Howie Roseman’s veteran additions have paid dividends for Eagles

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

Following a fourth quarter touchdown in the Philadelphia Eagles dominant win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery walked up to the camera and gave a statement that gives you an idea of the locker-room mentality that has allowed the Eagles to surprisingly start 9-1. "Ain't nobbody f**** with us. We're the best. We know we're the best," is what Jeffery told the collective media that he said. 

Jeffery joined the Eagles on a one-year, prove-it contract this past offseason. Whatever it is, he's proven it. Even though he didn't come from an organization that's done much winning recently, he's brought a sense of cockiness (good cockiness) that the Eagles have lacked in recent years. He's alleviated pressure off of Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor, allowing them to have career years. And even in a contract year, he didn't fret when him and Carson Wentz had some trouble getting on the same page early in this season. That patience has paid off, as he has four touchdowns and 213 receiving yards in the Eagles' last three games, none of which were games where the team was still trying to score in the fourth quarter. 

Roseman and the Eagles organization have struggled with bringing in veteran free-agent additions over the past decade or so. Often, there's been a mercenary-type feel to veteran free-agent additions like Nnamdi Asomugha and DeMarco Murray, which makes it easy to understand how so few of the additions have panned out. But something different has happened this year, as the veteran additions have come in and produced, all while blending into what seems to be one of the best locker rooms in the NFL. 

Light It Up

When the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount this offseason, there was quite a bit of skepticism. In his two stints for the New England Patriots, Blount had been an effective weapon, one that led the league in touchdowns in 2016 and helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl. But he was a few months past his 30th birthday, and had his fair share of character concerns from his time elsewhere.

When he played at Oregon for Chip Kelly, Blount made national headlines by punching a Boise State player in face after a loss to the Broncos. After going undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, he signed with the Tennessee Titans, where he again made headlines for getting in a fight with a teammate during training camp. In hindsight, that probably wasn't a big deal. But when you are an undrafted rookie most known for punching someone in the face, it's not a good look. 

His tenure across the state for the Pittsburgh Steelers was short. But it involved him being cited for Marijuana possession and ultimately being released after he walked off the field early during a game due to frustration with his role on the team. 

Blount wasn't especially effective in the preseason, and quite a few different people remarked that he didn't seem to be in great physical condition. Things seemed to reach a potential breaking point after the team's Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. After a mildly effective performance in Week 1, Blount didn't get a single carry in Week 2. 

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A funny thing happened, though. Blount didn't repeat how he acted in Pittsburgh when he was frustrated with his role. Instead, he deflected questions after the game to Doug Pederson. After a week of being grilled for not using Blount (or the running-game as a whole) in Week 2, Pederson began to pound the rock with Blount. And he's been rewarded for it. 

Over the next four weeks, Blount ran for 344 yards. Since not getting a carry in the team's Week 2 loss, the Eagles have gone 8-0. Blount is now the leading rusher for the second-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. 

Beyond his on-field play, Blount seems to have become a positive veteran presence. He was quick to like multiple Instagram posts after the team acquired Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins, perhaps signaling that rather than feeling threatened by the addition of Ajayi, Blount was excited to add another weapon to the offense. When Ajayi scored his first touchdown with the Eagles, Blount, who wasn't even in the game at the time, rushed to the endzone to celebrate with Ajayi.

It wasn't the only time he did this. Later in the team's Week 9 matchup with the Denver Broncos, he asked Pederson to give Corey Clement, who was celebrating his birthday, a chance to score his third touchdown of the game. When he did, Blount was happy to celebrate that too: 

Blount will be 31 next month, and with the acquisition of Ajayi and the emergence of Clement, it feels unlikely that he'll be re-signed at the end of the season. But he's played two important roles for the Eagles in 2017 – starting running back and leader. 

The Charlottesville Way

Shortly after Charlottesville, Virginia was home to a white supremacist rally that left three dead and over 30 people injured, Eagles defensive end and Charlottesville native Chris Long began work on a relatively small scale to help improve racial relations in the country. 

In the preseason, Long began putting his arm around Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins during the playing of the National Anthem. Why was this noteworthy? Dating back to early in the 2016 season, Jenkins has raised his fist during the National Anthem to raise awareness for what he sees as needed criminal justice reform. Jenkins himself has become a leader, both on and off the field, and a football player that uses his platform to attempt to make the country a better place. Long became the first white player in the NFL to be involved in any sort of peaceful protest, and has since continued to place his arm around Jenkins during the National Anthem. 

After the first game in which he placed his arm around Jenkins, Long talked about promoting equality and praised the actions that Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick have taken. Long acknowledged that kneeling during the anthem or raising a fist probably isn't something that he'll ever do, but that he's also never experienced what it's like to be a black man in America. 

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There's two parts to this. The first is Long being a good American. He hasn't had the same experiences as Jenkins or Kaepernick, but he's working to understand what they are protesting for and trying to be a part of the solution. Secondly, even though he's in his first season with the Eagles, he gave himself immediate legitimacy in the locker room with the gesture, which probably wasn't even his intention. But doing the gesture early in the season set the tone for a locker room that has become extremely close-knit.

Long didn't stop there in terms of activism. He donated his first six game checks to a private school in Charlottesville, , which will use the money to give deserving students scholarships. He topped that a month ago by announcing that all of the remaining money that he was set to make during the regular season would be given to different charities promoting education in Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis, cities that have all supported him during his 10 seasons in the league. 

On the field, Long, who also won a championship with the Patriots last season, has become a solid contributor to one the league's most dominant defensive lines. 

Like Blount, 2017 may prove to be Long's only season with the Eagles. But he's been a leader in his time here, both in terms of football and life, while being a productive veteran rotation piece. 


Torrey Smith is another veteran offseason addition that has had a positive impact on the team as a whole. He's struggled with drops, but his speed alone has helped to open up what was a stagnant offense in 2016. The former Super Bowl champion's long-term future with the team is unclear, but he's no doubt been a positive influence on Agholor, Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson, among other young players on the team's offense. 

What Roseman and the Eagles seem to have figured out is that while it's pretty difficult to build a culture around veteran free-agents, those veterans can still be valuable tools in building said culture and helping a team to grow. The Eagles have a locker room built around young pieces like Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks, while also mixing in productive veterans like Jenkins, Jason Peters, Chris Maragos and Jason Kelce. Rather than trying to build a team with free-agents, the Eagles simply signed veterans that added onto a budding core. 

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That formula has allowed the Eagles to overcome a tough loss in Week 2 and become the Super Bowl favorite nearly three-quarters of the way into the season. It allowed the team to make due without starting cornerback Ronald Darby for eight weeks. It has allowed the team to overcome season-ending injuries to Hicks, Peters, Maragos and Darren Sproles without skipping a beat. 

There's no doubt that Roseman learned quite a bit in his year away from player personnel control. His past moves, and a rash of moves from Chip Kelly, laid a pretty clear blueprint of how not to build a team. After getting his head coach and quarterback in his first year back at the helm of player personnel control, Roseman has surrounded his talented young team with a good mix of veterans that have been crucial in the team's dominant performance this season. 

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