done that. We know we have to come together and beat a good football team coming in here on Sunday."
2. Don't Underestimate The Vikings
The Vikings are another team whose record doesn't sit well with them. After a 1-2-1 start, it might be easy to cast aside the defending NFC North champions. But don't be fooled. These Vikings have plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball. In his Eagle Eye column, Fran Duffy breaks down where Minnesota can be especially dangerous:
The Eagles are going to face a tough matchup on Sunday afternoon when a well-rested and battle-tested Minnesota Vikings team comes to town with revenge on its mind. Minnesota is smarting after a rough loss in prime time against the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday night, but don't be fooled by this team's record. They are very similar to the team the Eagles faced in the NFC Championship Game in January. In some ways, the Vikings are better.
3. Injury Report
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returned to practice yesterday after sitting out on Wednesday with injuries. While Cox (ankle) and Jeffery (chest) returned, defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder) and running backs Corey Clement (quad) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) missed practice on Thursday. Thursday's injury report shows the pieces both teams may miss on Sunday.
4. Meaningful Praise
Defensive end Michael Bennett spoke to media at his locker yesterday following a game in which he recorded his first sack as an Eagle. The 10-year veteran touched on a few topics, sharing his knowledge about being a defending champion. He also gave high praise to Eagles' defensive tackle Fletcher Cox:
"I think Fletch is one of the best defensive players I ever played with," Bennett said. "And that's a compliment because I've played with a lot of good defensive players over the years, but I think Fletcher is one of the best inside rushers and just one of the best players. I told him that today.
"I appreciate the way Fletch plays the game every single play. Whether it's run game or chasing the ball, he does something that most defensive tackles don't really do in the NFL. You watch a lot of other players that get a lot of hype, they don't really hustle the way that Fletch does. I think Fletch is just a good player and the opportunity to play with him is always a blessing."
5. Captain Todd
Sunday, the Eagles will honor 10-year veteran offensive lineman Todd Herremans as he becomes a two-time Honorary Alumni Captain presented by Santander. He plans to use the chance to officially retire from the NFL as an Eagle. Fans will have an oportunity to show their appreciation for a lifetime Philadelphia Eagle who started 124 games and even had two touchdowns:
"I spent so much time in Philly. I didn't really get a chance to end my career, I guess, as I would have liked to. It kind of fizzled out at the end. I went to Indy (for my 11th and final season in 2015), and it didn't end up there how I wanted it to, so I guess this will put a cap on my NFL career for me personally," Herremans says. "And I'd rather do it in Philadelphia than anywhere. I feel like Philadelphia's been so important to me and my family for the last 15 years, the organization and the people in it, that it just made sense.
6. Maddox Steps In
With the absence of Rodney McLeod taking full effect, the defense has had to move some pieces around to fill the gap. Rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox played 20 snaps at safety against the Titans and may be used as a safety more often going forward this season. Luckily for him, All-Pro safety Malcolm Jenkins also moved from corner to safety in the NFL and has offered guidance. And Maddox himself had no hesitation about the move:
"Avonte, kind of being that next DB up, has to learn a multitude of positions," Jenkins said. "But he has an opportunity as a young, explosive player to fit in with everyone on the squad. So just trying to get him to learn the safety spot, nickel, maybe dime, so that we have flexibility based on who we play and get on the field."
Maddox competed for the starting nickel cornerback position in the preseason with Sidney Jones. He was eager to take on his new role despite the challenges it brought.
"A lot of things. Angles, learning leverage, and position, big things like that," Maddox said. "Even in the red zone, everything happens quick. It's just a different position. You've got to approach it a different way and you've got to learn it because it's different from the nickel and different from playing (outside) corner."
7. Crucial Catches
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, this Sunday will be the Eagles' Crucial Catch game. According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. So, it only makes sense that the Eagles Cheerleading team has been directly affected. Cheerleaders like Maurisa, who was diagnosed at a surprisingly young age, have become advocates for awareness of breast cancer:
Just 26 years old at the time, and with no family history whatsoever, she wondered how this could be possible. Instead of dismissing it, Maurisa rushed into action and got a mammogram. There was, indeed, a tumor in her breast. She had a biopsy done, and it came back benign. But her doctor wanted to remove the tumor and test it, just to be sure. Thankfully, she received good news.
"If we would have waited, it could've become cancerous and it could have spread throughout my body," Maurisa says, "so I think it's super crucial to do monthly breast exams, no matter how old you are, no matter if it runs in your family or not. It's just so important for all women of all ages. I will definitely be on top of that for the rest of my life."
8. Russ' Return
Sunday will mark 69 years since Eagles' defensive back Russ Craft volunteered to return kicks and returned one 103 yards for a touchdown in a 56-20 rout of the Los Angeles Rams. It set the Eagles' record at the time and turned heads to an otherwise unsung hero on the Eagles' first championship teams. The anniversary was a great reason for Ray Didinger to write about Craft and share unique stories about the Eagles great:
Craft displayed his quick hands in a 1947 game against the Rams when he stole the ball from Hirsch and returned it for a touchdown in a 14-7 Eagles win. NFL Films included the play in the video Pro Football's 100 Greatest Touchdowns. On the film, (Elroy) Hirsch is seen catching the ball and turning upfield only to have Craft snatch it away. It happens so quickly that Hirsch takes several steps before realizing he no longer has the ball.
"That play got a lot of publicity," Craft recalled. "The next season, we went to Los Angeles to play the Rams and when we got off the train, two policemen grabbed me and handcuffed me. A lady came running up screaming, 'He's the one. He's the one who stole the ball.' It turns out it was a publicity stunt. There was a photographer there and they put the picture of me in handcuffs on the front page of the L.A. papers.
"We all got a laugh out of it later but at the time I thought, 'What the heck is going on?'"
9. An Unforgettable Photo
When the O'Shea family came to the NovaCare Complex on September 22, they thought they were going on a quick tour of the facility. Jared and Michelle O'Shea had no idea their son Michael, who is non-verbal and on the autism spectrum, was going to be a football player for a day.
Through a donation to the Eagles Autism Challenge, Michael was awarded the opportunity to sit in the 2018 Eagles' team photo with all of the players. Chris McPherson wrote about the moment Michael and the entire O'Shea family will never forget:
"That's something that we'll have forever. For him, he can't really tell us what this means to him, but we know and we know what it will mean in the future for him," Michelle says. "He loves football. He loves the Eagles. We're huge fans, so we're just so thankful to be a part of it."