Eagles' LBs soaking in Kevin Greene at camp

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Eagles' LBs soaking in Kevin Greene at camp

It’s not too often you get to learn from one of the best ever.

For the Eagles’ outside linebackers, having Kevin Greene at practice this week has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Greene, No. 3 in NFL history with 160 sacks, is spending three days this week at Eagles practice. Greene played under Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis in 1993 and 1994 with the Steelers and in 1996 and 1998 under Davis with the Panthers.

Davis’ backers are loving every minute of it.

“We have the same body type, similar speed, similar arm length,” Connor Barwin said. “So the way he teaches pass rush is invaluable to me because I can try to carry that over to my game.

“There’s things I’m seeing already, just lessons he’s given me from playing the position for 15 years, the ins and outs and detail of it that he’s taught me the last couple of days that I already brought to the field today, and I can see them helping, so … I’m excited to use what he’s telling me throughout the season.”

Greene trails only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) on the NFL’s all-time sack list. After recording 13½ sacks in his first three seasons, he averaged 12.2 sacks over the next 12 years with the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers.

Greene led the NFL in sacks twice, one of only four players in history to do so. He went to five Pro Bowls and made first-team all-pro twice. He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been picking his brain as much as I can,” Brandon Graham said. “He’s giving us a whole lot, and it doesn’t stop when he leaves. We have to keep harping on it and remember what he said. So far, so good. It’s just all about staying consistent, master a couple rushes and a couple counter moves and perfect it. That’s what he did. I feel like I’m getting a whole lot out of it.”

Greene retired after the 1999 season, and after a pro wrestling career, he returned to the NFL in 2009, spending five seasons coaching with the Packers under head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Don Capers, who had coached Greene in Pittsburgh and Carolina. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2010, then left coaching after the 2013 season to spend more time with his family.

He’s only in Philly for a brief few days, but he said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Barwin, Trent Cole, Graham, Marcus Smith and the Eagles’ other outside backers.

“I like them,” Greene said. “Every one of them has a good motor and they all seem to be into it mentally and really working hard. And not just them but everybody. Everybody seems to really be into practice as a team, amped up, really wanting to contribute. Everybody’s working hard, so I really like the atmosphere.

“It feels good to be a part of Philadelphia for a couple days and impart some wisdom on these young kids.”

Greene isn’t coaching these days, although he said he would consider returning to it one day.

His son Gavin is a sophomore at Niceville High School in the Florida Panhandle, where he plays football.

“I don’t miss coaching at all,” Greene said. “I’m doing the same thing with my son that I did with Clay [Matthews] and all my kids there in Green Bay. I’m having the time of my life.

“It’s fun just being a dad. I’m a dad. I’m just a dad. Get my son to practice, I bring him home, put him out in the field and work on some stuff. Father-son time. Really cool.”

For guys like Graham and Cole, having Greene around is a huge help as they try to continue transitioning from 4-3 defensive ends to 3-4 linebackers. For Smith and Barwin, it’s an opportunity to hone their skill even more.

“It’s a very basic, fundamental way of rushing the passer that he's bringing to our guys,” Davis said. “We are excited about picking his brain for three or four days before he leaves.”

Somehow, despite having the most sacks in NFL history by a linebacker, Greene is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a glaring omission.

“The guy has got 160 career sacks and I know I'm prejudice to him but I really do believe it's time for him to be in the Hall [of Fame],” Davis said.

Greene said he doesn’t lose any sleep over the Hall of Fame snub. He’s been a finalist in each of the last three years and should eventually get in.

But it’s impossible to imagine how a guy with more career sacks than Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Richard Dent, Jason Taylor and Derrick Thomas can routinely be ignored by the Hall of Fame voters.

“I look back on my 15 years and I know how I played and I know what I was able to accomplish,” Greene said after practice Monday at the NovaCare Complex (see practice observations).

“My goal was to pass Lawrence Taylor in sacks, because everybody looked at Lawrence Taylor as being the best outside backer and I was blessed to play longer and be more productive than the great Lawrence Tayor.

“So that’s where my peace lies. Whether anybody else recognizes that, that’s really out of my control. But I know what I was able to accomplish playing essentially the same position.”

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself. And it’s not a winning pattern.

Week after week, the Eagles are digging themselves a first-quarter hole. And week after week, they’re too far behind to catch up.

They trailed the Lions 14-0 in the first quarter. They trailed the Redskins 14-0 a minute into the second quarter. They fell behind the Cowboys 10-3 early in the second. The Giants jumped up on them 14-0 just six minutes in. And on Sunday, the Bengals led 10-0 before the first quarter was over.

If football games began at the start of the second quarter? This would be a different season. The Eagles would be 7-4-1.

The Eagles has actually outscored their opponents in the second, third and fourth quarters.

But the first quarter has been fatal.

The Eagles have been outscored by 32 points in the first quarter – 65 to 33. That’s their fourth-worst first-quarter scoring margin in the last 25 years, behind only three other nightmarish seasons – 1998 (minus-52), 2005 (minus-51) and 2012 (minus-75).

It’s also fourth-worst of any NFL team this year, ahead of only the Jets (minus-36), Broncos (minus-37) and Dolphins (minus-56).

Some teams – like the Broncos and Dolphins – have enough firepower to fight from behind.

The Eagles don’t.

They’re 4-0 when leading after the first quarter, 1-1 when tied after the first quarter and 0-6 when trailing after the first quarter.

At 0-6, they share the second-worst record in the NFL when trailing after 15 minutes with the Jaguars and 49ers. The Browns are 0-8 when trailing after the first quarter.

Last time the Eagles didn’t win a game all year when trailing after the first quarter was 1998. Before that 1977.

“It’s tough, especially in this league, to dig yourself a hole,” Carson Wentz said. “Whether the defense is struggling or the offense giving them points with turnovers and different things, it’s been a variation of a lot of those things. 

“It’s tough to dig yourself a hole against anybody, especially against good teams. So we’ve got to avoid that and we’ve got to come out swinging a little better early in games.”

The last time the Eagles won after trailing following the first quarter was the Dallas game last year, when they trailed 7-0 and won 33-27 in overtime.

What does it say about a team when it’s allowed twice as many points as it’s scored in the first quarter?

It sure seems like the Eagles several times this year simply haven’t been ready to play.

“The start to games, it's a mindset,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's truly a mindset. It's one of those things where as a team you want to come out and you want to kind of make the first punch, so to speak, or swing first. 

“We did it against Green Bay. We went down and scored, we matched touchdown for touchdown there. And we've done it throughout the course of the season. We've got to be a little more consistent offensively, too. That can also help. And then defensively it's just a matter of working to get off the field.

“It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game if you can do that early in a football game.”

The Eagles have scored just three first-quarter touchdowns all year (only the Broncos have fewer) and haven’t scored more than seven points in any of their 12 first quarters.

They’ve allowed nine first-quarter touchdowns, and only one team has allowed more – the Dolphins with 10.

Wentz has completed 67 percent of his first-quarter passes but with just one TD pass and four interceptions.

Incredibly, the Eagles have only five plays all year of more than 20 yards in the first quarter – just one in the last four games. Only the Saints, Jaguars and Broncos have fewer.

Why are the Eagles so bad early in games?

“There is no other answer than to execute one play at a time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There's no magic formula. I think we've had good energy at practice. I like the way we practice. I feel like we are putting together good plans.

“We're showing flashes of being a good football team. We need to be more consistent. We need to make more big plays. It's hard to sustain 14-play drives. We've missed a few plays here and there. We just all – coaches, players together – need to make it work one play at a time.”

The only teams to outscore the Eagles in the second half are the Cowboys (13-10), Seahawks (10-8) and Packers (13-3).

When a team has outscored its opponents by 61 points in the second, third and fourth quarters combined and it’s 5-7, the focus has to be on the first quarter.

That means preparation. That means being mentally and physically ready. 

“Yeah, I do look at all of that, and that's part of my job is the (pregame) schedule and all,” Pederson said. “But these guys are in a great frame of mind on game day. They're loose; they're energetic; they're ready to go. They're focused. 

“You see it in pregame. It's been unfortunate, but it's something we've got to focus in on a little bit more … and try to strike first.”

The Eagles will try to end their three-game losing streak at 1 p.m. Sunday when they face the Redskins at the Linc.

The Redskins, 6-5-1 but with a two-game losing streak, beat the Eagles 27-20 in Landover, Md., in October.

“I think it just comes down to being focus and locking in,” Wentz said. “You’ve seen us. There’ve been games where we’ve come out and we’re rolling right away.

"We just have to find a way to maintain that and be consistent with that. The goal is to come out swinging right away.”

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles' best receiver, was back at practice again on Thursday. 

Matthews was a full participant on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday, which is a very good sign for the Eagles. Last week, he returned on Thursday, but then had to sit out Friday and missed Sunday's game. 

It was the first game Matthews had ever missed in his career. Even with the missed game, Matthews still leads the Eagles in receptions (57), receiving yards (686) and receiving touchdowns (3). 

Fellow receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) was on the practice field early but left as the Eagles began to stretch. He did not practice for the second straight day. 

Without Green-Beckham and with Matthews hobbled, the Eagles are light at receiver, with just Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles want to keep Turner involved in the game plan even with the return of Matthews. 

Ryan Mathews (knee) was on the practice field again on Thursday, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It looks like Vaitai will miss his third straight game this weekend.