Play­ers not buy­ing Ea­gles re­build­ing talk just yet

Cecil Whig - - & - By NICK FIERRO

The Morn­ing Call (Al­len­town, Pa.)

Re­build­ing is a tricky con­cept in the NFL. It can be a tough sell to the fans and some­times an im­pos­si­ble sell to the play­ers, who don’t last nearly as long on av­er­age as play­ers in any other team sport.

Coaches and gen­eral man­agers like to say there’s al­ways a cer­tain amount of it go­ing on re­gard­less of cir­cum­stance, which is ab­so­lutely true. But there’s al­most al­ways more when a new head coach is in­volved.

Hence the sur­pris­ing but truth­ful rev­e­la­tion by first-year Philadel­phia Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son after his team lost six of its last eight games to fall to 5-6 that, yes, at least one of his eyes is on next year and the year after that and so on.

All of a sud­den, Ped­er­son was com­par­ing the Ea­gles to the Oak­land Raiders of two years ago and the early stages of the Seat­tle Sea­hawks un­der Pete Car­roll.

“You build your team through the draft,” he said. “You pick up a cou­ple good free agents in the off­sea­son, you con­tinue to work, you watch these young kids de­velop and turn into ballplay­ers and you see the po­ten­tial. That’s why when I say that, that’s what I see with these guys. I look at how Seat­tle has built their team. I look how the Raiders have built their team. I look at the plan that’s been in place for a lot of teams around the Na­tional Foot­ball League that are hav­ing suc­cess now in their third, fourth, sev­enth years.

“That’s the di­rec­tion that we’re head­ing in. So that’s why when I say those com­ments like that. That’s what I see. I see us three, four years down the road. I see us seven, eight years down the road hav­ing con­sis­tency that way and win­ning more of these games than not.” But one week down the road? That’s not part of the big pic­ture any­more.

This was in con­trast to his pre­sea­son mes­sage of win­ning right away be­cause the team’s tal­ent level is so much higher than when his men­tor, Andy Reid, took over a de­pleted Ea­gles squad in 1999.

There was no rea­son why the Ea­gles couldn’t win in 2016, Ped­er­son in­sisted, even after trad­ing away start­ing quar­ter­back Sam Brad­ford a week be­fore their sea­son opener.

All of these re­cent losses have changed the per­spec­tive. His postgame mes­sage to the play­ers after the loss to Green Bay was stern when he said the last five games will go a long way to­ward de­ter­min­ing who wants to be and will be here next year.

So how does this sit with the play­ers?

Sur­pris­ingly well. In an up­beat locker room after Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice, no­body was think­ing about next sea­son.

“Re­ally, what he was say­ing was that we’ve got to get back to hav­ing fun,” de­fen­sive end Brandon Gra­ham said. “These last five games, we’re go­ing to see who’s hav­ing fun.

“We kind of got tight be­cause play­offs are on the line. It’s grind time. But we play our best when we’re hav­ing fun. And this past game showed me ... just the way I was think­ing out there, ‘I gotta go make a play be­cause that will spark it off.’ But re­ally, if I just go do my job, the plays are go­ing to come.”

Added safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins: “I’m not here to re­build. That’s [gen­eral man­ager Howie Rose- man’s] job. We’re play­ing to win. Every­body in this build­ing has been paid and com­pen­sated not to just oc­cupy a seat but to win.

“So our mind­set is that we’re try­ing to win with the guys that we have here, peo­ple that we have in the build­ing right now. We’ll let the peo­ple up­stairs fig­ure out whether we’re build­ing or what we’re do­ing past this time.”

Guard Brandon Brooks, a freeagent new­comer this sea­son, said his at­ti­tude won’t be af­fected by the sub­tle shift in Ped­er­son’s mes­sage.

“Each week we go out there, we’re try­ing to go 1-0 for sure, we’re try­ing to win the games,” he said. “At the same time, I hear what Coach is say­ing, just hav­ing young play­ers who are in po­si­tions where the or­ga­ni­za­tion can build around them and kind of go from there. So I kind of un­der­stand that, too.

“I don’t look at it as frus­tra­tion. I plan to be here for awhile, plan to be a part of that.”

Brooks thinks the Ea­gles can win out and make the play­offs. He also knows that if they don’t, there will be more changes than what any­one could have rea­son­ably ex­pected when this team was 3-0 and alone atop the NFC East stand­ings.

Now they’re alone at the bot­tom of the di­vi­sion, where the fo­cus has shifted to avoid­ing the same spot next sea­son.

In­jury re­port: Ea­gles: RB Ryan Mathews (knee), WR Jor­dan Matthews (an­kle), T Halapouli­vaati Vaitai (knee) did not prac­tice Wed­nes­day. G Brandon Brooks (ill­ness) and DE Mar­cus Smith (shoul­der) re­turned to prac­tice with­out re­stric­tion.

Bengals: WR A.J. Green (ham­string) did not prac­tice.

RED MEANS STOP

De­spite their fail­ures on Mon­day night, the Ea­gles still rank sec­ond in the NFL with a de­fense that al­lows touch­downs on just 44.1 per­cent of op­po­nents’ trips to the red zone.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Se­nior Will Lor­man, pic­tured with the ball, is set to lead the Bo­hemia Manor boys’ bas­ket­ball team.

DAVID MAIALETTI

Philadel­phia Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, left, is sacked by Green Bay Pack­ers’ Julius Pep­pers, right, dur­ing the fourth quar­ter on Mon­day at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field in Philadel­phia. The Ea­gles lost 27-13 to the Pack­ers.

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