Philadelphia Eagles

Chance Warmack: Jeff Stoutland 'influenced my decision' to join Eagles

Chance Warmack: Jeff Stoutland 'influenced my decision' to join Eagles

The first four years of Chance Warmack's NFL career haven't quite gone according to plan. After he was taken as the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Warmack simply hasn't lived up to his draft status nor his stellar college career.

But if there's one guy who can help him reach his potential, that guy's in Philly.

At least that's what Warmack is banking on.

As Warmack became a top draft pick and a two-time national champion as the left guard for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2011-12, his offensive line coach was Jeff Stoutland. Yes, the same Jeff Stoutland who has held the same position for the Eagles since 2013.

"Oh, that influenced my decision very much. He's my guy," Warmack said. "Helped me a lot in college, took me to the next level. I'm hoping to make that magic work again here. I've already met with him, we've already talked scheme, so I'm just excited, man, I'm ready to go."

Warmack, 25, wasn't just good in college. He was incredible. And that's why he has Ray Didinger tripping over himself about the Eagles' decision to sign him to a one-year deal (see story).

Continually during his press conference Friday, Warmack said he thought coming to the Eagles on a one-year deal -- and leaving other offers on the table -- was the right move for him. He thinks Philadelphia was the best fit.

And it might be oversimplifying, but it sure seems like Stoutland was the biggest part of that decision.

"He's a dynamic coach," Warmack said. "He's a guy that's going to pull everything he can up out of you. And he knows me. He knows the type of player I am from Alabama. I feel like that relationship in itself is what's going to take me to the next level."

As for Stoutland, he walked down the hallway in the NovaCare Complex a couple hours before Warmack took to the podium and said he's pretty excited about having his former pupil back.

From the time Warmack was drafted, he was immediately thrust into the starting lineup in Tennessee. That won't necessarily be the case in Philly. The Eagles still have Brandon Brooks as their starting right guard and Isaac Seumalo, Allen Barbre and Stefen Wisniewski fighting for the left guard spot.

Still, it wouldn't be crazy to think about Warmack coming in and impressing enough to be a starter. Then if everything worked out, maybe he'd sign a long-term deal to stay with the Eagles.

"Honestly, wherever I fit, wherever I plug in, wherever I can help the team the best way, I'm going to do that," he said. "Whatever they ask of me to do, whether it's play left or right, I'll do that for them. I'm here to be a team player, I'm here to help the team."

He wouldn’t really talk about the one-year deal Friday, other than to say coming to Philadelphia was the right situation for him.

In 2016, Warmack's season ended after just two games. He tore a tendon in his finger and needed surgery. But now, he said he's 100 percent healthy. To prove it Friday, he balled his hand into a fist and gave a fist bump to a reporter in the first row.

"They cleared me," he said. "Ready to grab, punch, all that."

To most, Warmack's four-year career, thus far, has been a disappointment. How would he evaluate it?

"I feel like there's a lot more for me to do in terms of my game, in terms of developing as a player," he said. "You can always get better as a player. You just have to fit in the right situation and I feel like I really feel like this is it. This is where I needed to be."

Trades of veteran offensive linemen signal Eagles' confidence in depth at position

Trades of veteran offensive linemen signal Eagles' confidence in depth at position

Clearly, the Eagles feel good about their offensive line depth, trading away two experienced veterans since training camp opened in July. It also sounds like the latest deal to send Matt Tobin to the Seahawks had a lot to do with the organization’s faith in one player in particular.

Tobin made 21 starts over four seasons with the Eagles and was the first player off the bench at offensive tackle when the 2016 campaign began. Yet, after Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games, it was Halapoulivaati Vaitai who took over at right tackle, and the player known as “Big V” stuck until an MCL sprain knocked him out of the lineup.

Vaitai’s performance in seven games as a rookie apparently was enough to put the Eagles at ease when Seattle came calling about Tobin.

“I'm really comfortable, and I say that because of what ‘V’ did for us last year, stepping in when Lane was not with us,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said after practice Tuesday.

A fifth-round draft pick from TCU, Vaitai is now cemented in his role for the Eagles heading into 2017.

“This is a good opportunity to keep making a name for myself,” Vaitai said. “From the first game last year to now, there's a big difference.

“Like I keep always keep telling myself, ‘If these guys can do it, why can't I do it?’”

Vaitai struggled mightily – and very visibly at that – in his first NFL start at Washington last season, but gradually improved as the weeks progressed. Within a month, he had developed into an acceptable stand-in for Johnson and was playing some pretty good football.

It was an adjustment for everybody, to say the least. It was also tremendous experience for Vaitai, who credits Johnson and Eagles left tackle Jason Peters in aiding his growth.

“Just think of it this way: It was like being a freshman all over again last year,” Vaitai said. “Going to college, you're new to the offense, new coaches and everything, but it's just like here, only more of a business.

“Coming in here, you're like, 'Oh, dang,' thinking a lot. The good thing about it is I'm getting mentored by one of the greatest guys in the world, not only Jason but Lane, too. They've been helping me, not only with the technique but getting my mental right.”

With Tobin gone, the Eagles are placing a lot more responsibility on Vaitai’s shoulders. The 24-year-old is suddenly the next man up at not one, but two positions.

“Obviously, comfortable with Jason Peters and Lane as our starters," Pederson said, "and Big V as the swing tackle that can go left or right.”

Listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Vaitai certainly possesses the size to tangle with defenders on the left, but he faced some questions about his athleticism coming out of college. His technique remains the No. 1 concern, however, and as we’ve seen from Tobin, or even from Johnson this preseason, learning to play multiple positions can be a daunting task.

“Now I kind of understand what Matt was going through the last couple years playing left and right and guard,” Vaitai said. “It's just one of those things where if you're the next guy up on the bench, you have to do it.

“I played left and right tackle at TCU, but more of a spread offense there. Here, it's a little challenging because I've trained (on the right). This is more of a muscle memory thing.”

The Tobin trade made it more likely the Eagles keep Dillon Gordon on the 53-man roster.

Entering his second season, Gordon was undrafted from LSU, where he played tight end. The Eagles have put a lot into the conversion already, stashing him on the 53 for the entire 2016 campaign, though he suited up for just one game.

“Tobin was here when I first came in, and he was another guy who took me under his wing, teaching me little things about the game, and you hate to see for him to go,” Gordon said. “But then it's also a boost for me and some of these other tackles that are here. It kind of solidifies your spot on the team.”

Whether Gordon cracks the roster might be based on how many offensive linemen the Eagles keep this season. With Stefan Wisniewski serving as the primary backup on the interior, and reclamation project Chance Warmack also in the mix, it’s still a numbers game on the O-line.

Dealing Tobin brought some clarity to the picture, but the Eagles still face tough decisions.

“The thing is you go into games with seven offensive linemen," Pederson said, "and I don't know how many, right now, we're going to end up keeping.

“We kept 10 last year. Whether it's going to be nine or eight, we haven't made that decision yet, but we're comfortable with the guys. I don't think you make these moves if you're not comfortable with the guys that are working.”

One thing is for sure, and that’s having too many quality reserves or prospects along the O-line is a nice problem to have.

“We have some really, really good backups that would be starters other places for sure,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “As an offensive line, you have to have depth because injuries happen, as we've seen, and I think we have some guys who are more than capable and ready to go.”

The Eagles also showed confidence in their interior depth early on in camp, sending Allen Barbre to the Broncos. Barbre started the previous two seasons at left guard and previously played offensive tackle for the club as well.

As one player observed, multiple trades are simply a sign of a plan coming together.

“This organization has done a good job of adding a lot of good players to this offensive line,” Wisniewski said. “It's good because then you have options, options like trades in the summer, if guys get hurt, you still feel good about what you have. It seems like it's been a plan to add a lot of guys and see what happens.

“Seems like the plan's working out.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase reflects on ‘good experience’ interviewing with Eagles

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Dolphins coach Adam Gase reflects on ‘good experience’ interviewing with Eagles

When practice ended Monday and Tuesday, Adam Gase held a press conference in the Eagles' media tent adjacent to the NovaCare Complex practice fields.

It was easy to wonder what could have been.

Before he was hired by the Dolphins, Gase interviewed for the Eagles' head coaching vacancy.  

The Dolphins fired Joe Philbin a month into the 2015 regular season, and the Eagles fired Chip Kelly with a week left.

In the end, the Dolphins hired Gase and the Eagles hired Doug Pederson, although the sense was Gase was the Eagles' first choice, but the Dolphins were Gase's first choice.

Last year, the Dolphins went 10-6 under Gase and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008 before losing to the Steelers in a wild-card game. The Eagles went 7-9 in Pederson's first year and haven't made the playoffs since 2013.

The Dolphins opened 1-4 before going 9-2 the rest of the way. The Eagles opened 3-0 before finishing 4-7.

With the Dolphins in town this week for joint workouts, Gase reflected on his interview with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski.

“It was a good experience just to get around," Gase said. "I knew Howie but meeting a lot of different people from the organization. Just the questions they were asking, kind of the culture they were looking to reestablish, and just a good day to have a conversation about all those types of things. 

"A lot of questions coming up on things. Usually, when you go in those interviews, something always comes up that you learn from that you have not necessarily prepared yourself for and you kind of have to think on the fly. 

"I thought they asked a lot of good questions and it was just a good conversation going back and forth.”

Gase was the hot candidate two years ago based on his work in one season as the Bears' offensive coordinator after stints with the Broncos, Lions and 49ers.

After the 2015 season, he interviewed for head coaching openings with the Eagles, Dolphins, Browns and Giants.

The Eagles' plan was to not make a hire until the Chiefs were finished in the playoffs so they could interview Pederson, who at the time was Andy Reid's offensive coordinator.

But the Dolphins brought in Gase for a second interview on Jan. 6, nearly two weeks before the Chiefs were eliminated in the playoffs by the Patriots.

The Eagles wound up announcing that they had hired Pederson, their opening-day quarterback in 1999, after the Chiefs were eliminated, although the deal was finalized a few days before that. 

Gase wound up third in NFL Coach of the Year balloting.

"It was (the Eagles) and then I had three other interviews," Gase said. "By the end of the week, (the Eagles) were still in the interview process and I got offered the job (with the Dolphins).”