Eagles guard Mathis headed to Pro Bowl

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Eagles guard Mathis headed to Pro Bowl

Another offensive player for the Eagles is Pro Bowl bound.

Left guard Evan Mathis is headed to the all-star game after initially being named a second alternate. Mathis, who also made Associated Press first-team All Pro and made the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-NFL team, earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Mathis joins running back LeSean McCoy, left tackle Jason Peters, who has since dropped out, and quarterback Nick Foles as Eagles named to the play in the Jan. 22 game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Eagles were shut out of the game last year and haven’t had four Pro Bowl players since 2010 (Peters, Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson and David Akers.)

McCoy and Peters were both named to the Pro Bowl from the start. Mathis and Foles were alternates.

Mathis, a journeyman lineman for most of his career until signing with the Eagles before the 2011 season, has been one the game’s best interior offensive lineman for the past three seasons. He has started 47 of the 47 games he’s played since joining the team and winning the left guard spot in training camp.

He was recently named the league’s top run-blocking offensive lineman and top offensive guard, according to Pro Football Focus.

Mathis was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2005 and also played for the Dolphins and Bengals before signing with the Eagles. He started just 22 of 58 games before he signed with the Eagles as a street free agent.

Stephen Tulloch gets feet wet, thinks Eagles could have top-ranked D

Stephen Tulloch gets feet wet, thinks Eagles could have top-ranked D

INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran Stephen Tulloch made his Eagles debut Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium … late in the second half.

Tulloch, 31, was just signed earlier in the week. And after years of being a starter in the NFL, Tulloch comes to Philadelphia as role player. 

When was the last time he played in the fourth quarter of a preseason game?

“Wow. Two thouuusaaandd,” he said, trying to think. “Six, maybe … seven. But I didn’t have any training camp here, so it’s good to be out here and just run around.”

On one of Tulloch’s first plays of the night he was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness, and didn’t appear on the stat sheet otherwise after playing 19 snaps. Still, he was happy just to be back on the field. 

After spending all of training camp on the street and missing the first two preseason games, this was his first real football action in a long time. And he didn’t feel much rust. 

“Not really, man,” he said. “Just get my feet back under me again. It’s just different. I haven’t played since Jan. 3, but to get out there and see the calls and get familiarized with everything.”

There isn’t too much with which to get familiarized since Tulloch is not just a veteran of the NFL but also Jim Schwartz’s defense. He played in it in Tennessee and then Detroit. In fact, it’s what made it possible for him to even see the field during Saturday’s 33-23 win. 

How did the defense look to him? 

“The same way it always looks when my man Schwartz puts it together,” he said. “It’s very simple. He’s going to work to the guys’ strengths and it’s always been a productive defense as long as I’ve been a part of it. He has the talent here, the talent on this team, to be able to execute the defense.”

Aside from the defense on the field, there was something else familiar about Saturday night. As a MIKE linebacker, he had the earpiece in his helmet, which means direct communication with Schwartz. 

“You know how Jim is, he’s going to make sure you know everything,” Tulloch said. “Not just give you the call, but tell you what to look out for. He’s a madman when it comes to that. He’s studying film, he knows to look for certain down and distances. It’s good to have him back in my ear again.”

In his six seasons under Schwartz, Tulloch was a piece in two top-10 defenses, so he’s seen this scheme work at a high level. 

Now that he’s been with the Eagles for a few days and has seen what they have to offer, he thinks this defense should be a very good one. 

“A lot of talent,” Tulloch said. “Like I said, that D-line is special. [Malcolm Jenkins] on the back end, [Rodney McLeod]. There’s a lot of good young talent here and this is perfect for this defense. Guys will fit very well here and this defense should be a top-ranked defense.”

Defensive line proving to be Eagles' biggest strength

Defensive line proving to be Eagles' biggest strength

INDIANAPOLIS – If this was a realistic glimpse at what the Eagles’ defensive line is going to be, watch out.
 
This D-line has a chance to be something special.
 
All the usual preseason disclaimers apply. We don’t know how much the Colts game planned. We don’t know if they can all stay healthy. It’s always dangerous to project too much from a preseason game into the regular season.
 
Still.
 
This was dominating stuff Saturday night from a defensive line that is clearly the strength of this football team.
 
If they can keep it up … watch out.
 
“You don’t want to get carried away and go out there after a preseason game and say how great we are, but it’s still exciting,” defensive tackle Beau Allen said.
 
“I think we an be a really good crew. I think it’s a mature group, and we’ve all played in a lot of football games and we get out there we just feel comfortable with each other."

In the final tuneup for the starters, the Eagles beat the Colts, 33-23, at Lucas Oil Stadium (see story).
 
With the starting defense on the field, the Colts scored only on a field goal following a turnover and on a blocked punt. The Colts, with all-pro Andrew Luck playing into the third quarter, managed just 206 yards and those three points on six drives.
 
The Eagles sacked Luck three times, held Colts ball carriers to 24 yards on 13 carries and didn’t give Luck any time to get the ball down the field.
 
“They didn’t run the ball on us, which is always important early in the game,” Barwin said. “And then we were consistently getting Andrew off his spot, making him move around a little bit, making him uncomfortable.”
 
Yes, it’s preseason. But as Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins points out, an effective pass rush is an effective pass rush. No matter when you see it.
 
“One thing I think you can really evaluate in the preseason is a pass rush,” Jenkins said. “Especially if it’s a four-man rush. Because there’s not much of scheme to it. You cut ‘em loose and you either can beat him 1-on-1 or you can’t, and the consistent pressure we got from a four-man rush was definitely encouraging.
 
“We got more guys in coverage, the quarterback has to hold the ball a little bit longer, and every time we made him double clutch, he got put on the ground. 
 
“It goes hand and hand, coverage and pressure, so that’s obviously something we want to continue to excel at. … This was our last real opportuity to get out there together and play in some signifiant time and we wanted to make sure we had a clean run, had the small mistakes that we might have made earlier in camp, make sure those things are eradicated. Make sure we communicated well and played fast.”
 
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz used seven defensive linemen with the first group — starters Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, plus Vinny Curry, Taylor Hart and Allen.
 
It’s a talented group and it’s a deep group, and it's a group that's been together a long time.
 
"There’s a comfort level that comes with playing a lot of snaps with your guys and I think it shows out there on the field," Allen said. "It was a fun game and it seemed like we were flying around.”
 
Graham is in his seventh year with the Eagles, Cox and Curry in their fifth, Barwin and Logan in their fourth and Hart and Allen in their third.
 
Of the 16 players who’ve been here at least four years, five are defensive linemen. Of the eight Andy Reid holdovers, three are defensive linemen.
 
“I think we have great communication, great rapport,” Allen said. “It’s things like that you don’t really think about but it really goes a long way. We’ve all been here a while and it’s great when you get that.”
 
Every defensive coordinator talks about playing all his guys, about depth. From what we saw Saturday night, Schwartz truly believes in it.

He worked just about everybody in with the first group.
 
“We’re going to continue to move guys around, rotate guys in, keep guys fresh and play with that kind of speed all game long,” Barwin said.
 
“I know we’re pretty deep at defensive line. Everybody can play. Everybody’s capable of making plays. When you are playing at that speed every single snap and you know your’e only going to play three, four, five plays in a row? And you can go as hard as you can possibly go? That allows you to make plays.”
 
Logan, Barwin and Allen sacked Luck Saturday night, and Logan, Allen, Barwin, Graham, Hart and Cox were all credited with quarterback hits.
 
It was dominating stuff. It didn’t count but it sure was promising.
 
“It was just fun, man, when you’re out there flying around,” Graham said. “We know we still have to keep getting better. It’s preseason and a lot of guys don’t really game plan us and stuff like that, but it’s definitely good that the effort part is there. You don’t have to coach that.
 
“We’re all out there going hard and playing fast and for us we just want to keep getting better and it’s going to be nice when we actually game plan a team and really start getting after it, man.
 
“I’m excited. I’m just excited about where this defense is going to go if we continue to stay together.”

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

INDIANAPOLIS – The main reason Josh Huff has been such a frustrating player during his young NFL career was on full display Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
 
He flashed. Again.
 
The third-year wideout from Oregon was dynamic, elusive, productive. He didn’t look like a disappointment. He didn’t look like the player fans have grown to distrust. Instead, he looked like the guy they still hope he can become.
 
“Just get back to being me, get back to being myself,” Huff said. “I know every receiver, everybody’s gonna drop balls in this league. I just can’t beat myself up over that.
 
“I know that I belong in this league. I know that I’m able to make plays in this league, so I just have to play my game and be myself and let it sort itself out.”
 
Huff finished Saturday’s 33-23 win over the Colts with two catches for 60 yards and a nine-yard touchdown run. He again showed just how dangerous he can be when the ball’s in his hands.
 
His first catch of the day was a 38-yard catch-and-run, which clearly played to his strengths. His second was a 22-yard pickup on a critical 3rd-and-6 during a drive that ended with a touchdown.
 
And aside from the catches, he also ran into the end zone on a 9-yard jet sweep early in the second quarter.
 
“We had some plays designed to get him involved this week, to get him the ball,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I thought he did a great job. The play that really comes to my mind is the third down where it was man coverage. He beat the guy and made a nice catch, big conversion for us. He’s a guy, and I’ve said it all camp, that has big play potential for us. It’s just with his speed and his ability to run after the catch. To get him involved tonight and see those things from him, it was really nice.”
 
Huff said he tried to enter the game like it was any other. And he said he didn’t do anything differently. But it clearly seems like the 24-year-old is trying desperately to get out of his own way. Because when he does, he can be electric.
 
Saturday night was also about the coaching staff’s finding a way to use Huff — something that clearly eluded the last staff, despite Chip Kelly’s familiarity with the wideout.
 
With Jordan Matthews out against the Colts, Huff again played in the slot, a role that seems to fit his strengths, while the jet sweep for a touchdown was the culmination of plenty of similar plays run during practices.
 
“Coaches know what I can do with the ball in my hands,” Huff said. “So they’re trying to find ways to get the ball in my hands, whether it’s a pass or behind the line of scrimmage.“
 
The Eagles made sure to get the ball to Huff on Saturday night and he rewarded them with the kind of play he’s shown he’s capable of before.
 
He took a step forward Saturday night. Now, he just needs to make sure the step backward doesn’t follow this time.
 
“It’s just a mental game for me,” Huff said. “I know I can make all the plays that I made today. It’s just about doing it on a consistent basis and being the best I can be during that play or during that game.”