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August 05, 2018

What they're saying about the Eagles: Brian Dawkins stole the show at Hall of Fame ceremony

Even in a Hall of Fame class loaded with recognizable, larger-than-life greats, Brian Dawkins was always going to stand out from the crowd. You can even thank the crowd itself for making that possible — Eagles fans showed up in huge numbers to watch Weapon X go into the Hall, and made sure to drown out any sorry ass Cowboys who had the nerve to show their faces on Saturday.

And then Dawkins took the stage in signature fashion, unleashed an incredible, impactful speech, and the rest is history. Here are a few perspectives on the weekend that was in Eagles world, and may all your haters become elevators today.

A second chance in green for Dawkins

Dave Mangels | Bleeding Green Nation

Philadelphia's Super Bowl triumph has helped wash away some of the proverbial sins of the past for the franchise, but it was not all that long ago that Dawkins' departure for Denver was viewed as the ultimate black mark on the franchise.

Thankfully, a triumphant final act that ended on Dawkins' terms helped to restore the positive vibes around the Eagles great, sending him off as a champion.

In 2016 Dawkins returned to the Eagles, first as a scout, and then less than three weeks after being hired, he moved to a catch-all “Football Operations Executive” position that better suit him. He scouted. He coached. He mentored. He was a part of the Super Bowl winning Eagles. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He was on top of the world.

And then he walked away. In May, Dawkins resigned his position, stating a higher calling, one that is clear now in the wake of him revealing his long battle with depression. There is no doubt he will tackle it with the relentlessness that made him great. There is no doubt that he will succeed.

Brian Dawkins went out with a ring and a gold jacket. A legend through and through. []

Nobody deserved that chance more.

Doug Pederson's empathy for Carson Wentz

Daniel Gallen | PennLive

One of the major selling points the Eagles touted when hiring Doug Pederson regarded his emotional intelligence, which at the time was seen as a departure from the icy demeanor of Chip Kelly. He has since proven to be a hell of a lot more than just a run-of-the-mill player's coach.

But Pederson's ability to see beyond the X's and O's and lean on his own playing experience is helping him best serve his young quarterback during his return from injury.

"I remember when I hurt my back in 2004," Pederson said after practice Friday. "It sucks. You're not out there with your team. I get it. I understand. I've been through it. I know what he's going through. But he's working every single day to get himself back on the field."

On Oct. 3, 2004, Pederson -- who was replacing a concussed Brett Favre -- was trying to lead the Green Bay Packers on a late comeback against the New York Giants when he took a hard hit near the sideline and had to exit the game for the final play. The Packers lost, 14-7, to fall to 1-3 that day. It turned out to be the final game Pederson ever played.

The Packers placed him on injured reserve a couple days later with a cracked bone in his back, a torn muscle in his side and a broken rib. He had to watch as Favre returned and led the Packers to the NFC North title, but the Packers bowed out to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC wild-card round. Pederson retired at the end of the season.

Before 2004, Pederson had appeared in all 16 games with the Packers for three straight seasons as the team's holder and backup quarterback. He never started because of Favre, but he was still a constant part of the team.

So he knows what Wentz, who tore his ACL and LCL in December, is going through. The situations are different, but the end of result of being unable to participate is the same. []

Could Sidney Jones be the man in the slot?

Andy Schwartz | Morning Call

When the Eagles made the bold decision to take Sidney Jones in the second round of last year's draft, the wide assumption was that he would eventually be one of the team's outside corners, where teams have traditionally played their best secondary talent.

But with the increased importance of covering the slot in the modern NFL and a growing reliance on nickel packages, the Eagles want to get a look at multiple options at nickel corner before the regular season rolls around. Jones appears to be acquitting himself well so far.

Jones has played nickel in camp four days, the most out of anyone, followed by De’Vante Bausby (three) and Jalen Mills (one). (The Eagles are off Saturday and have their first open practice Sunday night at the Linc.)

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz earlier in the week said the auditions will continue and Ronald Darby could get a shot in the slot.

But Schwartz has been impressed with Jones, who doesn’t look like a player with just one game of NFL experience.

“He’s way ahead of where the rookies are, not only knowledge of the defense, but technique and things like that,” Schwartz said. “He’s a good player. He’s a versatile player.”

Versatility is never a bad thing.

“I’ve grown a lot since I’ve gotten here and I’ve been in that spot,” Jones said. “I feel really good inside there. Obviously I feel good outside too since that’s where I was in college. Just being versatile adds a lot of value to this team and myself as well. Doing both is something that’s hard to do and most people can’t do it.” []

Roster decisions loom on the horizon

Eliot Shorr-Parks |

It is almost never too early in training camp to start thinking about which players are going to sent packing to get the roster down to 53 men, and we're now less than a month away from the Sept. 1 deadline to get the Active/Inactive roster to 53 players. Plenty of time left for the dust to settle and injuries to make things easier, of course.

Shorr-Parks believes one of the more interesting decisions left to make will concern former defensive lineman Taylor Hart, who the Eagles have been attempting to develop into an offensive tackle:

Last year when the Eagles made their final cuts after training camp they kept just one backup offensive tackle. Will they double it this year?

The Eagles will obviously be keeping Halapoulivaati Vaitai as their top backup tackle but there is an argument to be made for keeping Taylor Hart as well. Hart is working with the second-team offense and by all-accounts his transition from defensive linemen to offensive tackle is going great.

In an ideal world the Eagles would be able to keep Hart on the practice squad this season, but that isn't possible as Hart doesn't have any practice squad eligibility left. That means the Eagles either need to keep Hart on the roster or cut him loose.

Having two offensive tackles on the roster that can't play guard is going to be tough for the Eagles to justify. Hart would likely be inactive each week. With how much time the Eagles have invested coaching him up to play tackle, however, it shouldn't be ruled out. []

Is Darren Sproles a potential Hall of Famer?

Zach Berman |

Hall of Fame weekend is always a great time to think about future cases for current players, and Sproles might not be a name that rises to the top of everyone's mind. His career has been one of being the ultimate complimentary guy, usually serving as the change of pace to a more traditional "go-to" back as he did to LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego.

But take a gander at the all-purpose numbers and the way teammates speak of his contributions, and maybe you can start building a case for his enshrinement.

“He’s someone that, on paper, shouldn’t even be in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “The numbers he’s put up and how he’s impacted the game in as many ways as he as, I think he’s continuing to stack up on that, especially if he has a good year this year. I don’t see why he wouldn’t be up in there in Hall of Fame talks. I don’t know how many returners out there are better than him. The consistency, the production, are one of the things that you can’t take away from him. And he’s done all that without ever drawing any attention to himself. If he was a flashy player, a guy who likes to talk, he’d probably get more attention.”

Inside the locker room, it’s hard to find a more respected player. Sproles’ work ethic has been praised since he arrived in Philadelphia, with Chip Kelly once calling him the best practice player Kelly had ever seen. Teammates have remained loyal to him wherever he’s been, too, with Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson among his most ardent supporters.

“If you really peel back the layers and say, ‘What does the Hall of Fame represent?’obviously, he’s produced on the field, that’s a given,” Eagles safety Chris Maragos said. “But he’s everything that’s right about [the NFL] and what the NFL represents. I’ve played with a lot of great players, guys who are future Hall of Famers…and to see the way he prepares and the way he does things, it’ll be a shame for him not to be in with those guys. Because he’s in that class.” []

Ultimately, Sproles will probably end up on the outside looking in due to the role(s) he played throughout his career. But it's no slight to what he was able to accomplish when he did take the field.

Brian Dawkins will feature in a new episode of 'A Football Life'

What, like you're going to turn down watching an entire episode chronicling and celebrating the football career of Brian Dawkins? Who do you think you are?

In all seriousness, you can get the first glimpse of Dawkins' very own episode on October 12, according to a release from the NFL. Get your popcorn (and maybe a box of tissues, if you're more of an emotional type) ready.

A Hall of Fame masterpiece

Dave Spadaro |

Take it away, Dave...

Dawkins appeared backstage 10 minutes after he finished a photo opportunity with his bust and he took a few moments to talk about the fans, once again.

“They know how much they meant,” he said. “I can’t come up with any more adjectives to say how much I love those crazy cats."

It was a gameday for Dawkins. That’s how it felt. Dawkins, again, left everything he had on that stage. It was an epic performance, perfect for the moment.

Dawkins finished his post-speech interview as fans, on the other side of the fence, sang at the top of their lungs the Eagles Fight Song and chanted his name and drowned out anything coming from Dawkins’ mouth. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night as a world of Eagles fans celebrated the moment with the greatness that is Brian Dawkins. []

Dawkins never settled for less than special

Mike Sielski |

And once more, another tribute to Dawkins' speech, his career, and his contributions to the city of Philadelphia from Mr. Sielski:

Dawkins came out as if he were again the most ferocious free safety in the NFL, just as he was over his 13 seasons with the Eagles, rambling out on all fours as if he were again the final member of the team’s defense to be introduced at Veterans Stadium or Lincoln Financial Field.

But instead of delivering a crushing tackle or intercepting a pass in overtime to turn the tide of a playoff game, Dawkins poured all that energy into a confession. He had suffered earlier in his life, he said, from a deep depression that had him contemplating suicide, and he turned his remarks into a plea for people dealing with similar strife to be strong, to resist the temptation to feel sorry for themselves, to fight until they pull themselves out of that darkness.

“The majority of the success I have had has come on the back of pain,” he said. “I was actually planning the way I would kill myself so my wife would get the money. But what that pain did for me, it increased my faith exponentially. …

“Don’t settle. Don’t settle in this life. Don’t allow yourself to settle. On the other side of that pain is something special.” []

Words to live by.

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