A gritty new culture is pushing Eagles past odds and every other team in the NFL

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Talent is great, but it only gets you so far. Football is a team sport. The moment one tiny crack begins to open and rupture its way through the locker room, even great teams can lose their way. If there’s one thing that Doug Pederson has been able to do as head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s keep his team unified and grounded…even against all odds.

It doesn’t matter whether the team are hampered with injuries. Whether an officiating new lumber them with questionable penalties, or if the team are on a short week. The Eagles continue to fight and leave it all out on the field. Stats and analytics will tell you plenty about a team, but they can’t measure heart…and it’s the one thing that this Eagles team has in abundance.

 

“It’s tough. It’s a fine line because the players are — they’re going to read and they’re going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are.” Pederson told reporters earlier this week. “But [we have] to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we’re winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct as well. It’s never perfect. [The] bottom line [is] we do want to win the game, but at the same time, I’ve got to keep them focused and grounded on — even some of the situational stuff still. We’ve got to eliminate the big play on defense. We’ve got to get better in the red zone on offense, and just keep working in those areas. We weren’t as good on third down last night, so we’ve got to keep working that area. So just keeping them focused and detailed on those specific areas.”

Having a Head Coach who can bring a group of players together is imperative. It’s one of the defining attributes that struck home with Jeffrey Lurie, who wanted find a coach who could connect to his players emotionally after the ruins of the Chip Killy era. That task becomes so much easier when you have a quarterback who is a born leader.

“We’re hungry.” Carson Wentz said assertively after the win over Arizona. “We’re never going to get too high after wins or never are going to get too low after loses. We’re just going to keep plugging along. We know we’re a special team. We just have to keep going and prove it every week.”

Wentz backs up his words with his play on the field. On second and goal against the Panthers, Wentz decided to keep the ball for himself and lowered his shoulder to meet a defender head on. From a coaching perspective, it’s a stupid move which risked the health of the most important player on the team. In a year where Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota (to name a few) have all sustained injuries, it’s a move that had every Eagles fan on the edge of their seat.

But then it set in. Wentz is a fighter. He wasn’t thinking about being conservative, or health, or even the defender…he was thinking about winning. The players around him see that. An act of sheer determination and power of will does nothing but inspire confidence in everyone else on that team.

“I think it’s not just so much those types of plays. I mean, just standing in the pocket and staring down blitzes and still delivering the football, which he did in the game last night, those are also signs of toughness, and those resonate throughout your football team.” Pederson told reporters after the TNF win. “Guys see that and guys respond and really want to play for somebody that can — especially your quarterback who can stand in there and take the punishment and at the same time deliver a 16-yard throw down the middle of the field.”

That same mentality bleeds onto a Defense that has had just about everything go against them. A beaten up secondary that left Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas to fend for themselves and Malcolm Jenkins to fly the solo flag at safety, the loss of Jordan Hicks and even Nigel Bradham on Thursday night, the loss of Fletcher Cox in the weeks before, and of course the penalties. This is a team that just does not give up. Whether they’re ahead by fifteen or down by thirty, the Eagles will not stop playing…and that is a quality you cannot find on paper.

“I think it kind of shows the fight we have as a defense and the mentality we have.” Malcolm Jenkins said following the win over the Cardinals. “As long as the ball’s in play, we’re going to go hard.”

Going hard is exactly what the Eagles have done. After six weeks, the Eagles sit atop the NFC sharing the best record in the entire league with the only team to defeat them this year; Kansas City. While other teams struggle with distractions, be it on or off the field, injuries and setbacks, the Eagles continue to grind.

There’s a new culture in Philadelphia. There are no more if’s, but’s and maybe’s. The Eagles are fully aware of how much talent they have inside that Locker room…and its almost as if every performance is a statement. The Eagles are coming…and it’s all thanks to a gritty, hungry culture.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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