The Eagles exploded into life last night, overcoming a 10-3 deficit to completely overpower the Redskins in a 34-24 victory. While Carson Wentz stole the show with his incredible quarterbacking, the Birds’ really benefitted from the performances of their youngest players. It’s not rare to see rookies flash potential, but for an abundance of rookies to make such game changing impacts certainly is. The best part is for the Eagles, it’s just the beginning.
“We just always have a big chip on our shoulder.” Eagles running back Corey Clement said after the game. “When we come out here we are always overlooked by somebody just because we are rookies, but just because we are rookies doesn’t mean we can’t make a play. When we are out there, we try to think and play as veterans. When we walk out with those guys, like [Eagles TE Brent] Celek, and all of those other veterans that have been out there, we want to prove that we belong out here. So when the time comes, I don’t want anybody second guessing why we are out there on the field.”
Clement ended his night with one rush and one reception for a total of 15 yards…but his stunning touchdown reception helped seal the deal for Philadelphia. Coming out of the flat, Clement extended a broken play and showed tremendous sideline awareness to keep both feet in bounds. The throw itself was a thing of beauty, but make no mistake, Clement had a vital role to play in scoring his second touchdown of the year. That underdog mentality has been spread across the board with this year’s draft class, embodying a gritty work ethic and a chip on the shoulder that all the youngsters have rallied behind.
“All of the rookies have tried to just come in, make plays, and help the team win as much as possible.” Said defensive end Derek Barnett. “We’ve just tried to come in and do the best we can to get a ‘W’ at the end of the day. That’s all that matters.”
The Eagles got the win and Barnett became the first Eagles rookie to register 2.0+ sacks in a single game since Trent Cole (also 2.0) on 11/20/05 at N.Y. Giants.
“Everybody has been telling me to just keep grinding and they are going to come.” Barnett told reporters after the game. “We all come to work with the same mindset that we’re going to try to get better at practice. They all just say to keep on working and eventually it is going to break.”
The Tennessee product led the Eagles in sacks and was a constant force to be reckoned with. After five games without a sack, Barnett now has 2.5 in his last two games. Picked in the first round by the Eagles this year, Barnett is beginning to thrive under the tutelage of the veterans around him. The surge in form from Barnett is hardly surprising given the records he shattered at College, but there’s one man who really did turn heads; Mack Hollins.
With their first pick on the final day of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected North Carolina wideout Mack Hollins as their 118th overall pick. A collar bone injury held Hollins back in 2016, as he received for 309 yards and four scores in the seven games he did play. In the year beforehand, he averaged 24.8 yards per reception and recorded eight touchdowns and 745 yards on 30 targets. Hollins only had one catch last night, but it just so happened that it went for a 64-yard touchdown, the first of his NFL career.
“First of all, he is a really smart guy.” Carson Wentz said of Mack Hollins So he can kind of get plugged in at X, at Z, at F. Every time he is in there it seems like he just makes plays. He does a great job in the run game with run blocking. We can kind of put him on some linebackers and do some different things. But when he is in there he just makes plays. He finds a way to get open and he is effective. And I don’t think a lot of teams really respect that or know that about him. So he is just a big weapon for us when we need a guy. He can just step in and kind of be anywhere.”
Hollins now has 134 receiving yards on the season and has already made his presence felt on special teams. Something that’s crucial considering not a single Eagles WR contributed on Dave Fipp’s unit one year ago.
When you factor in the impressive start to the career of Rasul Douglas, it’s almost hard to believe just how impactful the rookies have bee, With the exclusion of the injured Donnel Pumphrey and oft inactive Shelton Gibson, the Eagles rookies have been nothing but impressive, surpassing expectations and propelling the team to victory. With a chip on their shoulder and the rough and ragged Philadelphia play-style flowing through them, the rookies continue to lift this team to new heights.
The scariest part is, one of their most prized pieces is yet to even play a snap.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports