Eagles Added the Right Type of Old Guys

LeGarrette Blount had the third-most rushing yards in the NFL among players in their 30s. Chris Long was sixth in sacks by players 32 or older. Malcolm Jenkins made his second Pro Bowl team at 30 years old, and Jason Kelce made first-team All-Pro as a 30-year-old. Patrick Robinson had maybe his best year ever after turning 30.

While a lot of guys in their 30s are playing out the string or seeing their skill level decline, the Eagles have gotten huge contributions this year from their corps of 30-somethings.

Some 15 different players in their 30s have played for the Eagles this year, and curiously that's their most since 2004, when 16 did, including guys like Brian Dawkins, Chad Lewis, Jermane Mayberry and Tra Thomas - key components of that Super Bowl team.

Maybe there's something to be said for a nucleus of older players still playing at a high level.

"If you're going to have a bunch of guys in their 30s, you have to have the right type of players," said safety Corey Graham, now 32 and in his 11th season.

"Players that take care of themselves. Players that know how to be professional. Players that still got something left in the tank. If you get the wrong type of guys, guys that are done, you're going to look bad.

"Fortunately, we have guys who still bring something to the table."

The Eagles are the ninth-oldest team in the NFL, but they finished 13-3 - the same as 2004 - and earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

"I think playing 10 years in the league and playing into your 30s is never an accident," said Long, who recorded five sacks and four forced fumbles.

"The guys we're talking about, they work hard, and all that stuff that's helped them stay in the league and play at a high level for a long time, those same things continue to help them into their 30s.

"Doing the little bit extra that maybe younger guys aren't doing helps level the playing field. The skills that got them there, the mental preparation, really helps older guys."

Safe to say Robinson, Kelce and Jenkins are playing the best football of their careers. Long has been a huge contributor as a pass rusher. Blount was the Eagles' leading rusher.

Several other players in their 30s - Darren Sproles, Jason Peters and Chris Maragos - were huge contributors before suffering season-ending injuries.

"It feels like almost overnight we inherited a bunch of veteran guys, a really solid veteran group," Jenkins said. "Even losing guys like J.P. and Sproles, we're a really veteran group and all those guys are huge contributors to the team, in leadership as well what they do on the field.

"If you think about it, we do have some guys who've played in this league for a long while, that have been in almost every situation you can be in, and I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to keep the youth on the team focused on the here and now throughout this journey."

Jenkins used this week's ramped-up full-pads practices as an example.

They were the brainchild of the veteran Player's Council, and when guys like Jenkins, Blount and Kelce ask the coach for harder practices, the young guys fall in line.

"They don't even question it," Jenkins said. "The leaders are saying, 'Let's do it,' and the young guys believe in the process and follow along. It's great."

The big issue with older players is that often they're simply clinging to their NFL lives for that one last series of paychecks.

The minimum wage for a 10-year player is $1 million. We've all seen guys playing for the money at the end, and it's not a pretty site.

"You've got to be careful," Graham said. "You've got to be careful what type of guys you're dealing with. If you're dealing with guys that are just trying to grab a couple dollars, it's different.

"If you're getting guys who are professional, who want to play the game, who love the game, who want to win, those are the type of guys you have to look for."

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