EAGLES NATION HEADS WEST FOR CHARGERS GAME
The Eagles (2-1) will head out to the West Coast this weekend to take on the winless Los Angeles Chargers (0-3) in a game the Birds can use to put some traction into their drive to win the NFC East.
In their favor is the venue. The game is being played at the StubHub Center. It is approximately fourteen miles south of Downtown Los Angeles and its primary tenant is the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer. The Stadium currently seat 27,000 with plans to expand to 30,000 soon.
The Chargers will use the stadium from 2017 until the completion of the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park in 2020, which they will then share with the Los Angeles Rams.
That sounds kind of depressing for the Chargers players. Their last game at StubHub wasn’t a sellout and much the attendance was Kansas City Chiefs fans.
According to an Eagles official, there well could be approximately 20,000 Eagles fans attending the game.
Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson talked about playing an NFL in a smaller venue against a team lacking fan support.
“It’s going to be different for all of us,” Pederson said. “It’s a smaller venue in that 27,000 to 30,000 range. It will be a little different. I don’t want that to be a distraction for our football team, and for any of us going out there. But I do know that our fans do travel well, and they are all over the country and I would expect probably a good turnout for Eagle fans this weekend.”
Tight end Zach Ertz knows the stadium from his days at Stanford when the Cardinal played in the Rose Bowl. Ertz said they practiced at the StubHub Center.
“I kind of have some familiarity with it,” Ertz said at his locker Wednesday. “At the end of the day it’s still football. We played in high school where there were 5,000 people playing in the stands. I heard there’s going to be 30,000 people in the stands. At the end of the day, it’s all about lining up and hoping to beat somebody’s butt and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Defensive end Brandon Graham said it has been a while since he played in such a small stadium.
“I don’t think I played in front of a crowd that size since we went to states (playoffs) in high school. Graham said. “Then I went to Michigan and got blown away with 100,000.”
Defensive tackle Beau Allen said he also practiced at the stadium when Wisconsin was playing in the Rose Bowl. He was asked when was the last time he played in front of less than 30,000 fans.
“I don’t know man, “I’d have to think about it,” Allen said with a laugh. “It doesn’t really matter. For us it’s about the game, not how many people are in the stands.”
Pederson said that regardless of the stadium or Eagles fans on hand he has bring his team back to the reality they are playing a Chargers team with talent-especially at the pass rusher position – that is a wounded animal.
“Yeah, it’s tough. I mean, because any time you win and you win in the fashion that we did, it is emotional,” Pederson said. “It’s a physical football game, No. 1. It was an emotional football game, No. 2. And then to win it, No. 3. Keeping the guys grounded a little bit, I think sometimes wins can mask a little bit of the, ‘we-need-to-get-better mentality’ and we’ve got to continue to get better and show improvement. And so that’s the challenge this week.”
The sobering facts for Pederson is he has lost Darren Sproles for the year, cornerback Ronald Darby is still out for at least three more weeks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is not 100 percent, nor is linebacker Jordan Hicks who the Eagles will need to have on the field Sunday.
“We still have guys that are injured and nicked up and guys that won’t practice for a couple days,” Pederson said. “It’s just the next-guy-up mentality. Part of my job is to make sure that they are focused and ready to practice today, and then we’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. So it can be a little bit of a challenge. I don’t want them to read a lot of their press clippings, because there can be a lot of praise but at the same time, we understand that we have to get better.”
Graham talked about the idea that there could be a stadium in California where two-thirds of the crowd is Eagles fans.
“I’m excited,” Graham said. “You can just tell how dedicated Eagles fans are to the game and to this team. Hopefully there’s a who lot of Eagles Nation out there. We’ve just got to go out there and put on a show.”
Note: Stadium stats from Wikipedia.org
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii