October 18, 2017
We all take [being 5-1 atop the NFC East] with a grain a salt, just because it’s early on. We’re doing a lot of good things and playing good football right now. But it’s not about right now. It’s about winning the NFC East, getting back to the playoffs, getting to the dance and going from there.
Back with the OTAs in the offseason, when conditioning started, you can see guys coming together, you can see guys hungry. You can see guys putting in the extra time. Right now, the hard work is paying off. Back in OTAs, I was talking about building something special here and how you can see there is a difference in the team between year one and year two [under head coach Doug Pederson].
There were different pieces we added and some areas where we needed some help last season.
With that being said, guys that were starters last year that were young guys, going into year two made their biggest jump. They’re playing out of their minds out there. I saw us as a special team. It was a question of how fast we can make it all work, and bring it all together. With dudes putting in the extra time, dudes staying after and working hard, having faith and believing, it’s coming together nicely.
Brandon, you live in an interesting world as a pro football player. You don’t want the outside negative stuff to affect the team when it’s playing poorly, and you don’t want to hear the outside positive stuff to affect the team when it’s playing the way this team is now. How do you block out the noise, especially in this time with social media and everyone connected?
You do take it with a grain of salt. What do they say, a pat on the back is six inches away from a kick in the ass. We’re doing great right now, we’re doing some good things, but the biggest thing right now is never be complacent and keep working. Although we’re playing good football, there are some things that we can work a little harder on to be a little better, and focus on those things. Keep the good things and make them better.
I thought you made one of the most interesting and deciding plays in Thursday’s 28-23 victory on the Luke Kuechly block. He was coming from Carolina’s right which is to your left. You came across the field and hit him. What did you pick up?
It was a simple power play and he was blitzing. I saw it in the split where he shot the gap and tried to make a play. I just came across with the block.
It was a legal hit, it was a strong hit (Kuechly was injured on the play and lost for the game). Were you getting some of the business from the Carolina players? No one accused you of a cheap shot did they?
No, not at all. Nothing was said. When it happened, we were trying to get the ref’s attention to let him know something wasn’t quite right and make sure [Keuchly] was OK. Obviously, in the game of football, it’s a violent sport, but anytime someone gets injured, you want to make sure that they get the proper medical care, make sure that they’re good.
It’s a game but it’s also a game of sportsmanship as well.
How much adjusting went into Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V) after the first few series against Carolina?
Nothing. We wanted him to go out there and let him play.
My interpretation, I thought there was a communication breakdown the first two series. I noticed the second time Carson Wentz was sacked, the two of you picked up an inside guy and (James Bradbury) from the outside came in and sacked Wentz (for a 7-yard loss on first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 31). After that, Big V did a nice job. I also noticed you pointing to Big V after the second Wentz sack, as if to say that outside guy was your man. Was there a communication issue early on?
Obviously, without giving away our scheme for different reasons, there was a combination of different factors that go into that. I pointed to V, he’s a young dude thrust into the line of duty on a short week. Although he’s getting reps, he’s not getting as many reps as Lane [Johnson]. I was making sure [Big V] was getting all of the calls, making sure he’s on the same page, and making sure he knows who he has. Things like that.
It was just something coming from an older player to a younger player. I rotated in my rookie year and started my second year on, so I know what it’s like those first couple of games when you get in there. It’s one thing when you do it in practice, but you work harder in the game. I was just making sure that [Big V] was as comfortable as possible, making sure the game was slow for him and making it easier for him.
You have Washington at home this Monday night. Correct if I’m wrong, but this is a far different Eagles team than the one that faced Washington in September. The Eagles rushed the ball 24 times for 58 yards (13 coming on the right side for 41 yards) in that game. Jonathan Allen, Zach Brown and Stacey McGee, they could be a handful, along with Ryan Kerrigan. What do these guys show you?
They work well together. They do a lot of games and stunts up front and try to single guys out one-on-one. The linebackers play downhill and move well to the ball. As the season goes, your first game, you try and pull everything out of your bag of tricks trying to win the game. As the season goes on, you find certain things work with different personnel so you never know whether they perfected some things by now, whether they want to run it again or whether they have something completely new.
What’s on your mind? This is a good time for you guys. Where the team is sitting, where you are sitting. I know that you’re not always pleased with the kind of season that you have, but Brandon last year, and we spoke about this many times, you felt as if last season was your best season as a pro. I looked at every game last season. I’ve obviously looked at every game this year—I actually think you’re playing better than you were last year.
I’m more comfortable in the system. Stout [Eagles’ offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] is a hell of a coach. He stays on me and I know what he expects and wants out of me as a player. I’m trying to get better each and every day.
One of the biggest things that’s eye-opening about Stout as a coach, and I told him this more or less behind closed doors within the facility in front of the o-line, there are two things that really hooked me with Stout: One, he’s just a good dude. He’s a good dude and a good teacher. He’s a good leader. You can talk to him about anything. He keeps meetings interesting and funny. He’s not one of those coaches where he treats every player like a cookie-cutter. The kind of coach that only teaches you this way, and you have to figure out a way to learn it.
With Stout, whatever your best way of learning is, he’ll figure it out and rep it that way, so you can get it each and every time. He actually cares about his players. He’ll go to bat for you. He’s a good dude like that. Probably the biggest thing, when I was going through the anxiety thing [last year], you know what he said to me? “You know what, I’m not really worried about football right now at this moment. I just want to make sure you’re OK as a man.”
That spoke volumes to me. I told him in front of the offense, “Wherever you decide to lead us, no matter what it is or what it’s through, I’ll always have your back just because in one of my darkest moments, you had mine.”
That showed me and told me so much about [Stout] as a person and about him as a coach.
However long I am here with the Eagles, or however long he’s here, him longer than me, or me longer than him, I’ll always have his back to the end just because what we went through last year together.
A funny Stout story?
Ever see the movie “Full Metal Jacket?” Stout is like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. He’s a super good dude, super funny, and he’s super entertaining. He’s in your face, on you about plays with some of the stuff he says. Anything other than that isn’t lower than rated R [laughs].
You and your o-line guys went out to dinner recently. Who’s the biggest eater among the group? How much did the check come out to? Who got stuck with the bill in credit card roulette?
Let me think who is the biggest eater? I would probably say Wiz [left guard Stefen Wisniewski]. Wiz eats a ton. Between Wiz and Lane, they both eat a ton. The check honestly wasn’t too bad. We’re probably talking upper hundreds. The last time it was [Jason] Kelce who lost credit card roulette. These last couple of times it might have been Kelce [laughs].
It’s plowing ahead and it’s Washington. One of your teammates told me that there are no egos on this team. There are no selfish players that feel everything revolves around them. When Carson Wentz makes it even bigger, and he will make it bigger it seems, he’ll remain the same. That’s what is keeping this going so far. That the outside noise stays where it is, outside, and that the focus is straight ahead. Knowing the personality of this team behind closed doors, is that an accurate depiction?
A lot of guys don’t have egos. It’s all about the team and trying to win games and feeding off of each other’s energy with the mindset of that it’s great we’re 5-1, but we have a long way to go and lot more games to be played. We’re trying to win a divisional championship along with getting to the playoffs.
In addition to reading Brandon's comments, each week we'll post audio of the full interview so you'll have a chance to hear to Brandon's words in his own voice.