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January 26, 2018

What they're saying: Alshon Jeffery vs. Ben Simmons, and why Super Bowl point spread is trending Eagles

With just over a week until the Eagles and Patriots square off in Super Bowl LII, there's no shortage content when it comes to your favorite football team. In fact, oftentimes, there's too much of it. 

So we're here to help. 

Each day from now until next Sunday, we'll curate some of the best Eagles-related content from around the web in one place so you don't have to go searching for it yourself. If you're familiar with our semi-regular "What They're Saying" feature, then you already know what you're getting into.

For the rest of you who are just hopping on the Eagles bandwagon now, don't worry; you're more than welcome. 

You can check out all of our Eagles content right here – we've got a ton of it – but for that stuff we missed, here's the latest look at what they're saying about the Birds:

Feed the dogs

R.J. White | CBS Sports

The line for next weekend's big game has been dropping for much of the week as the early action is heavy on the underdog Eagles.

After the New England Patriots opened as 5.5 or 6-point underdogs on Sunday night, early action drove the line down to Patriots -5 by Monday evening. And it didn't stop there.

The MGM moved the line down to Patriots -4.5 on Wednesday after reportedly receiving a multi-million-dollar bet on the Eagles after previously listing the line as Patriots -5.5. While -5 has largely been considered a "dead number" in the past, meaning that moves across it aren't as significant as other moves across surrounding numbers due to fewer NFL games ending by five-point margins rather than by three, four, six or seven, OddsShark recently wrote about how that's no longer the case, with the percentage of games decided by exactly five points doubling since the extra-point rules were changed in 2015.

According to vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts Jay Rood, his sportsbook is heavy on Eagles action so far.  []

Part of the reason that line moved could be due to the fact that a single bettor placed a multi-million dollar bet on the Birds, although no one is sure if he actually bet on the Eagles to win (money line) or took the points.

[/Jim Schwartz sunglasses on]


Mike Freeman | Bleacher Report

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is hands down the most interesting Eagles coach that we get to talk to on a regular basis, and that doesn't even include the fact that he was college teammates at Georgetown with comedian Jim Gaffigan (true story). 

He rocks those sunglasses but has no problem staring you down or calling you out if you ask a silly question, so I can't even imagine what he's like in defensive meetings. But what was Schwartz like before he was a coach? Before he was a collegiate athlete? NFL coaches are so guarded – Schwartz may be a good talker, but he still plays things very close to the vest – but this is one that I actually want to know more about.

Enter Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, who was a teammate of Schwartz's at Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore  He describes an even cooler Schwartz than I could've imagined, calling him a guy who would "kick your ass and outthink you while doing it." 

Sounds about right. 

High school, of course, is a place of social strata and divisions: geeks and nerds hang, there are the jocks, the rich kids, the outsiders, the insiders and others.

Jim was one of the few people who could cross all of those divides. Everyone liked him, especially the black students.

At lunch, most of the black students would sit at the same table in a corner of the cafeteria. We were a small minority, and we supported each other intensely. Few white students ever ventured into our part of the room. Not because we were so intimidating, but because of those typical high school divides I mentioned before. Everyone stayed in his or her own corner.

Except Jim. He was the only white student that I remember who constantly sat with us. Black students saw Jim, to be blunt, as one of us.

On the field, Jim was cocky, but he always backed up his words with actions. No one on our team, and in our little section of the high school world, was more respected.

If you got beat on a play, he was the first to pick you up, sometimes literally off the ground. I remember getting torched deep once, by one of the state's best tight ends, as I was covering him all over the field. Schwartz had my back: "You'll make plays in another game," he said. And I did.  []

I highly recommend checking out that entire story.

Multi-sport star

Martin Frank | The News Journal

Speaking of high school, Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery was a pretty very good basketball player. So good, in fact, that he was recruited by Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgetown (among others). His high school coach even compared him to Sixers rookie Ben Simmons. 

According to Jeffery, he ultimately chose football because he believed that, at 6-foot-3, he had a better chance at being a (tall) wideout than an undersized NBA player.

"I'm pretty sure if you cut him open and reach inside, you'll find a basketball in there," said Jeffery's high school basketball coach Zam Fredrick. "That boy loves basketball. And he was very, very good. He used to just dominate games. Even if he only scored eight or nine points in a game, he dominated.

"He was like what Ben Simmons is now [with the 76ers], a point forward, a guy who could play any position."

Jeffery led his team to four straight Class A championships. Fredrick said those teams went a combined 105-1, including an 81-game winning streak, the longest in state history.  []

Long's road 'home'

Andrew Kulp | The 700 Level

Like Jeffery, defensive end Chris long is a new edition to the Eagles locker room. And to hear him tell it, he originally sought out the Eagles after getting some advice from the guy whose position he took over: Connor Barwin.

"For me, I was antsy to get on a team, and I saw the team that I wanted be on, and it was just real simple for me," Long said. "Once Connor left, I called Connor. I was like, 'What's it like there?' He was like, 'It's awesome. You're gonna love it. You'd be a great fit.'"

By this point, Long already knew he wanted to sign with the Eagles. Barwin's endorsement was simply the icing on the cake... 

"Connor was right," Long said. "The coolest thing that I think Connor loved about this place was - and he was really civically-minded, community-minded - the city of Philly. As great as everything is in here, the thing I love most about Philly is Philly."  []

Building a Super team

Alex Kirshner | SB Nation

Over at SB Nation, they took a look at how the two teams headed to Super Bowl LII, the Eagles and the Patriots, were built – free agency, the draft, trades, etc. Here's a look at how each team's 53-man roster breaks down (and they're actually much more similar than you may think).

Free agents2726
Draft picks2119

The Eagles have one especially important draft pick not playing. Carson Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and would be the guy leading the Eagles into this game had he not torn his ACL in December. Wentz isn’t counted above because he’s on IR. So are offensive tackle Jason Peters (a trade acquisition in a 2009 deal with the Bills) and running back Darren Sproles (a 2014 deal with the Saints).  []

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