Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

eagles-road-trip-map.jpg

Your road trip guide for the Eagles' 2014 schedule

The 2014 Eagles schedule is finally out, and for thousands of fans, now it’s time to figure out which road game to go to.

We’ll eliminate East Rutherford and Washington, which are close enough for a day trip (not that you’d want to take a day trip to East Rutherford), and focus on the Eagles’ six other 2014 destinations.

So let’s take a look at the six potential weekend road trips for Eagles fans who like to travel. We’ll rank them in order, from best trip to worst, and give you some ideas for what you can do with your free time.

San Francisco, Sept. 28
If you haven’t been to the Bay Area, you simply have to go. Eagles game or not, it’s one of the greatest destinations in the Lower 48.

Plus, this year, you get the benefit of seeing the 49ers’ new stadium, the spectacular Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of downtown San Francisco. Anything would be an upgrade over the dilapidated Candlestick Park, but word is that Levi’s Stadium will be one of the league’s best facilities.

Top five attractions
1. Marin County, the Redwoods, Wine Country: To really appreciate the area, you need to drive north of San Francisco and experience the spectacular natural beauty of Marin County and nearby Sonoma and Napa counties. Wineries, redwood parks, the coastline ... a day north of San Francisco is worth the trip.

2. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Point: It’s not just a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge affords amazing views of the city, the bay, Alcatraz, the ocean. There’s a pedestrian walkway across the bridge and Vista Point on the west end of the bridge, where you can park and take pictures. Best of all is Golden Gate Point on the Marin County side, accessible via Conzelman Road off Rte. 101 south. This is the vantage point seen on the cover of the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, and the views are just astonishing.

3. Alcatraz: A short cruise from Pier 43 gets you to the Rock, and tours of the notorious prison and its grounds are available. Check out the cells once occupied by Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Machine Gun Kelly and Whitey Bulger. Warning: Don’t go if you’re easily creeped out.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf: A little touristy, but the Fisherman’s Wharf area has tons of shops, bars, restaurants and vendors, plus the Wax Museum, the famous sea lions and the Pier 39 marketplace.

5. Lombard Street: Drive down the world’s crookedest street. Why? Why not. You’ll understand when you get there. But keep it slow. The speed limit is 5 mph.

Arizona, Oct. 26
Once upon a time, the Cardinals were in the NFC East, and it was good. It didn’t make geographical sense, but I wasn’t about to complain about an annual trip to the Valley of the Sun.

These days, a trip to Arizona is rare, and it’s highly recommended.

Top five attractions
1. The Grand Canyon: You’ve seen pictures, and trust me. They do not do it justice. You simply have to see the thing before you die. It is insane.

2. Sedona: If you don’t have time to make the 3½-hour trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is a heck of a consolation prize. Block after block of New Age shopping mixed with the spectacular beauty of the Sonoran desert makes Sedona one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

3. Historic Scottsdale: The ritzy northern suburb of Phoenix was once named the most livable city in the U.S. and it’s still one of the most visitable cities, with high-end shopping, restaurants, hotels, spas, much of it centered in Old Town. Oh, and bring your debit card, you’re going to need it.

4. Tonto National Forest: Driving through this vast wilderness area northeast of Phoenix is like driving through a living postcard. Cactus, wildlife, giant shards of rock jutting out of the ground, plenty of hiking areas ... just please watch out for snakes.

5. Montezuma Castle: You won’t believe your eyes when you see the 12th-Century cliff dwellings about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Breathtaking. Just think ... people lived there nearly a thousand years ago. Crazy.

Green Bay, Nov. 16
There isn’t a whole lot to Green Bay other than the Packers, but if you’re a hardcore football fan, you have to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay at some point.

Top five attractions
1. Lambeau Field: Like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, Lambeau is one of a dying breed -- a stadium that manages to mix historic charm with modern amenities. It opened 15 years before the Vet, and it’s still as majestic as ever.

2. Packers Hall of Fame: Even if you’re not a Packers fan, you’ll appreciate the history of an NFL franchise that dates back to 1921. And several of the members have area ties -- long-time Eagle Reggie White of course, Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson and Philly native Herb Adderley among them.

3. Green Bay trolley tours: A great way to see the city and learn about the Packers and their history is the narrated trolley tours.

4. Outagamie County Historical Society: Located in nearby Appleton (where you’ll probably be staying), the historical society includes a display about the life of notorious senator Joseph McCarthy.

5. Hazelwood Historic House: The best example of Greek Revival architecture you’ll find in Green Bay. Seriously. (And, yes, finding five things to do in Green Bay isn’t easy, but it’s still a great trip!)

Dallas, Nov. 27
There’s the Grassy Knoll, and there’s everything else. Just like visiting the Grand Canyon is mandatory when you’re in Arizona, making your way to the Grassy Knoll and book depository is mandatory when you’re in North Texas.

Top five attractions
1. Dealey Plaza: Even all these years later, you still get chills exploring Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and the site of the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. There’s now a museum in the old book depository. Any list of things to do in Dallas has to start at Dealey Plaza.

2. Jerry’s World: The Cowboys’ new stadium, now called AT&T Stadium, is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. It’s absurdly huge, hopelessly garrish and hilariously over-the-top. If you’re going to the game, make sure you allow extra time just to walk around and soak it all in.

3. George W. Bush Presidential Center: You don’t have to be a Republican to appreciate the history of one of only four two-term Presidents of the last 50 years. The Center is more historical than political, and even the most liberal Eagles fan will find plenty to see at the Bush Center.

4. Geo-Deck: From 470 feet above Dallas you’ll get the best views of Dallas and the entire North Texas region.

5. Cowboy Hall of Fame: No, not the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame. This is the museum of actual cowboys. Hey, you’re just not going to find this stuff in Pennsauken.

Indianapolis, Sept. 15
No major city in the United States has grown in recent years as much as Indianapolis. Thanks in great part to the 2011 Super Bowl, Indy has added tons of new restaurants, hotels and attractions. It’s actually not a bad place to go these days.

Top five attractions
1. The Speedway: Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, the Brickyard is definitely worth checking out. There’s an Indy 500 museum and gift shop, lots of cars from throughout Indy 500 history and even a bus that takes you around the track ... a little slower than you’re used to.

2. Hinkle Fieldhouse: Once upon a time, Butler’s fieldhouse was the largest college arena in the country. Those days are gone, but along with the Palestra and Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym it’s one of the oldest and most historic on-campus arenas in college basketball. Hinkle opened in 1928, one year after the Palestra and three years after Rose Hill.

3. The Eiteljorg Museum: Located in the center of town, the Eiteljorg hosts countless Native American artifacts and artwork of Western artists.

4. Indianapolis Zoo: An easy walk from downtown across the White River, the Indy Zoo is one of the nation’s best, and it’s located within the White River State Park, a terrific destination in itself.

5. Fountain Square: Fun little neighborhood just south of downtown with tons of Bohemian shops, unique bars and restaurants and diverse attractions.

Houston, Nov. 2
OK, let’s face it. You don’t want to go to Houston. You’d rather spend a weekend in East Rutherford. But ... we’ll try here.

Top five attractions
1. NASA Space Center: The Johnson Space Center’s visitors center features lots of exhibits, displays, interactive games and theaters and even a restored space shuttle capsule that you can go inside.

2. Battleship Texas: Located just east of Houston in La Porte, the Battleship Texas rests now at the mouth of Trinity Bay. The Texas, first launched in 1912, participated in both World War I and World War II and has served as a museum since 1948.

3. The Beer Can House: Yes, there’s a house made out of beer cans. About 50,000 of them. This probably should have been ranked higher.

4. Underground Houston: A 7½-mile network of tunnels connects most of the buildings in downtown Houston and features tons of bars, restaurants and shopping areas. It’s great, since it allows you to not actually have to see Houston.

5. The Strand District: Located about an hour from Houston, the Strand is a historic landmark in Galveston filled with antique shops, galleries, restaurants, clubs, museums and hotels. Worth the drive.

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

Stephen Tulloch hasn’t just had a successful NFL career under Jim Schwartz. He’s had a successful career because of Jim Schwartz.

“I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Schwartz,” Tulloch said following his first practice with the Eagles (see story).

On Tuesday, the Eagles’ newest linebacker credited Schwartz for the Titans’ drafting him with the 116th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. He said Schwartz pushed for him, “when nobody else really wanted to go after” him.

“I’ll leave you with this story,” Tulloch began.

“So in 2006, I go to the NFL combine. I measure in at 5-10 and some change, whatever I was. It was the second day of the draft and [the Titans] were about to draft a guy from another school, so Coach Schwartz goes into [Jeff] Fisher’s office and makes a little tape of my highlights from college, and (former Titans linebackers coach) Dave McGinnis at the time. He changed Coach Fisher’s mind and Floyd Reese at the time was the general manager. I was the 116th pick in the [2006] draft. That was it. I came to Tennessee and the rest was history.”

So, who was the player the Titans almost drafted?

“I’m not gonna put it out there,” he said. “It was another guy and I’m fortunate enough to get drafted and still be here in the league.”

The decision worked out well for the Titans. Eventually, Tulloch became a starter and played five total years in Tennessee before moving on to Detroit. 

As for the other linebackers in the 2006 draft, well, Tulloch was one of 15 linebackers taken in the fourth round or later in 2006. To date, Tulloch has started 111 games. The other 14 have started a combined 138.

The other two linebackers taken in the fourth round in 2006 were Leon Williams to the Browns and Jamar Williams to the Bears. Leon Williams (pick No. 110) last played in 2012 and started just 12 NFL games, while Jamar Williams (pick No. 120) played five years and has just three career starts to his name.

Tulloch is still going strong. And he owes a lot to Jim Schwartz.

“I always thank him for the opportunity I had in Tennessee,” Tulloch said.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy in which everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”