The Philadelphia Eagles have broken the drought. As the first number one seed to be underdogs throughout the playoffs, the Eagles used the disrespect to their advantage and culminated the 2017 season with a shootout victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
While the team has been an underdog since MVP-hopeful Carson Wentz went down with an ACL tear in December, there are plenty of individual underdogs that make up the Eagles’ roster and it starts at the top.
Here are the Eagles underdogs that made up one of the greatest underdog stories in history. These will be the names that Eagles fans will remember forever.
Brandon Graham, Defensive End
Graham is another player who you could argue has had to claw his way from being the team’s biggest underdog to now one of the most deserving players on the roster. Graham was labeled a bust and had fans wishing for Earl Thomas as every season passed by that he didn’t meet expectations. In recent years, though, Graham has met and exceeded those expectations on his way to becoming one of the best pass rushers in the league.
Graham’s role with the Eagles has evolved drastically over his eight seasons with the team. From trade bait to forgotten to bust to team leader, Graham’s experience has led him to be a mentor for many of his teammates.
It is no coincidence that Graham forced the game-saving play in the Super Bowl, forcing a fumble against Tom Brady that was recovered by the Eagles. That fumble was Tom Brady’s first in the playoffs since 2013.
Graham has played out of position, with nobody believing in him and no as a newfound fan favorite. After the Super Bowl victory, Graham allowed a beat reporter to take his phone for 24 hours and unblock all of the Twitter followers he’s blocked over the years who had nothing but negativity to spew in his direction.
Malcolm Jenkins, Safety
Malcolm Jenkins was not good enough to play cornerback in the NFL. He wasn’t good enough to be signed by the team that drafted him after his rookie contract expired. He was ranked the 37th-best free agent available and had six defensive backs who were more sought-after than himself. He wasn’t good enough to get a contract like TJ Ward or Jairus Byrd, both of whom have been released by the teams that signed them in 2014.
Jenkins has been told plenty of times along his nine-year career that he wasn’t good enough. The Eagles took a chance on Jenkins as a free agent and it has paid off big time. Jenkins has become one of the most important cogs in the Eagles defense and has become one of the more vocal leaders of the team. In his four seasons in Philadelphia, he hasn’t missed a game.
Jenkins’ shining moment of the season came in the Super Bowl (sensing a theme, yet?). Patriots’ wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught a deep pass on the right side of the field and as he attempted to make a defender miss, he neglected to check his rearview mirror where Jenkins resided. Jenkins delivered his biggest hit of the season and completely blindsided Cooks, knocking him out for the remainder of the game.
Jenkins’ post-game locker room speeches helped the Eagles overcome injuries and being underdogs for every post season game. The coiner of “We all we got, we all we need,” Jenkins embodied the underdog mentality that helped the Eagles bring home their first Lombardi Trophy.
Jalen Mills, Cornerback
Mills was a stud at LSU who fell to the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft due to a slow 40-yard-dash time and perceived off-field issues. The Eagles ended up getting one of the hardest working players on the team when they drafted the cornerback.
Mills began 2016 as the team’s fourth cornerback and came along toward the end of his rookie year. He won the hearts of Eagles fans during training camp when he showed up to practice with green hair and was dubbed the “Green Goblin,” a moniker that has stuck with him since. The rookie finished his year with seven defended passes and two starts.
Coming into 2017, Mills fought Ron Brooks, Rasul Douglas, Patrick Robinson and Aaron Grymes for the vacant starting cornerback position. He had the early lead with his late-2016 performance still relatively fresh in coaches’ minds. After securing the starting position, Mills got to work and showed flashes of elite cornerback ability.
Mills finished the season as one of the most targeted cornerbacks but held every receiver he faced in check. He also showed one of the most important traits in a young cornerback which is the ability to have a short memory. Mills could give up a touchdown but on the next drive if he deflected a pass he was quick to shrug his shoulders, wag his finger and let the receiver know who won that play.
The Eagles found a diamond in the rough and a steal in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. Mills finished the year with three interceptions and fourteen defended passes while starting 15 games and they have their starting cornerback for the foreseeable future.
The Eagles Super Bowl roster will be remembered forever by Eagles fans. While each member of that roster surely has their own underdog story, these are the biggest underdogs that helped one of the biggest underdog teams in NFL history overcome all adversity to bring home the sport’s biggest prize.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports