Eagles notebook

Eagles notebook: Are the vibes better after hitting rock bottom?

In the latest Eagles notebook: The vibes after rock bottom, a nice moment from a disaster and more.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Eagles are coming off their worst regular season loss in years but there seemed to be a bit of a weight lifted this week.

At least according to left tackle Jordan Mailata. 

“The vibes are high this week,” Mailata said. “The energy’s high and I’ve got a good feeling this week that the boys are going to get it together and pull one (out).”

Maybe this is just Mailata trying to convince himself that things are about to turn around. Or maybe the tension from the last few weeks really has been lifted. That would be a welcome turn of events for a team that has lost four of five games as the playoffs near.

One of the theories Mailata had about the improved vibes? It helped that A.J. Brown broke his media silence this week. After apologizing to his teammates for making them speak on his behalf, Brown backed the coaching staff, explained his frustration and presented confidently.

“You guys heard A.J. talk,” Mailata said. “I think that helped a lot, especially for the young guys that we have on the team. Us old guys, we knew he was going to talk. We know what kind of leader he is. We just needed to give him space. Give him that space that he needed and then you guys heard him. He had the whole world watching him yesterday for about 20 minutes. It’s crazy.”

After a walkthrough on Wednesday, the Eagles had a practice outside in the cold on Thursday. And Mailata thought it was a really good one.

“Practice was great,” Mailata said after getting back to the locker room. “It was a little bit shorter so, again, hammered away. High intensity, high detail, high IQ. It was an awesome practice. Everybody had juice. Again, getting that swag back. Everybody had that bounce to them. Practice was good today. Everyone was flying around.”

Of course, vibes alone don’t win football games. Vibes aren’t going to play middle linebacker in the playoffs. Vibes aren’t going to intercept passes or call effective plays. But at least the Eagles weren’t acting defeated this week after a disastrous loss.

Running back D’Andre Swift was asked about Mailata’s assessment of the team vibes this week and he didn’t disagree.

“We ready to go play football. I’ll put it like that,” Swift said with a smirk. “We’re ready to go play football.”

The bright spot against Arizona

Like we mentioned, that Cardinals game was a disaster. But if you’re looking for a cool bright spot, it came on special teams where a pair of rookies, Ben VanSumeren and Eli Ricks, made a really heady play to snag an onside kick in the fourth quarter.

On the All-22 copy of the game, you can see VanSumeren frantically signaling to Ricks, who charges the ball and fields it cleanly.

“What really changed was, at first, the first few kickoffs they went three on the interior to outside the numbers and if you look at it, they went three outside and two on the interior,” Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay Said. ‘So Ben [VanSumeren] and Eli were over there, saw that, and you can see kind of on the wide All-22, Ben’s signaling to Eli, ‘Hey, it's coming this way.’ 

“Eli takes on it and he gets on top of it which is really cool to see especially out of two rookies. If you saw veteran guys do it, you’re like, ‘Oh, they’ve seen it. But having two guys locked in at that point of the game, go out there, and make a huge play for the team was really cool to see.”

Speaking of the rookies

Even with Darius Slay nearing a return, head coach Nick Sirianni this week made it seem like rookies Kelee Ringo and Ricks are in their plans for the postseason.

“Yeah, we are going to need them in the playoffs,” Sirianni said. 

Ricks, the 22-year-old UDFA from Alabama, began playing a role on defense back in Week 5 and hasn’t lost that role.

“Eli has done a good job since day one that he's got here,” Sirianni said. “This is why he made the team, of covering. He can cover. He can cover guys. And that obviously is the main skill. When you talk about a wide receiver, he can really catch it. If you can't catch it, it's going to be tough. If you can't cover at corner, it's going to be tough. He's had this knack since day one of being able to cover.

So that's really evident, and we see it, and he's done a nice job, and he's continuing to get better.”

And Ringo, the 21-year-old fourth-round pick, became the youngest defensive player ever to start a game for the Eagles. He has been starting in place of Slay.

“You just see his size and his speed and his physicality,” Sirianni said. “I think he had a play the other day in the game where they ran a little bubble and he put his hands on the receiver and kind of drove him back to allow everybody else to make a play, and that's something that we've seen from Kelee, his physicality, his toughness, his willingness to strike out there, and so they both bring unique aspects, and we've got a lot of confidence in them, and we're excited that they're here on this team, and I really look forward to continuing to watch them grow and for them to continue to help us win football games moving forward.”

It seems very possible both Ringo and Ricks factor into the Eagles’ future secondary but it’ll be interesting to see how they’re used in the playoffs. The big question is about James Bradberry. The veteran hasn’t had a very good season and in recent weeks we’ve seen him bounce inside on passing downs so that Ricks can take the field. Will that continue in the playoffs? And will there be a time when the Eagles just start to rotate and not play Bradberry on every snap? We’ll see.

Having Julio Jones for the playoffs

Julio Jones is no longer in his prime but even at 34 years old, the future Hall of Famer has shown he can still help the Eagles. Jones caught 2 passes for 34 yards against the Cardinals and both went for touchdowns.

In 10 games with the Eagles this season, Jones has 9 catches for 61 yards but 3 of those 9 catches have been touchdowns. The interesting thing is that Jones hasn’t been a high-touchdown guy in his NFL career. Here are his stats and where they rank on the all-time list:

Receptions: 912 (24th)
Yards: 13,690 (16th)
Touchdowns: 66 (61st)

Even though DeVonta Smith (ankle) is out for the regular season finale, it’s clear that going into the playoffs, the Eagles’ top wide receivers are A.J. Brown, Smith and Jones. At times this season, we’ve seen Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus as WR3. But even though Sirianni has said it’s still a by-committe approach at that spot, Jones has clearly taken over that role.

“Hopefully he can give us a boost,” Jalen Hurts said. “He showed up and made big time plays when the ball is coming his way. Giving him the opportunity to do so and letting him take advantage of that. I know he will.”

Subscribe to Eagle Eye anywhere you get your podcasts: 
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube

Contact Us