Eagles' LBs soaking in Kevin Greene at camp


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.”

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Wendell Smallwood played just seven snaps and had just three carries coming into Sunday's game against the Steelers. 

In his third game, the rookie fifth-rounder from West Virginia led the Eagles in snaps and rushing attempts. 

Smallwood carries 17 times on his 24 snaps — many as the Eagles worked to run out the clock. Smallwood rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown, impressing his teammates along the way (see story). It was the best rushing performance for an Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 

Smallwood and Sproles each had 24 snaps. Kenjon Barner had 12 and starter Ryan Mathews had just eight. After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said Mathews was being evaluated. The running back had an ankle injury not long ago. 

As far as the rest of the offense, the entire starting line and Carson Wentz played all 65 offensive snaps. 

Jordan Matthews led the way for the wide receivers with 55 snaps. Dorial Green-Beckham continues to be more involved, going from 32 percent to 46 percent to 49 percent of offensive snaps on Sunday. He appears to be ahead of Josh Huff in many cases. 

The poor Eagles defense had to play 60 snaps on Sunday after two straight weeks with 52. Last year, the Eagles' defense averaged over 74 snaps per game. 

The Eagles have held the ball for 34-plus minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since 2008. 

What really stands out on the defensive snap counts is that Mychal Kendricks had just nine snaps on Sunday. Kendricks, who came into the game with a broken nose and a quad injury, is still a starter but has been demoted. He's no longer in the team's nickel package. 

Another interesting note is that while Vinny Curry began the spring practices as a starter, he was overtaken by Brandon Graham. Now Graham is playing so well it's hard to take him off the field. Connor Barwin led the defensive ends with 47 snaps on Sunday, followed by Graham's 42. Curry had just 26. Curry got a big contract in the offseason, but is clearly the third D-end. 

Through three games, here are the snap counts for the Eagles' top three defensive ends: 

Barwin — 124

Graham — 115

Curry — 74

Meanwhile, Destiny Vaeao picked up 19 snaps as he continues to show he's a solid depth piece. And Stephen Tulloch got 11 as Jim Schwartz continues a little rotation at linebacker. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday's game: 


Allen Barbre: 65 snaps (100 percent)

Brandon Brooks: 65 (100)

Lane Johnson: 65 (100)

Jason Peters: 65 (100)

Jason Kelce: 65 (100)

Carson Wentz: 65 (100)

Jordan Matthews: 55 (85)

Nelson Agholor: 52 (80)

Brent Celek: 45 (80)

Trey Burton: 33 (51)

Dorial Green-Beckham: 32 (49)

Josh Huff: 26 (40)

Wendell Smallwood: 24 (37)

Darren Sproles: 24 (37)

Matt Tobin: 12 (18)

Kenjon Barner: 12 (18)

Ryan Mathews: 8 (12)

Beau Allen: 1 (2)

Stefen Wisniewski: 1 (2)


Malcolm Jenkins: 60 snaps (100 percent)

Rodney McLeod: 60 (100)

Nolan Carroll: 60 (100)

Ron Brooks: 58 (97)

Nigel Bradham: 56 (93)

Jalen Mills: 53 (88)

Jordan Hicks: 49 (82)

Connor Barwin: 47 (78)

Brandon Graham: 42 (70)

Fletcher Cox: 41 (68)

Bennie Logan: 29 (48)

Vinny Curry: 26 (43)

Destiny Vaeao: 19 (32)

Beau Allen: 17 (28)

Marcus Smith: 13 (22)

Stephen Tulloch: 11 (18)

Mychal Kendricks: 9 (15)

Steven Means: 6 (10)

Jaylen Watkins: 3 (5)

Najee Goode: 1 (2)

Wendell Smallwood takes 'step forward' vs. Steelers, impresses teammates

Wendell Smallwood takes 'step forward' vs. Steelers, impresses teammates

A win over the Steelers may have been a pleasant surprise, but Wendell Smallwood getting the bulk of the carries for the Eagles' ground attack was virtually impossible to predict.
The fifth-round draft pick saw by far his most extensive action Sunday, leading the Eagles with 17 carries for 79 yards. Smallwood also scored his first NFL touchdown, punching one in from the goalline during the third quarter of a 34-3 route (see Instant Replay).
Yet it wasn't the touchdown or Smallwood's longest run of 13 that had his coaches and teammates talking after the game. It was having the wisdom to stay in bounds and keep the clock running while converting on 3rd-and-7 late in the final minutes.
"Great game for him," center Jason Kelce said of Smallwood. "My favorite play of the day was, we were in a four-minute offense and we run a little draw play to the outside, and he knows exactly where the chain is, gets the first down and comes down right in bounds to keep that clock moving.
"That's something a lot of rookies don't have the wherewithal to do. I thought it was an incredibly smart play by Wendell. A lot of times those kind of go unnoticed, but in our world, especially in clock management, even though the score was pretty much out of reach at the time, let's say it's a closer game, that's a big play for us."
"To get first downs, to be smart about the end of the game, to get the first down and stay in bounds as a rookie is tremendous," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It’s a great step forward with his development, but I’m very happy with what he did."
Smallwood's heady play drew rave reviews, but so did the rest of his game. The 22-year-old had four runs over 10 yards, including two on the touchdown drive alone. Gains of 14 and 12 set up his one-yard score two plays later, his first trip to the end zone since his college days at West Virginia.
"It was a long time coming," Smallwood said. "It felt good to get in and get my first touch, since I don't know how long, probably since late December, November.
"It just felt great, especially in a big game, as much as this game meant to us and everything that went into this week preparing for it. To get in the end zone and get the guys going, it felt like a dream come true out there."
Ryan Mathews started at running back for the Eagles, but disappeared early on with an undisclosed injury and never returned. Postgame, coach Pederson acknowledged something happened to Mathews, but had no update on the veteran's status.
That led to an increased role for Smallwood, who entered Sunday with three total touches on seven snaps. The Wilmington, Delaware, native also missed a bunch of time during training camp and the preseason, appearing in only one exhibition game.
Despite his inexperience, Pederson and the coaching staff showed tremendous confidence in Smallwood, even after he was stuffed on his initial goal line attempt — a feeling the rookie ballcarrier admitted to feeding off of.
"I really thought they were gonna send someone in because I couldn't get in, but they left me in," Smallwood said of the touchdown run. "It continued to show the confidence they have in me and how much they believe in me. They probably believe in me more than I believe in myself, so it just boosts my confidence and makes me want to go harder for them.
"He’s the same type of runner that we felt he was coming out of college and what we saw in preseason," Pederson said. "He’s a big, powerful guy. He’s a downhill guy. He’s a one-cut runner. He did a great job for us."
Smallwood also said the increased workload helped him find a rhythm as an NFL player, something he previously had not been able to do in such limited action.
"It just felt good to finally start getting a flow, getting comfortable with the game and not just being like out there like a deer in the headlights," Smallwood said. "It felt good to start getting a role, getting comfortable with the offense and getting the whole flow of the game. Instead of a couple plays, I was actually getting series."
With Mathews' status up in the air and Smallwood's emergence Sunday, it will be interesting to see whether this could lead to an increased workload moving forward. Although if running backs coach Duce Staley was telling the truth, this certainly could have been the beginning of things to come.
"Duce told me every game they're just going to keep working me in slowly, and the better I do, the more I'm going to play, so just keep getting those guys to believe in me and believe I can go out there and make plays," Smallwood said. "As long as I'm doing that, I think I'm going to play more."
Smallwood's Sunday might've been difficult to see coming for outsiders. Apparently, there are people inside the organization who have foreseen this.
In addition to Staley, Smallwood revealed backfield-mate Darren Sproles had a premonition of sorts that the kid might be relied upon heavily against the Steelers. And when you have a tutor like Sproles, a 12-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler, you probably tend to listen.
"He's great, not only as a receiver, but as a person and as a running back," Smallwood said of Sproles. "All the things he taught me even this week, even (Saturday) before we went to the hotel, he texted me like, 'Hey, get in your playbook, we might need you this game. We might lean on you this game.' And hey, it ended up happening."
Smallwood came ready to play Sunday, averaging better than 4.7 yards per attempt, punching one into the end zone, securing the ball on 17 touches and being aware of situations. With that kind of talent, production and instinct, his being an integral part of the game plan won't be a secret or surprise for much longer.

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