We've got a busy Sunday ahead, so take your Weekend Water Break, presented by Crown Royal, and get caught up on everything that happened in the past few days.
1. Miles Sanders: Destined for greatness
Running back Miles Sanders ranks third in the league in rushing yards since Week 2 with 316. The prolific second-year playmaker is the subject of this week's Gameday Magazine cover story. An excerpt:
His mother, Marlene, raised her son to be a "very humble child." A single mother raising three boys, Marlene Sanders looked at football as a way to keep the boys active and out of trouble.
"Loving them and being their mom was the easy part," Marlene said. "The biggest challenge was financial, having to do everything yourself. When you have a one-income family, everything comes down to you."
With Marlene as a role model for hard work and sacrifice, Miles honed his craft while waiting for his opportunity at Penn State.
"We came in a year apart, but Miles and I were kind of in the same boat," said former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens. "He was the heir apparent to Saquon, and I was going to take over for Trace (McSorley). Some five-star guys, they might come in and feel sorry for themselves in that role. That wasn't Miles.
"I remember one night, after practice and after meetings, I got together with some of the young receivers and we headed out to the indoor (facility) to throw the ball around, but the lights were already on. Sure enough, we walk in, and over by himself working alone in the corner was Miles, doing bag drills. That's all we needed to see right there."
Sanders earned the starting job at Penn State in 2018 and dazzled with 1,274 rushing yards, including a 200-yard performance against Illinois, good for second in the Big Ten Conference and 15th in the nation. He won several awards including the team's Most Valuable Offensive Player as well as second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Eagles Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Duce Staley, a part of a great lineage of running backs in Eagles history, pounded the proverbial table for Sanders during the pre-draft process in 2019. The team knew how much Staley wanted Sanders in midnight green, so much so, that they jokingly told him that they selected another running back in the second round before putting him on the phone with Sanders.
2. Game Preview: Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro's keys to victory
In our Game Preview, presented by Unibet, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro lists his three keys to an Eagles win. Here's No. 1:
Baltimore has forced a turnover in 18 straight games, the league's longest streak. The Eagles have 11 turnovers, tied with Dallas for most in the NFL. Obviously, this is a statistic that matters. The Eagles are 31st in the NFL in turnover differential (-6) and Baltimore, at +5, is tied for second best in the league. How can the Eagles maintain ball security and attack a Baltimore defense that overwhelmed Cincinnati on Sunday (seven QB sacks, 15 QB hits, nine tackles for loss, three takeaways, one returned for a touchdown)?
3. 'We got a really good steal in Travis (Fulgham)'
Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead joined Fran Duffy on this week's Eagles Game Plan, presented by Toyota, to break down the tape of wide receiver Travis Fulgham's breakout performance Sunday against the Steelers. As part of the discussion, Moorehead recalls Fulgham turning heads early in Training Camp.
"We knew pretty early on he was a guy we wanted to keep around and see where it would go. You keep looking up through the first few weeks of the season and he's over there on the scout team taking every rep. He's not coming out. He's not complaining. He's just catching everything thrown to him. It actually as a coach made me want to sit over there and watch the defensive scout periods because to watch him and Deontay Burnett. They were fun over there," Moorehead said.
"Honestly, I think we got a really good steal in Travis. I can't wait to see him continue to grow."
Fulgham joined Dave Spadaro on the Eagles Insider Podcast, presented by Lincoln Financial Group, to share what it was like growing up in Jordan, Egypt, India, and South Africa, before setting down in the United States.
"It's something I wouldn't give up for the world. Living overseas really taught me a lot of things and gives me a great appreciation for everything that I have," Fulgham said.
4. Prepping for Lamar Jackson
Rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts led the scout-team offense this week in preparing the Eagles' defense for the league's MVP, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have scored at least 20 points and gained 100 yards rushing in 28 straight contests.
"I think Jalen's doing a great job," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Obviously, the tempo will be a little different on gameday, but I think Jalen's doing a really good job at it. He's taking it serious. He ain't messing around with it, especially a guy like him, a rookie, being asked to give an example for our starting defense. I think he's been doing a really good job for us."
Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz called Jackson "the most dangerous player in the league."
"There are times you can do everything right on defense and can't catch him, or he can throw a ball sidearm underneath of a free rusher and complete a pass," Schwartz said. "I think that you've got to have a resilient attitude when you play him, and you know that a playmaker like him is going to make some plays. You just have to limit his big plays, and you have to stay resilient."
Get an inside look at this week of Eagles practice.
5. Spadaro's six-pack looks at the linebacker situation
Cornerback Darius Slay is out of the concussion protocol and has been cleared to play Sunday, and he'll get a long look at Marquise Brown, who has 22 receptions for 319 yards and a touchdown. That's an average of 14.5 yards per catch. He defines "explosiveness" in a player. Baltimore wins with its terrific running game, keyed by quarterback Lamar Jackson, but Brown on the outside and tight end Mark Andrews – 18 receptions, 222 yards, a whopping five touchdowns – on the inside give the Ravens threats in the passing game, too.
Yeah, the Eagles have another challenge covering the tight end, something they've had trouble with this season. Nothing is ever easy. With linebacker Duke Riley out, look for young linebackers Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley. Alex Singleton and Nate Gerry are the other healthy linebackers. And Will Parks will play a big part in this game, potentially. As of Friday afternoon, he had not been added to the 53-man roster.
6. Jamon Brown ready for first start as an Eagle
The Eagles will have their fifth offensive line combination in six games when veteran Jamon Brown starts at right guard for Matt Pryor, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.
"I'm going to take the experiences that I've had over the past five years and plug it into this system and go from there," Brown said. "I've played a lot of football. It hasn't been too big of an adjustment here. It's really just converting terminology and techniques. I think I've had a good week of getting in there and grinding at that. I'm excited to see what happens on Sunday."
Brown offered Eagles fans a scouting report of his game.
"I think I bring a little experience. I've started a lot of games. I've helped a few organizations win some games and have some success. I think I'm aggressive. I'm bringing that to the table. I'm going to bring my personality, my aggression, my passion," Brown said. "I think we were able to see that this week in practice. I think the offense feels that. We'll see how it works out on Sunday."
Brown said that he and rookie Jack Driscoll "got a good thing going" on the right side of the line as Driscoll will start for Lane Johnson at right tackle. Johnson is out with an ankle injury.
7. Forget the stats, Zach Ertz wants wins
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro profiled tight end Zach Ertz this week. The Pro Bowl tight end is coming off a two-game span in which he had just five catches for 15 yards. Here's an excerpt:
Ertz hasn't changed his routine. He is on the practice field early. He stays late watching film. He and Wentz work on timing and routes on the side during practice. The work is there. The effort is there. Teams have always paid a lot of attention to Ertz, who is now seeing more shade of some safety help from the defense his way. The loss of Dallas Goedert has not helped Ertz or the offense. Because of the offensive line's injury problems, Ertz has had responsibilities with in-line blocking.
None of that is an excuse. The Eagles need to get Ertz the football and he needs to find ways to give Wentz a fair target. He and (Carson) Wentz have always been on the same page, so chemistry isn't an issue. For whatever reason, the two have just not connected this season as they normally have.
"I wouldn't say I'm frustrated in my lack of stats," he said. "I'm frustrated in the fact that we haven't won football games and the frustration boils over when you don't win football games. That's what I get frustrated about. If we were 5-0 right now and I had the same stats, there would be nothing to talk about in my mind and I wouldn't care at all. I think I can help the team win. I think I can make plays on third down and in the red zone like I have in the past and hopefully try to find a way to win a football game.
"There are definitely plays that have been left out there, not only by me but as an offense. And the only way I know to get over rough patches is to go out there and work even harder, work as hard as I possibly can."
8. Players excited for the return of fans to Lincoln Financial Field
The news that the City of Philadelphia has given the Eagles the green light to have fans at Lincoln Financial Field for games – a total of 7,500 that includes gameday staff and personnel, which means that roughly 5,500 fans will be in attendance – was greeted enthusiastically by the players.
"I am super excited to finally play in front of fans," left tackle Jordan Mailata said. "Being a starter, it's long been a dream of mine to play in front of the crowd and be starting, so I'm extremely excited."
Mailata said because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, his parents and family won't be able to make the trip from Australia to Philadelphia, but that hasn't damaged his energy. The truth is, no matter who is in the stands, it will add so much to the passion level for the football game.
9. Did you know? Doug Pederson revolutionized the kicking game
Before he was a Super Bowl-winning head coach, Doug Pederson was a quarterback in the NFL. And during his one season in Philadelphia in 1999, Pederson was also the holder on special teams.
And it turns out he was an outstanding one. This story was previously written by Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro, but it is timely now because Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was the special teams coordinator in 1999. An excerpt:
It certainly could be, and as football legend has it (at least through this channel of research), Pederson owns it.
What is "the pinch"? Well, before you starting looking up Seinfeld episodes or begin poring through football slang, it's an easy one to explain. Pederson, during his 13-year NFL playing career, was a backup quarterback as we all know. But he was also a holder for field goals and PATs. He was a holder who was known to be very, very good.
So good, in fact, that when Pederson introduced "the pinch," others took notice and followed his style.
"From what I was told, it was my understanding through Koy Detmer (former Eagles quarterback) that Doug introduced it, a revolutionary style of holding the football on PATs from what they call 'the pinch,' where the index finger and the thumb actually pinch the top of the ball," said former Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley. "When held correctly that way, you can spin the ball without the use of your other hand. You can use just those two fingers.
"I mean, I don't know if it's official or anything, but the way Koy made it sound, Doug was like a holding legend. Koy was the greatest holder of all time, but apparently Doug passed it on to Koy. Doug held for Donovan (McNabb in 1999) and then taught Koy. Koy tried to teach me but I botched the job on purpose because David Akers was so darn picky."
10. Where are they now? C Mike Evans
Leading up to the 1968 NFL Draft, Mike Evans, a center at Boston College, learned that it's always good to have someone in your corner.
"All the hype was that I was going to go in the first round. But I didn't, I went in the ninth. Word got out that I had a bad knee," Evans said. "What happened was, the trainer at Boston College left and went to the Detroit Lions, and at the time I had a knee injury. He spread the word out when he got up there that I may have bad knees and they backed away.
"Fortunately for me, Joe Kuharich was the coach (of the Eagles) and I went to school with his son, Larry, at B.C. He called his dad up well into the second day (of the draft) and said, 'Mike doesn't have a bad knee. He squats 500 pounds. He works out every day religiously.' So, they took a shot on me."
Born in Philadelphia, Evans was more than familiar with the Eagles even though his family moved to Pittsburgh when he was 5 years old. Relocating 257 miles west to Steelers country didn't lessen their loyalty to the hometown team.
"My dad went into business for himself in Pittsburgh, but he was always an Eagles fan. He loved the Eagles," Evans said. "So, it was really nice when I got drafted by them because he had kept his season tickets from the championship year in '60. I was a fan, and so when I went to the Eagles, we didn't have to worry about tickets."
And the Eagles wouldn't have to worry about the center position. Evans became a fixture there beginning in his second season. He was voted as the Eagles' Offensive MVP by his teammates in 1971.