Twenty-six of the 53 players on the Eagles' active roster make their playoff debuts Saturday. Aside from the rookies, there's a handful of veterans you might be surprised who are experiencing the postseason for the very first time.
The team's receiving touchdown leader, Alshon Jeffery, barely missed out on the playoffs in his rookie season of 2012 with the 10-6 Chicago Bears. Over his next four years in Chicago, the Bears never came close to reaching postseason contention. Jeffery factored in Philadelphia's playoff chances this offseason in his decision to become an Eagle. Now that he's reached the tournament, he intends to make the most of it.
"I know what it feels like to never get here so that's already enough motivation for me," he says.
Safety Rodney McLeod, a six-year veteran, was one of the Eagles' veterans to sit out the regular-season finale against the Cowboys. It's the first time McLeod is playing past Week 17.
"It's a blessing honestly. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. Veteran players told me that my rookie year but it's good to be here at Year 6 with a great organization like this and making the most of the opportunity," McLeod says.
Another bright spot in the Eagles' secondary, Jalen Mills – the team's only cornerback who was on this roster a year ago – understands that many players have gone their entire careers without making a single postseason.
"It's special. You don't get this opportunity too many times and when you do get these opportunities you have to hone in on them. You have to embrace them," Mills says. "Try to eliminate distractions and put your main focus on this because you never know when this is going to come back around."
Linebacker Nigel Bradham earned his first playoff stint after four seasons with the Bills and two in Philadelphia.
"This is everything for me," Bradham remarks. "Obviously, my lifelong dream being able to get to this point and being able to show what I can do in this part of the season. Really elevating my game and taking it to the next level to do whatever I got to do to get to where we want to get to and that's the Super Bowl."
The team's success hasn't come without the help of the rookie class. Defensive end Derek Barnett, running back Corey Clement, cornerback Rasul Douglas, wide receiver Mack Hollins, and kicker Jake Elliott each made significant contributions when called upon.
"I was lucky to be drafted here. I came in with a great group of guys around me and we're just getting to it," Barnett says. "Now it's the postseason and we have to keep it going. What we did in the regular season doesn't mean anything anymore. It's a whole new season and as soon as I got here I thought we would make this run just by being around these guys in the locker room and how they act on the field and off the field."
How these players perform during their first playoff action will be worth watching. The hope is that they take full advantage of the special opportunity.
"I'm not satisfied with making the playoffs. There's a lot of teams happy with making it. I'm trying to get that Super Bowl," Jeffery says. "I've been in this league six years. It's hard to get to the playoffs and I'm trying to win."
The Eagles begin the postseason against the defending NFC champions. Here are the Atlanta Falcons to watch.