Bye Week Book Review: Bowen's History of the Eagles

Bye Week Book Review: Bowen's History of the Eagles

The folks from MVP Books, a Minnesota-based publisher that is producing a series of NFL team history books, were kind enough to send us a copy of one of their new products, entitled Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History. Written by our man Les Bowen from the Daily News, the title also works as a succinct description -- no need to explain what you should expect to find between the covers.

But the question is whether or not it's worth the money for the diehards who were likely raised on anecdotes about the club's glory days, not to mention have lived through quite a bit of what we now call "history" ourselves. You may even already own a similar product, so what could possibly be so different inside this one? After 192 pages, the answer is you might be surprised.

The very first thing that caught my eye about this book was how vibrant everything was. The glossy paper makes color photos seemingly leap right off the pages, while the old black-and-whites are as vivid as you will ever see. I was really impressed by the quality of many of the pictures that were used from the 30's and 40's.

It's not just photos though. The pages are littered with depictions of memorabilia, including vintage gameday programs going all the way back to the team's first days, trading cards, pennants, patches, pins, ticket stubs, and even comics depicting larger than life stars like Steve Van Buren. The "illustrated" portion of this product alone makes this unique to other printed histories of the Birds.

Of course, it's the story of the franchise as told by Les Bowen. If you're a truly devoted fan, you're no doubt at least familiar with the team's rich tradition.

Bowen delivers a faithful retelling, walking the reader through each decade's important games and milestones, the characters who shaped the team and their backgrounds, and the experiences that defined the respective time periods. He often expertly draws on old quotes from players, coaches, and reporters to give definition to his accounts of the events.

And needless to say, there's a hint of that Bowen snark in there as well.

Every several pages, the main story breaks off, replaced by inserts that delve deeper into the lives and roles of Philadelphia's most important footballers. From Bert Bell to Ricky Watters, and Chuck Bednarik to Jim Johnson, the focus briefly shifts to individuals who were either great or otherwise interesting to the story for one reason or another.

Overall, it creates a nice package that, to my knowledge, has not been replicated. The History of the Eagles DVD is fantastic, when you have time to sit down and kill a couple hours. Ray Didinger's Eagles Encyclopedia is overflowing with information and is a fine keepsake too, but it's not exactly a chronological tale, and simply doesn't match the illustrated aspect of this.

It's always easier to write a glowing review when you get something for free, but I can honestly say Eagles fans can be proud to display this on their coffee table or in their memorabilia room. It's the type of item you don't even have to be a football fan to appreciate just how colorful the pages are, and how fascinating the sport's history can be.

If you collect these sorts of things, Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete Illustrated History comes with a high recommendation. Or if you happen to see this sitting out at a buddy's house, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes flipping through. It's a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and have dropped five of their last six. 

The Redskins have dropped two straight, but are still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5-1.

The Birds are looking for their first win against the NFC East this season. Here are five matchups to watch.

Eagles defensive line vs. Redskins offensive line
In the matchup in Washington, the Redskins' O-line owned the Eagles' D-line to the tune of 230 rushing yards and nearly 500 yards total. The Eagles also failed to record a sack. And that was at a time when their line was playing fairly well.

The Eagles' line has come under serious fire and for good reason. They've grossly underperformed for a unit that's supposed to be the team's strength. As for the Redskins, their line has been very good all season and they'll get All Pro Trent Williams back after the massive tackle served a four-game suspension.

DeSean Jackson vs. Eagles' corners
DeSean has been on a roll. The Eagles' corners have not. In his last three games, Jackson has nine catches for 228 yards (good for 25.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. 

Last week in Cincinnati, the Eagles were burned by the formidable trio of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core for 11 catches for 219 yards. Each receiver had at least one reception of 29 yards plus. It could be a long day for Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills.

Carson Wentz vs. Joe Barry
It's no secret that Wentz has been struggling. In his last three, Wentz  has three touchdowns to six interceptions and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Equally as alarming is that Wentz is 83 of 141 over that span. That's a ridiculous 47 attempts per game. Yes, the Eagles have been behind in those games, but Doug Pederson still needs to find a way to give this offense balance.

Barry's unit hasn't exactly set the world on fire, ranking 23rd in yards per game and 20th in points allowed. They've let up 31 points in each of their last two games, but it is important to note that they've played the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Eagles don't have playmakers like Ezekiel Elliot and Dez Bryant or David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Allen Barbre
Kerrigan looked unstoppable in the NFL debut of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Kerrigan racked up 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries in the Redskins' win. Kerrigan has already reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career and has notched a sack in each of his last three.

Barbre has performed admirably in the absence of both the suspended Lane Johnson and the injured Vaitai. It's also pretty clear that Barbre's best position is guard. It's going to be a stiff test for Barbre to contain Kerrigan. 

Jordan Matthews (maybe) vs. Josh Norman 
With Paul Turner performing well in the slot, it'll be interesting to see if Pederson decides to use Matthews on the outside more. Matthews is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the Eagles' loss to the Bengals and is listed as questionable on Sunday. Even if Matthews is 100 percent, it's not an ideal matchup for the Eagles.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

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Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Watson, who finished third in Heisman voting last year, led a stacked group of contenders entering this season that included five of the top seven vote-getters in 2015.

Jackson outdid them all in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter, accounting for 51 touchdowns and averaging 410 yards per game in total offense. He ultimately won going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the sixth largest in Heisman history, and he became the youngest winner at 19 years, 352 days.

Jackson is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He's the first to enter the postseason without a chance to win the national title since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No matter. Jackson did so much before November it was difficult to deny him the award because of a couple of missteps at the end.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse, hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson, Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson left that Oct. 1 game in Death Valley as a threat to run away with the Heisman, but losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, in late November provided an opportunity for others to sway voters.

Watson made the biggest surge, but ultimately fell short.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talented Louisville coach Bobby Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman and showed what was to come in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He had 453 total yards and led Louisville to a victory.

Still, with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, Jackson entered the season without much fanfare.

Just the way he likes it.

Jackson spent this season adjusting to newfound fame, growing into the role of face of the team and trying to stay out of the spotlight. He said he cut down on trips to the mall to avoid the inevitable crowds he drew.

He is about to become even more popular. Especially back in Louisville, where he has another year before he can even consider his next big jump -- to the NFL.