Eagles schedule highlighted by West Coast trip, Christmas game

Eagles schedule highlighted by West Coast trip, Christmas game

The Eagles got their wish. Sort of. 

Last month at the NFL owners meetings, head coach Doug Pederson revealed that the team had asked the NFL to put two of their West Coast trips back-to-back. The best-case scenario would have been to have their games against the Rams and Chargers in back-to-back weeks. 

That didn't happen. 

But the Eagles will still have two weeks out west in early December. The NFL schedule, released on Thursday night, has the Eagles playing at Seattle against the Seahawks on Dec. 3 and then facing the Rams in Los Angeles on Dec. 10 (see schedule)

The back-to-back West Coast games will allow the Eagles to spend a week likely in L.A. instead of making an extra couple cross-country trips. The last time the Eagles spent a week away before a game was in 1995. The Eagles will still need to head to L.A. to face the Chargers in Week 2. The Eagles haven't played in the Los Angeles metropolitan area since 1990 against the Rams in Anaheim. 

While the NFL gave the Eagles a little gift, the league is also making them work on Christmas. 

The Eagles will host the Oakland Raiders at the Linc on Christmas night for a Monday Night Football matchup. The Eagles have played on Christmas Day only once before, back in 2006. The Eagles beat the Cowboys in North Texas, 23-7. 

Perhaps the Eagles deserve the Christmas game this year after the 2016 schedule. In 2016, the Eagles had a Thursday night game on Dec. 22 that gave them an extended break through the Christmas weekend, something many players in the locker room really enjoyed. Christmas Day was on a Sunday last year. 

The Christmas game is one of five primetime games for the Eagles in 2017. The others are Oct. 12 at Carolina (Thursday night), Oct. 23 vs. Washington (Monday night), Nov. 19 at Dallas (Sunday night), and Dec. 3 at Seattle (Sunday night). 

This is the third straight year the Eagles will face the Cowboys on the road in a Sunday Night Football contest. It's the fifth time since 2012 that's happened. 

Between Weeks 6 and 7, the Eagles will have an extremely long time to prepare to face Washington on Monday night (Oct. 23) after facing the Panthers on a Thursday night game the previous week (Oct. 12). It's almost like another bye week. 

After a Week 4 bye in 2016, the Eagles' bye in 2017 comes at Week 10. 

The Eagles will kick off their 2017 season on the road to face Washington on Sept. 10. The Eagles lost both games to Washington last season and have lost their last five contests against it. They haven't won at FedExField since the 2013 opener. Coincidentally, that was the last time the Eagles opened their season on the road against an NFC East team. 

Including the opener, the Eagles will be on the road for three of their first four games to start the season (see Roob's full breakdown).

The home opener is in Week 3, when the Eagles welcome the Giants to town. 

For the second straight year, the Eagles will host the Cowboys to finish off the season. 

The NFC East faces the AFC West in 2017, setting up a battle with Andy Reid's Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 2. The Eagles, who lost to Reid's Chiefs, 26-16, in 2013, will face Reid for the second time since his firing in 2012. The Birds went 1-3 vs. the AFC West that year, with their only win in the division coming courtesy of Nick Foles' seven-touchdown game vs. the Raiders. 

Also on the 2017 docket is the NFC West. The Eagles will again travel to Seattle, where they lost, 26-15, in 2016. The 49ers will come to the Linc in 2017. It's just too bad that Chip Kelly won't be with them. 

Six of the Eagles' 13 opponents had losing records in 2016, but five of those 13 opponents were playoff teams in 2016. 

This year, the Eagles face off against the NFC West, the AFC West and the Panthers and Bears, who were both the last place finishers of their respective divisions, thus matching up with the Eagles, who finished last in the NFC East in 2016. 

Here's the full schedule: 

Week 1 -- at WAS on Sept. 10 (1 p.m.)
Week 2 -- at KC on Sept. 17 (1 p.m.) 
Week 3 -- vs. NYG on Sept. 24 (1 p.m.) 
Week 4 -- at LAC on Oct. 1 (4:05 p.m.)
Week 5 -- vs. ARZ on Oct. 8 (1 p.m.) 
Week 6 -- at CAR on Oct. 12 (8:25 p.m.)
Week 7 -- vs. WAS on Oct. 23 (8:30 p.m.)
Week 8 -- vs. SF on Oct. 29 (1 p.m.)
Week 9 -- vs. DEN on Nov. 5 (1 p.m.) 
Week 10 -- BYE
Week 11 -- at DAL on Nov. 19 (8:30 p.m.) 
Week 12 -- vs. CHI on Nov. 26 (1 p.m.)
Week 13 -- at SEA on Dec. 3 (8:30 p.m.)
Week 14 -- at LAR on Dec. 10 (4:25 p.m.)
Week 15 -- at NYG on Dec. 17 (1 p.m.)
Week 16 -- vs. OAK on Dec. 25 (8:30 p.m.)
Week 17 -- vs. DAL on Dec. 31 (1 p.m.)

10 Eagles to watch during 2017 training camp

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USA Today Images/CSN

10 Eagles to watch during 2017 training camp

The Eagles kick off their 2017 training camp this week for a season with higher expectations than a year ago. 

A big reason for that is because Carson Wentz is entering his second season after an up-and-down, yet promising, rookie campaign. We're not going to list him as a player to watch because we're all going to watch him anyway. 

Another big reason for optimism is plenty of newcomers. Many of them are listed. 

Here are 10 players to watch during Eagles training camp 2017: 

Nelson Agholor 
We mentioned the newcomers, but let's start with a guy who has been here for a couple of disappointing seasons. Agholor will probably never live up to his draft status, but now it's just about making him a decent NFL player. This spring, he was the best receiver on the field, which was undeniable as it was infuriating to fans. Because it just hasn't translated into games and until it does, no one will care much. But it's worth watching to see if he can continue his impressive offseason. Maybe this year, with a reduced role, he won't be a headcase. 

Derek Barnett
The first-round pick showed some impressive signs during the spring, especially when he beat Lane Johnson a few times 1-on-1. But now the pads go on and the real football begins. Barnett has a real chance to not just earn playing time but also earn a starting job during this training camp. 

Ron Brooks/Joe Walker
We cheated a little here by lumping these two together, but it kind of makes sense. Both are coming back from serious injuries, which is why we need to see what they can do. Walker tore his ACL during the preseason a year ago. Before he did, he was set to be the team's backup middle linebacker. It wasn't until his injury that the Eagles went out and signed Stephen Tulloch. And Brooks was playing OK as the Eagles' slot cornerback before his ruptured quad tendon in October. Jim Schwartz seems to really like him, but many folks have seemingly forgotten about Brooks this offseason. 

Timmy Jernigan
Of all the newcomers, Jernigan might be the most overlooked, but could also make the biggest impact. He's here with just one year left on his contract but will get a chance to put up some serious numbers while playing next to Fletcher Cox on the interior line. 

LeGarrette Blount
Blount reportedly has language written into his contract that gives him bonuses based on staying under 250 pounds. Even if he's under 250, Blount is still a big back, about 20 pounds heavier than rookie Corey Clement. Blount is up there in age and had a huge workload for the Patriots last season. How much does he have left? 

Rasul Douglas 
Of all the Eagles' rookies, Douglas might need to have the most immediate impact. The third-round pick might be thrust into a major role this season just because of the lack of talent at the cornerback position. He was impressive in the spring but is bound to have ups and downs as a rookie. 

Alshon Jeffery 
The Eagles actually have a real No. 1 receiver. Jeffery made some spectacular catches during the spring, but he and Wentz need to build their rapport, which they had extra time to do when the receivers went to North Dakota. We'll see how far along he and Wentz are soon enough. 

Donnel Pumphrey
It's pretty shocking to see how small Pumphrey looks without pads, especially standing next to Blount. How will the Eagles use the tiny running back? Will he be more of a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot? And can his body really hold up in the NFL? 

Isaac Seumalo 
Yeah, we're telling you an interior offensive lineman is a guy to watch. Seumalo has a real chance to beat out Allen Barbre for the starting left guard position. Either way, Seumalo figures into the Eagles' plans for the future as a guard or as the center who eventually takes over for Jason Kelce. 

Mack Hollins
Of the rookie receivers, Hollins was clearly more impressive this spring. I became convinced Hollins can play football in shorts and a helmet. Now, we'll get to see how he does when the pads go on. With his size/speed combo, he's certainly an intriguing prospect.

NFL Notes: As Cowboys prep for training camp, Jerry Jones backs Ezekiel Elliott again

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USA Today Images

NFL Notes: As Cowboys prep for training camp, Jerry Jones backs Ezekiel Elliott again

OXNARD, Calif. -- Jerry Jones interjected some bad-boy anecdotes from his youth, smiled at the thought of life before social media and even asked a couple of questions himself Sunday at his annual training camp opener with reporters.

When the topic is the multitude of off-field issues confronting the Dallas Cowboys -- headlined by star running back Ezekiel Elliott -- their owner, president and general manager can dance with the best of them.

"I can give you the same old excuses -- young, aggressive, got a lot of energy," Jones said. "Hard to paint that picture of the days when it won't be this easy, they won't be as pretty and they won't have the money. Somehow you've got to paint the picture."

Elliott is still waiting for clearance from the NFL on a year-old domestic violence case that prosecutors didn't pursue. The NFL rushing leader last season as a rookie, Elliott didn't help himself with his involvement in a bar fight a week before the Cowboys flew to California for camp.

Jones reiterated his belief that Elliott wasn't guilty of domestic violence in a dispute with his ex-girlfriend last summer in Columbus, Ohio, where he starred for Ohio State. But the Dallas owner still wouldn't speculate on whether Elliott will get suspended.

The Cowboys will have two suspended defensive players when the season starts in pass rushers David Irving and Randy Gregory. Two more could be: cornerback Nolan Carroll (drunken-driving charge) and linebacker Damien Wilson (aggravated assault charges).

Receiver Dez Bryant was late to report at the team's practice facility in suburban Dallas on Friday, a day before he was on the team flight to California. Irving decided to stay in California rather than report in Texas, and running back Darren McFadden missed the charter flight (see full story).

Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald motivated by quest for championship
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Training camp is a drag at this point in Larry Fitzgerald's long and accomplished NFL career. Of course, the quest for the ring is the main reason the 14-year veteran continues to play.

The longtime Arizona Cardinals wide receiver isn't sure what his future holds as far as retirement.

"That's the only reason I'm playing at this point," Fitzgerald said Sunday, the second day of Cardinals training camp. "From a personal standpoint, things I've accomplished, they're fine. But the thing that you will say is out of your control because you're in a team sport is a championship."

Fitzgerald said he feels good, and when retirement comes there won't be a podium or tears because "that's not who I am."

Yet it is important to him to still be productive as a player when he decides to step away. Fitzgerald admitted it would be a struggle to accept a diminished role due to not being able to give 100 percent.

"The end is never really pretty for elite athletes. It never looks good. You watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform or see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos. ... It's weird because you're used to seeing them at their most dominant stage," Fitzgerald said. "For me, I really want to do things at a high level and be able to walk away and still be someone who can play at a high level."

Fitzgerald has asked others who are closer to retirement or have retired about their thought process going into it. He's been doing that for the last few years, checking in with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Gonzalez.

For now, he still enjoys being around teammates and staff, asking questions in an effort to improve as a player and setting an example and providing leadership for young players (see full story).

Browns: Rookie Peppers signs, full class under contract
CLEVELAND -- Browns rookie defensive back Jabrill Peppers has signed and now Cleveland's entire draft class is under contract.

Peppers and the Browns had been haggling over guaranteed money on his four-year-deal, which is worth $10.3 million and includes a $5.6 million signing bonus.

The Browns chose Peppers -- one of Cleveland's three first-round selections -- with the No. 25 overall pick. The former Michigan standout played numerous positions for the Wolverines, but the Browns will try him at strong safety and as a kick returner.

Peppers may have been passed over by other teams after he had a diluted urine sample at the scouting combine. Peppers was placed in the first stage of the NFL's substance abuse policy, but he can be cleared from the program after 90 days if he has not positive tests.

Cleveland's rookies were scheduled to report to training camp Sunday night with the veterans arriving on Wednesday. The Browns will open their second training camp under coach Hue Jackson on Thursday.