Webster’s Dictionary defines swagger as “to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence.” Synonyms include boast, brag, bold, and brash. None of these words should be used in any sentence describing the Philadelphia Eagles over the last month.
The city’s football team has been the complete opposite: unpolished and vulgar, perhaps a bit unhinged during the worst stretch of games in the Nick Sirianni era. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles have gone 1-4 while clinging to a postseason ticket that was punched weeks ago. But, hope springs eternal in January and the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be rising like an Australian sunrise.
Jordan Mailata — the starting left tackle who was just named as a Pro Bowl alternate — has noticed a certain pep in everyone’s step this week at practices in South Philly. Crisper, more attention to detail. They are feeling a sudden sense of urgency and the swagger from last year’s Super Bowl run has returned.
“It’s been a tight couple of weeks, you could say month, and I think just getting our swag back and being comfortable,” Mailata told reporters, “but also being more detailed, executing at a high rate … understanding what your technique is and going out there, like we did today, and executing.”
Mailata went on to say the Eagles have doubled down on Sirianni’s core values: compete, connect, accountability, fundamentals, football IQ. No one has lost faith in the coaching staff. No one has lost trust in the process. No one is panicking or pointing fingers, instead, players are drawing positivity from A.J. Brown’s passionate locker-room speech.
“When you get to the playoffs it’s week to week so we know going into this game we want to try and get back to Eagles football and whatever that is,” Mailata said. “We spent enough time talking. Now we gotta go out and do it. The vibes are high this week. The energy is high and I got a good feeling this week that the boys are here.”
While swagger was the word Mailata used to detail the mood, others were quick to tone down the bravado. Jason Kelce, the undisputed heart and soul of the Eagles, was more focused on the here and now minus the overbearing self-confidence.
“I’m not going to say anything like that,” Kelce told reporters. “I’m going to go out there and play football. I think … you gotta go out there and do it. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to going out and doing.”
Jason Kelce Gives Nick Sirianni a Huge Vote of Confidence
There has been much made about Nick Sirianni’s job security following the Eagles’ embarrassing 35-31 loss to Arizona. The Eagles sure didn’t look like a Super Bowl team in that one or, let’s be honest, at any point this season. Naturally, speculation has focused on Sirianni’s voice being tuned out amid rumors of the front office meddling in coaching changes and roster manipulation. That’s not the case, according to Jason Kelce.
“You want everybody taking accountability,” Kelce said. “You want everybody sticking together through times of adversity. You want to make the corrections and you want to be honest with each other and everybody to be accountable. I think when you have a head coach who has everybody’s back and continues to work, continues to push guys to be the best versions of themselves, that’s what you want.”
What Kelce really wants is another Super Bowl ring with the Eagles before he retires. No decision has been made on whether he returns next year, although the future Hall of Famer admitted that he may have played his last game at Lincoln Financial Field last week. If this is indeed Kelce’s swan song, he’s going out swinging.
“I think what fuels me going forward is trying to be better as a team and reach the potential that I think this group has,” Kelce said. “You know, we have a lot of great players, I continue to say a lot of great coaches … we’re on a stretch right now where we haven’t played great football, and I think we get another opportunity to go out there this week and go prove to ourselves that we can do it, and go out there and have fun together.”
Eagles’ Defense Adapting to Defensive Coordinator Switch
The decision to make Matt Patricia the de facto defensive coordinator in Week 15 didn’t solve any problems. The unit has bent early and broken late while giving up two game-winning drives against Seattle and Arizona. It hasn’t been an easy transition for players on that side of the ball.
“It’s a hard thing to do but it’s our job at the end of the day, so there’s no complaints about it,” Haason Reddick told reporters. “It’s definitely hard. We spent so much time with one DC, learning a new DC at that — at the beginning of the year when we’re trying to learn everything that he wants us to do, his terminology, the way he calls things, and then at the end of the season we switch. But, like I said, at the end of the day it must get done. That’s what the higher-ups here felt was needed to get done in order to try and make a change and get some things corrected. As players, we gotta go out there and do our best and perform.”
No excuses. No complaints. Yet there has been a somewhat uncomfortable learning curve since moving Sean Desai into the press box. Reddick — a pass-rushing specialist who ranks 14th in the NFL with 11 sacks — was dropped into coverage seven times versus Arizona. He finished the game with only 23 pass-rush snaps and one pressure.
“Right now we’re just trying to get things done to win a game,” Reddick said. “I’m just doing what’s asked of me at the end of the day and trying to help the team win whatever way we can win, so if that’s what it calls for then, I mean, I’m willing to do it. I’m going to go out there and do what is required and whatever I’m asked to do at the end of the day. Hopefully, that plan works and that’s what is needed for us to win.”
AP Photo/Matt Slocum