Philadelphia Eagles

Evan Mathis on Michael Sam: NFL needed it to happen

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Evan Mathis on Michael Sam: NFL needed it to happen

Earlier in the day, CSN's Derrick Gunn texted with several Eagles, past and present, to gauge their opinions on NFL prospect Michael Sam's coming out as gay.

The consensus among Eagles is in support of Sam, the Missouri defensive lineman who led the SEC in sacks this past season. First lady Michelle Obama also commended Sam on Monday (see story). Monday evening, Eagles All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis, a deep thinker always armed with a good quote, sent his thoughts on Sam to Gunn via e-mail.

"I think it was a good idea for him to come out now and not during the season," Mathis wrote. "If there's going to be any distraction, he's minimizing it by getting this information out there now and taking on the media storm head-on.

"If a team is scared to draft him because he's gay, I think they are overestimating the problem or distraction it would cause. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year has the confidence and the bravery to come out publicly two months before the NFL draft. If a team takes him off the draft board because of his sexuality, they never deserved a shot at him in the first place. All that matters to me is if the guy can play football or not."

Sam can definitely play. He led the SEC in sacks with 11 1/2 and in tackles for loss with 19. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery and forced two fumbles.

Mathis compared Sam to a hero from another sport.

"NFL players shouldn't judge Michael Sam based on his sexuality, but some guys will," Mathis said. "MLB players shouldn't have judged Jackie Robinson based on his skin color, but some did. Whether or not the NFL is ready for it, it needs to happen. There are still people on this earth who lived through the prohibition of alcohol and the Civil Rights Movement. They can look back and reflect on how primitive those times were. Current generations will look back at marijuana prohibition and gays having to fight for equal rights and think how primitive those times were."

Eagles-Dolphins joint practice Day 2 observations: Wentz rebounds from rough start

Eagles-Dolphins joint practice Day 2 observations: Wentz rebounds from rough start

The Eagles held their second and final joint practice against the Dolphins on Tuesday morning. 

For the Eagles, it was an extremely hot practice, one of their hottest of the summer. For the Dolphins, it was a breezy morning away from the Southern Florida heat. 

These two teams got a lot of work in over the last two days and somehow avoided scuffles, which normally seem to happen during these joint practices. The closest anyone got was on Monday, when Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills jawed a little bit. A lot of Kumbaya over the last couple days. 

Let's hop into observations: 

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Graham (elbow) and Jordan Hicks (quad) both missed Tuesday's practice after leaving early the day before. Pederson said both players are "day to day." 

Nick Foles (elbow) was held out of practice, but Pederson claimed it was just "precautionary." Foles has been dealing with that elbow injury all training camp and said he isn't going to play Thursday. 

Defensive end Vinny Curry left Tuesday's practice early with cramps. He'll be fine. 

2. The beginning of practice was a little bit of a struggle for Carson Wentz, who overthrew David Watford and Marcus Johnson in 7-on-7s to start his day. Overthrows were a bit of a recurring problem for Wentz on this day. 

But he rebounded nicely. After the Eagles' defense stopped the Dolphins in a situational period, Wentz drove his unit down the field to set up a field goal opportunity. Wentz wasn't as good on Tuesday as he was the day before, but he was OK. 

That one period was fun. The first units went up against each other on one field with everyone watching. The Dolphins' drive sputtered early before the Eagles ended their drive on a field goal. 

3. Jay Cutler looked pretty darn good once the teams went into 11-on-11 drills. He threw a beautiful deep ball to Kenny Stills for a touchdown and then came back to hit Anthony Fasano for another deep ball with Nigel Bradham in coverage. Cutler had a good couple days of practice. 

4. Marcus Johnson had the play of the day. Wentz overthrew him during 7-on-7s, but Johnson somehow tipped the ball up to himself and snagged it just before it hit the ground. He has a great shot of making the roster. 

5. Alshon Jeffery had another active day, especially when the Eagles got into the red zone. Wentz failed to connect with his big target for touchdowns, but it's clear he wants to work on that connection. On the first fade, Jeffery was mugged by Dolphins corner Xavien Howard. For some reason, the ref right on the play didn't throw a flag. Not sure why they were even out there if they missed that one. On the next fade to Jeffery, Wentz simply overthrew him. 

6. Trey Burton made another nice one-handed catch. It wasn't nearly as spectacular as one he made earlier this summer, but this one clearly wasn't luck. For the second time this summer, he used his left hand to snag a ball one-handed. For the record, Burton is right-handed ... at least, that's the hand he throws with. 

7. To start Tuesday's practice, Chris Long filled in at left defensive end for Graham. On Monday, when Graham left early, Derek Barnett was getting those reps. Later on Tuesday, when Curry left, Long stayed on the left side and Barnett filled in at right. 

Without Hicks, Najee Goode took first-team reps at the MIKE. Joe Walker took them on Monday when Hicks and Goode were out of practice. 

8. Matt McGloin has struggled so much over the last few weeks, it has become really tough to evaluate the players who are on the field with him. But on Tuesday, one of his poor passes actually led to Mack Hollins making a great catch during 7-on-7s. Hollins has been quiet recently, but he made a few nice grabs Tuesday. 

9. Wendell Smallwood has looked explosive since coming back from his hamstring injury. Pederson said LeGarrette Blount will have a big role with the team (see story), but don't be surprised to see Smallwood get a lot of carries this season. He's probably the Eagles' best overall running back. 

10. Jaylen Watkins has had a quiet camp and seems to have an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, but he had a nice day against the Dolphins. He picked off a Matt Moore pass in the corner of the end zone and celebrated by tossing it up 30 feet in the air. The Eagles have played Watkins at safety, cornerback and even in the nickel corner spot this training camp, but they just probably don't have a job for him. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: For the second straight day, former backup linebacker Stephen Tulloch was at practice. Afterward, I needed to do a double-take when I saw him in the locker room with the other linebackers. The Eagles could probably use him this season, but he's still retired. 

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pederson calls Blount 'a beast of a runner'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pederson calls Blount 'a beast of a runner'

There's been plenty of speculation in recent days that LeGarrette Blount's roster spot with the Eagles isn't guaranteed. 

Head coach Doug Pederson did his part on Tuesday to try to end that speculation. 

"The guy's a beast of a runner," Pederson said. "I don't know what else to tell you -- 18 touchdowns, 15 in the red zone last year. That's the production you saw yesterday, the style of running he can do. ... I'm excited he's here and he's going to be a big part of our offense."

During the first two preseason games this summer, Blount simply hasn't looked good. He has nine carries for 17 yards. 

But, as he has in the past, Pederson made it a point to remind everyone that the Eagles haven't been game-planning for these preseason games. That means the team is less concerned about which plays will work against the defense and more concerned about simply executing regardless of matchups; hence the stretch runs with a 250-pound running back. That could be a reason Blount has looked so ineffective thus far. 

"We're trying to execute our plays," Pederson said. "As coaches, we might be doing players injustice by putting them in bad situations; I'm just going to be honest with you."

Third time's a charm
The Eagles will face off against the Dolphins in the third preseason game on Thursday night at the Linc. Historically, the third preseason game is where starters play at least a half of football and it's normally the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the season. 

Pederson on Tuesday said he didn't have a plan in place for how long the starters will play, but didn't say anything to make it seem like he'll go with an unusual plan. That means plenty of work for Wentz and the first-team offense. 

It's clear that Pederson wants his offense to clean up some issues that plagued them against the Bills, namely penalties, turnovers and execution. 

"I think the first unit overall, just better execution," Pederson said when asked what he wanted to see from Wentz. "We need to start a little bit better, start the game a little bit better. You'd love to see points, obviously, and maybe score a couple of times."

No issues with Smallwood
There has been plenty of speculation about Blount's role with the team, but there's also been plenty about Wendell Smallwood's too. 

Smallwood missed considerable time this training camp with a hamstring injury, while undrafted rookie Corey Clement has performed well. But it still seems very unlikely Clement has a chance to snag Smallwood's roster spot. Smallwood might be the Eagles' best all-around running back. 

Pederson doesn't even think this game is super important for Smallwood after missing time.  

"Not really, not really," Pederson said. "We saw a lot from him last year and what he can do. He did an outstanding job through the spring and now the summer. He bounced back again from injury. He's been good here lately, so I'm comfortable with where he's at. Still want to play him, still want to get him banging around a little bit but happy where he's at."