EAGLES FANS ARE LIFTING THEIR TEAM TO SPECIAL SEASON
If you’re an Eagles fan, and you have any doubts your team isn’t all in for a trip to Super Bowl LII, you can put those doubts to rest.
This Eagles team is as focused and locked in as any team that has ever played in Philadelphia.
When the Eagles picked up running back Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins last week for a fourth round pick, people were justifiably concerned about him fitting in. The 24-year old came with some baggage that he was bad for the locker room.
Eagles standout right tackle Lane Johnson, a leader on offense was asked after the trade how Ajayi would fit in…he brought up the passion of their fans. Johnson was asked what separates the Eagles locker room from other NFL locker rooms?
“They’re not in this town,” Johnson said without hesitation. “They (Eagles fans) want to win. And when you get guys who are desperate to win and hungry, this town motivates you.”
After the Eagles convincing 51-23 victory over the Denver Broncos, linebacker Nigel Bradham, who has taken over the main leadership role on defense after Jordan Hicks went down for the season, was asked how do the Eagles not get caught up in all the excitement that comes with being 7-1.
He said it was all mental.
“We’re gonna get there,” Bradham said with a laugh. “We’ve just got to stay focused and keep doing what we’re doing. I heard them chanting in the stands today ‘trust the process,’ that was the message. I don’t know if they were talking to us for the 76ers (Joel Embiid was on the field) …but either way it works. We’re excited and we’re going to continue to bring this city some excitement and bring everything they’ve been waiting on. We’ve just got to go get it.”
Bradham said is aware this team has not won the NFL championship in 57 years. The 28-year-old said the Eagles have survived having to be on the road four of their first six games, and they’ve survived numerous key injuries to forge the best record in the NFL after nine game.
Bradham said they did it relying on each other.
“We feed off each other,” Bradham said. “The urgency is definitely there. We feed off each other with great energy from each other. And it goes on to the next person and each of us continues to just get more and more excited. That has a lot to do with it, building energy. It’s also our second season playing together for the most part, we have a lot of chemistry.”
Expectations are getting bigger with every win.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked about how is he and his coaching staff are dealing with players and keeping a lid on that excitement.
“Well, my job is to make sure that we stay focused and stay grounded,” Pederson said. “We’ve just got to continue to stay with the one-game mentality. That’s been a good formula for us this season. We can’t get looking down the road and upcoming opponents and scenarios. That’s for the media to speculate on and talk about.”
They have done it so far with young players who have stepped up on defense such as cornerbacks Rasul Douglas, a rookie, and Jalen Mills, now in his second year. Both have quieted critics who thought the secondary would keep the Birds from any realistic chance of reaching their goals.
Rookie running back Corey Clement, a South Jersey native, has far exceeded expectations. He talked about his journey: Being a free agent long shot out of Wisconsin, and scoring three times on the top-rated defense in the NFL when his rushed for two touchdowns and caught a 15-yard pass from second-year quarterback Carson Wentz to help the Eagles beat Denver.
“It feels great,” said Clement, who finished with 51 yards rushing on 12 carries. “At the same time, I’m just always going to push it (accolades) to the side and just keep it going. This team is definitely going to keep getting more and more better as the season goes on. It’s not going to be easier but, a the same time, when it’s not easy, I think everyone puts out for an even better outcome. The competition really sharpens who can really ball out there.”
Ajayi was asked about the atmosphere in Philadelphia. It should be noted Miami’s stadium was far from full when they played the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night.
“Electric,” said Ajayi, who rushed for 77 yards on eight carries and a 46-yard touchdown run in his Eagles debut. “Great football town. It’s exciting to see it for myself. Everyone has kind of spoken about it over the week and it was kind of exciting to see it with my own eyes for the first time.”
Ajayi talked about his first touchdown, not only for the season but as an Eagle.
“Special,” Ajayi said. “First off, it’s my first touchdown of the season and it’s exciting for it to have been in Philly and during my first game as an Eagle. I don’t think it could have been written any better than that.”
Former Eagles guard Allen Barbre, traded this summer to Denver, made his first appearance in Philadelphia on Sunday, talked about the Eagles and his four years here.
Barbre seemed a bit wistful when he talked about the team he had been a member of from 2013 to 2016. You could see in his face he misses being an Eagle and that he may have missed his best opportunity to get a ring.
“They look good,” Barbre said. “They’ve got a good offense, they’ve got a good defense, they’ve got good special teams. They’ve got a good group of guys…I was here (Philly) for a long time…things are clicking for them, they’ve got a hell of a quarterback.”
And one hell of a chance to be special.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii