Which Eagles belong in the Pro Bowl?

Which Eagles belong in the Pro Bowl?

Upon finishing up practice on Tuesday, the Eagles were officially on vacation until next week. That means come Sunday you’ll finally have time to rake the leaves, have dinner with your in-laws, or worse, fill out Pro Bowl ballots at NFL.com.

The Pro Bowl has long been a punch line in NFL circles. Playing at half speed might work for All-Star games in the NBA and NHL, but it makes a mockery of the game of football. That said, the league is trying to spice things up this year by letting captains choose their teams rather than the traditional AFC vs. NFC, so that could be kind of cool. Yes, they totally ripped that idea from the NHL, no, I don’t care.

Either way, it would be nice if a few Eagles could represent. And I’m sure the players would appreciate your vote so they can collect a nice bonus and free trip to Honolulu.

A few of the choices are obvious. LeSean McCoy is a shoe-in as the NFL’s leading rusher this season, as is DeSean Jackson who’s third in receiving yards. A long-form ballot can be difficult to fill out though, so unless you’re just going to pick Birds all the way, here are a few suggestions.

Evan Mathis

Hands down the best offensive guard in the NFL the past two seasons according to Pro Football Focus, that has yet to turn into a Pro Bowl appearance for Mathis. He came from nowhere in 2011, and was likely overlooked last year because the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line was garbage. Mathis is having another fine season though, and it’s about time he gets his due.

Jason Kelce

Jason Kelce is having a nice return campaign after torn knee ligaments ended his 2012 early. I’m not sure it’s worthy of a trip to the Pro Bowl necessarily, and center can be a tough position to crack the list because long-time veterans tend to get that call. Kelce won me over with his promo though, so go ahead and put him on there if for no other reason than The700Level would undoubtedly get some quality posts out of his trip.

Cedric Thornton

Cedric Thornton arguably has been the Eagles’ best defensive player this season. My subscription to Pro Football Focus is in need of renewal, but as of a couple weeks ago, Thornton ranked first among all 3-4 defensive ends in the metrics site’s run-stop percentage. Unofficially, he has about 55 for tackles for loss this season. Fletcher Cox is really starting to come along too, but Thornton has been a force up front since Week 1.

DeMeco Ryans

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis called DeMeco Ryans the heart and sould of the Eagles’ defense, and it’s hard to argue. He’s never been one to put up flashy numbers with two sacks and two interceptions on the season, but Ryans is third in the NFL with 96 tackles. This is on a unit that has held opposing offenses to 21 points or less in nine of 11 games this season, including the last seven in a row.

Bradley Fletcher

Brandon Boykin may lead the team in interceptions, but Bradley Fletcher quietly has been the true standout at corner this year. Fletcher has lost three games to injury now, yet he’s tied for sixth in the NFL with 15 pass breakups to go along with two interceptions—imagine where he might be with a full season. The free-agent signing from the Rams has been a willing tackler who doesn’t get beat very often, and his name definitely deserves to be in the mix.

Donnie Jones

Only three punters in the NFL have downed more attempts inside their opponents’ 20-yard line than Jones. Before you assume those players are all more deserving though, Jones’ 40.9 net average tops them all. He’s worth considering for his punt to pin Washington at its own 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Sunday alone.

Nick Foles

Nick Foles isn’t on the ballot because Michael Vick was the starter at the beginning of the season, so technically you can’t vote for him online. You could petition Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office through a write-in campaign though. He prefers hand-written letters, so really take your time—good penmanship, people—and craft a thoughtful note on your best stationary so he takes notice.

Of course, nobody would be upset if Foles decided to skip the Pro Bowl altogether and go straight to the Super Bowl, at which point all these hours you devoted to voting will be for naught. Then again, that’s a trade-off any Eagles fan would take, however unlikely it may be.

Who would you vote for?

>> 2014 Pro Bowl Ballot [NFL.com]

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons trust the NFL draft process on the parkway

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons trust the NFL draft process on the parkway

When fans came to Philadelphia to see the future of the NFL, they got a glimpse of the Sixers’ future too.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons walked through the draft festivities on Thursday surrounded by fans. 

Embiid posted an Instagram video soaking in a -- you guessed it -- “Trust the Process” chant. Check out that video above.

That night Embiid and Simmons expressed their appreciation for the crowd's enthusiastic reaction.

Humble Eagles' 14th pick Derek Barnett ready to get to work

Humble Eagles' 14th pick Derek Barnett ready to get to work

Derek Barnett, the former Tennessee defensive end, clad in an all-red, three-piece suit, stared at the landline phone in front of him in the green room at the NFL draft on the Ben Franklin Parkway.  

It wasn't ringing.

Despite his best efforts, the 20-year-old couldn't telepathically get that phone to go off. The Eagles, who he knew had some interest in him after a top-30 visit earlier in the offseason, were on the clock. But still, that landline remained silent.

Then his cell phone rang. And it was a Philly number.

"I just got very excited and I really can't explain it because everything happened so fast," Barnett said just after 11 p.m. Thursday. "But it was like a surreal moment."

When he answered the phone, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was on the other end. Barnett was then passed around from head coach Doug Pederson to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and likely to the Eagles' two-headed personnel czar Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas.

By the time Barnett joined a conference call with reporters an hour and change later, he had already shaken hands with the commissioner, been shuffled through various media obligations and stood in front of thousands of Eagles fans.

So by 11:05 p.m., when he talked over the phone to reporters at the NovaCare Complex, nothing from his wild night had really settled in.

Of all the players who were selected on Thursday night, he was the only one who won't have to leave the city to be with his new team.

"It's very fun," Barnett said. "That means I can get to work quicker."

The humble pass rusher, who broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee, is the type of player that exemplifies what the Eagles are looking for, according to Roseman.

"He stands for what we want to be and I think everyone in the city will see what kind of person he is, what kind of player he is," Roseman said. "Unbelievably high character, unbelievable worker and tremendously talented and productive."

Barnett (6-foot-3, 259 pounds) finished his college career with 32 sacks and Douglas praised the young pass-rusher for his ability to finish at the top of his rush.

The Eagles took Barnett because, they say, he was the top-rated player on their board at the time (see story). But the team still has Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and Chris Long and Marcus Smith.

Where will Barnett figure into the rotation?

"My mindset is to help the team anyway I can," Barnett said. "I know I have to come in and work hard and earn the respect of my team first. Just because I was a first-round pick, that don't mean nothing. I have to work harder now. My plan is to come in, get around those vets, learn from them and hopefully, when the season comes around, I can be able to contribute."

While the Eagles return several pass-rushers from a year ago, the team desperately needs to find a way to sack quarterbacks, especially because Schwartz's entire defense is predicated on getting pressure with the front four and not blitzing.

Barnett is pretty excited to join the group.

"I love it," Barnett said of Schwartz's defense. "That's my style and I feel like I fit it very well and Coach Schwartz said the same thing, too. I think it's going to be a good fit."

While there was certainly some mumbling when the Barnett picked was announced on the Parkway and while plenty of fans on social media weren't thrilled with the selection (see story), the newest Eagle said he felt nothing but love.

And he can't wait to play in front of those fans on Sundays.

"Great fan base," he said. "I've been feeling the love ever since my name got called. And I was a little nervous at first, I didn't know if I was going to get the love or some boos, but I got a great welcoming and I appreciate the fans for doing that, because I had no clue where I was going to end up at."

Now, he knows. And he won't have to go far.