What I miss about Lehigh, what player I'm most excited to see at training camp, the brilliance of Jake Elliott, a crazy Keith Byars stat and honoring the worst Eagles team of the last 50 years.
It must be time for a mid-summer Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!
1. I miss Lehigh.
2. One of my fondest memories of the Eagles' 17-year stay at Lehigh is a rehabbing Correll Buckhalter running endless repeats of that little hill between the west bleachers and the field nearest to the field house. Buck had missed the entire 2004 season with an ACL injury and then suffered another one in minicamp in 2005 so he was already out for the upcoming season. Yet he always had a smile on his face and never failed to talk to the kids lining the fence a few feet away during every one of those hill repeats, even knowing he was still 13 months from even having a chance to play football again. Talk about the power of positive thinking. Buck personified that. He not only came back and played five more years after missing the entire 2002, 2004 and 2005 seasons, he played well. Buck finished his career with a healthy 4.5 rushing average, 59th-best among 476 running backs in NFL history with at least 500 carries. When I think about Buck, I don't think about him playing football on Sundays, I think of him running that hill off to the side of the Lehigh practice fields. To this day, when I drive past those practice fields, I think of that as Buckhalter Hill.
3. I totally get why the Eagles and so many other NFL teams are abandoning the long-standing tradition of holding training camp at a remote small-town university. With teams allowed just one practice a day it doesn't make sense to spend a few weeks an hour away. And when you have world-class medical and training facilities in Philly, just a few feet from your own practice fields, why would you want to leave? That said, I really it. I miss the sense of community among fans spending the day in a sleepy old steel town. I miss the interaction between players during practice and fans lining the fence watching from just a few feet away. I miss seeing tiny little wide-eyed kids dragging shoulder pads and helmets across the field with a player after practice while their parents take pictures they'll treasure for a lifetime. I miss the unique mixture of small-town America meeting big-time NFL football. I miss all of it.
4. I can't wait to see Sidney Jones. I think out of everybody on the roster, I'm more curious about him than anybody else. Here's a guy who has first-round talent, who just turned 22 in May, who got a taste of the NFL against the Cowboys on the final day of last year's regular season and who's had a full healthy offseason to prepare for 2018. I still think it's most likely that Jones and Ronald Darby start outside with Jalen Mills in the slot, but however Jim Schwartz lines them up, the Eagles have three very talented young (and cheap) corners, along with Rasul Douglas - a guy I really like - also in the mix, as well as rookie Avonte Maddox and intriguing DeVante Bausby. It's a ridiculously young group but a ridiculously talented group, not to mention the cheapest group of corners in the NFL. I still think it was a stroke of genius to take Jones in the second round last year. And for everyone who complained that the Eagles wouldn't get any contribution from their second-round pick his rookie year, they did have an OK season without him. Now they have a Super Bowl title and a first-round talent. Brilliant.
5. The Eagles threw 107 passes in the 2017 postseason and allowed two sacks. That's incredible pass protection. There have been 47 teams in NFL history to throw 100 or more passes in a postseason and only three allowed fewer sacks. Only one of those teams won a Super Bowl (the 2003 Patriots).
6. Jake Elliott had two games this year where he made two field goals of 42 yards or longer in the fourth quarter. He made a 46-yarder and game-winning franchise-record-setting 61-yarder against the Giants and a 42- and 46-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Elliott did it twice. No other kicker in Eagles history has done that once.
7. I wonder if the Eagles will have a 20th anniversary celebration this year of the 1998 team. That team scored 161 points, third-fewest in NFL history in a 16-game schedule. Their three QBs combined for 7 TDs and 18 interceptions. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible was fired after the Eagles scored just eight TDs in the first six games, and the offense proceeded to score nine touchdowns in 10 games the rest of the year under Bill Musgrave. They scored more than 17 points only once all year. They scored six touchdowns all year on the road. They're the only NFC team since the inception of the 16-game schedule in 1977 that failed to score more than 21 points all year. They scored three touchdowns in the third quarter all year and were outscored 203-81 in the second half. Bobby Hoying threw nine interceptions without a TD, and is the only QB to do that in the last 40 years. Two years later they went 11-5 and won a playoff game.
8. The Eagles have had four different Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the last 10 years (Donovan McNabb in 2009, Michael Vick in 2010, Nick Foles in 2013 and Carson Wentz in 2017). No other NFL team has had more than two during that span.
9. Did you know long-time Eagle Keith Byars is one of only three players in NFL history with 3,000 rushing yards and 600 catches? The others are Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson.
10. Just a reminder that Doug Pederson won more playoff games in 22 days this past winter than Jeff Fisher won in his last 16 YEARS as a head coach.