Never has a extra healthful phrase been stated in a postgame Eagles locker room.
“I cannot wait to call my parents,” stated Reed Blankenship early Monday morning within the aftermath of Philadelphia’s 40-33 victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers. “It’s probably gonna be an emotional roller coaster.”
This was his first time chatting with a gaggle of reporters as one of many foremost characters. The 23-year-old undrafted rookie security from Middle Tennessee State performed all of two defensive snaps on the season earlier than his breakout efficiency Sunday night time. When C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the NFL’s chief with six interceptions, suffered a ribs damage that knocked him out of the sport within the first quarter, he was changed by Blankenship, who was solely elevated to the No. 3 security job every week earlier than. His job was easy — assist cease Aaron Rodgers. On his first play, the Eagles surrendered an 11-yard landing in the midst of the top zone to present the Packers a 14-13 lead.
On Green Bay’s subsequent drive, although, Blankenship settled in. He ran decisively downhill to make a pair of tackles earlier than turning into the first undrafted rookie to ever intercept Rodgers. By the best way he broke on the route run by Packers tight finish Tyler Davis, you would inform Blankenship knew what he was doing. By the best way he continued rolling alongside the bottom with the ball in his arms after securing the interception, you would inform he didn’t.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 28, 2022
“I honestly didn’t know what to do,” Blankenship stated. “I forgot that I could get up and start running again. And then the next thing I was like, ‘What am I gonna do for celebration-wise?’ I had no idea.”
At 10-1, the Eagles don’t lack star energy. Their chief, quarterback Jalen Hurts, is an MVP front-runner, extra so after Philadelphia’s record-setting efficiency Sunday night time. In any given sport, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders or Dallas Goedert can hog the highlight. Darius Slay and James Bradberry burn vibrant within the secondary whereas any one among a deep forged of defensive linemen is able to stealing a scene. But any group with the best aspirations is aware of it’s going to want unheralded gamers to step in and step up alongside the best way.
Castoffs to cornerstones, James Bradberry and Darius Slay have keyed Eagles’ success
Enter Blankenship, who grew up in a small Alabama city of simply over 100 folks. A five-year starter in faculty who holds this system’s all-time sort out report, Blankenship nonetheless went undrafted within the spring and signed with the Eagles for $55,000 assured and a $5,000 signing bonus, rating him 11th in the team’s 12-player class of undrafted rookies. General supervisor Howie Roseman later stated Blankenship was the “last man in (the safety) group” when he joined the group. But Nick Sirianni heard good issues from some teaching mates who have been round Blankenship at Middle Tennessee. Early in coaching camp, Blankenship’s instincts earned him some consideration. When the pads got here on, he started to face out.
“Here’s where you really noticed him, when we went live with our young guys,” Sirianni stated Sunday. “It just seemed like every time he was coming up and making tackles. And you were just like, this guy, we liked him without pads on and now we really like him when he’s able to show his physicality on the field. I think that’s where we really started talking about him more and more and more. That (interception of Rodgers) was a big-time play.”
Sirianni’s message to the group had been about remaining targeted throughout an uncommon week. Gratitude was a buzzword, and “what better way to be grateful than to remember where you came from?” So throughout Saturday’s group assembly, Sirianni performed clips of various gamers throughout their highschool glory days. There was Brandon Graham, not simply dominating on protection however punting and kicking the ball with a heavy toe-poke. There was Hurts, doing the sorts of belongings you would possibly anticipate from somebody who leaves NFL defenders greedy for air.
“I thought that was so fun, to be honest,” stated Hurts. “I mean, BG, he’s on the cover of this magazine in 2005. Like, I was ball-boying for my dad in 2005. He was in high school when I was a little kid. Just the different personalities we have on this team, the time differences, the young guys, the old guys, the experienced guys in this area. The younger guys that have experienced certain things. It’s a unique team and I think Coach Sirianni, I respect how he approaches having thought about what he presents to us as a head coach.”
Sirianni wished his gamers to contemplate how proud the highschool variations of themselves could be of their present selves. When Blankenship was in highschool, Rodgers had already gained two MVP awards. Back then, Blankenship was an enormous fish in a small pond, incomes all-state recognition and being named the county’s participant of the yr twice.
“He would have a look at me and say, ‘How did you even make it this far?’” Blankenship said.
Six years later, he’s a small fish in a really proficient pond. He performed 35 snaps towards the Packers, not all of them excellent. He dedicated an arguably ticky-tack pointless roughness penalty and was caught flat-footed within the open area on Christian Watson’s 63-yard landing catch and run within the fourth quarter, the longest go play surrendered by the protection this season. But with Gardner-Johnson’s timetable to return unknown, Blankenship gives hope for a place the place the group’s depth is, at finest, unproven. He tied for the group lead with six tackles and introduced wanted physicality.
“I was so happy to be able to play football again,” Blankenship stated. “I was a kid out there. I love that. I just love football. I love playing.”
Blankenship made sufficient of an impression that his first group interview after the sport was interrupted by a refrain of his defensive again teammates chanting his title. That place group of outsized personalities has embraced the soft-spoken rookie and bequeathed him a nickname that has rather less to do along with his skill to fade into the background than it does him being the one white man on your entire protection.
“We call him Ghost,” stated cornerback Zech McPhearson with fun. “Can’t see him while he out there. Ghost. That’s why they threw that pick right to him.”
Blankenship’s mother and father Sandra and Troy solely missed one sport over the course of his 5 seasons at Middle Tennessee. They have been initially speculated to be in attendance Sunday night time, however Troy has been feeling underneath the climate. Instead, they watched the sport again residence in Alabama with Blankenship’s older sister and her household. When Gardner-Johnson went down, Troy took a deep breath understanding his son was the following man up. You can think about the pandemonium when Blankenship made his huge play. Safe to say Troy felt higher then.
“It got wild for a little bit there,” Sandra stated over the cellphone, matching Blankenship’s twangy Southern drawl. “We were just jumping up and down and cheering, clapping, high-fiving each other. It was surreal.”
They acquired to relive it collectively a couple of hours later.
“Oh, he was so excited,” Sandra stated after speaking to her son, an avowed mama’s boy. “Just to hear the excitement in his voice. He just was over the moon.”
Sirianni, by design, is relying on that childlike enthusiasm sticking round.
“Being undrafted, you always have a chip on your shoulder and I’m gonna continue to work,” stated Blankenship. “My job’s not done. This is just the beginning. I’m so excited to get in and watch more film of the Titans next week.”
Number to know
363 dashing yards. That’s essentially the most within the NFL this season and the eighth-most within the league in the course of the Super Bowl period. It’s the Eagles’ most since 1948.
Hurts led the best way with 157 dashing yards on 17 carries whereas Sanders ran for 143 yards on 21 carries. Both totals have been profession highs.
Hurts, Sanders rush for career highs behind group schooled at ‘Stoutland University’
The Packers entered the sport ranked twenty ninth in run protection DVOA (defense-adjusted worth over common), which is essential context every week after the Indianapolis Colts’ run protection held up nicely towards the Eagles. But 363 dashing yards is 363 dashing yards. Sanders continues to interrupt tackles at the next price than ever earlier than whereas doing job combating his instincts to bounce issues exterior. Hurts’ 17 carries included not less than 11 designed runs (together with quarterback sneaks) and three carries for greater than 20 yards. His 42-yard scramble on a third-and-short behind heavy offensive personnel appeared designed to open a scrambling lane if his first learn was not broad open. Turns out the mix of scheme, good gamers and a nasty protection is a productive one.
The Eagles leaned on their run sport of their 40-33 victory over the Packers, gaining their most dashing yards in a sport because the merger (363).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 28, 2022
Game ball: Offense — The offensive line
Sirianni has a rule that the offensive line will get a gaggle sport ball when the Eagles rush for over 200 yards. Who am I to argue after they make it to 363?
“I love when Lane Johnson comes off the field and is juiced up,” stated Sirianni. “He’s crushing the edge or crushing the combination block with Isaac (Seumalo), so you feel that from the players.
“You obviously feel that in the flow of the game, and that’s where (offensive coordinator) Shane (Steichen) and I are in constant communication. He’s doing a great job getting the plays called, and I might say to him during that drive, ‘Hey, run it again, run it again, run it again,’ because you feel that, right? And so that, man, that was special. That was a special game running.”
Game ball: Defense — Reed Blankenship
On the one hand, the protection surrendered 33 factors and allowed the Packers again into the sport a number of occasions when it had an opportunity to seemingly shut issues down. On the opposite, it was beset by less-than-ideal beginning area place all through the sport and nonetheless managed to power two turnovers — Slay defended a Rodgers go on the Packers’ opening drive that was intercepted by Josiah Scott and shortly become an Eagles landing. Blankenship’s interception of Rodgers was the largest defensive play of the night time.
“I was cross-keying and I saw Aaron Rodgers lookin’ that way and I broke on it,” stated Blankenship. “I’m surprised he actually threw it though. That’s what surprised me. I’m happy I got there in time and was able to do something for my team.
“We kind of knew they’d like over routes and stuff. … Being in the right position at the right time and going back to my technique that (defensive backs) coach (Dennard Wilson) teaches and what Marcus (Epps) does and what (Gardner-Johnson) does. I have great role models to look at. All the credit goes to them. I watch their every move, especially in walk-throughs, how they hold themselves accountable. And it paid off.”
Quote of the night time
“Execution fuels emotion. We do all of this stuff together, we go to work every day together, we lift together, we run together, we feel pain together, we feel these joyous moments together and we go through all of this stuff together. I know in a profession where things change all the time, we really want to appreciate the time we are having now and just take advantage of our moments, take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves, and just play ball the way we want to play ball.” — Hurts
Five ideas and leftovers
1. Hurts accomplished 16 of 28 passes for a season-low 153 yards and two touchdowns, with a season-low 5.5 yards per try. I believe that belies how nicely he threw the ball towards the Packers protection. Hurts seemed off as a passer on his first two throws of the sport earlier than an extended scramble stored the opening drive alive. After that, he was largely correct and keen to tear it downfield, as along with his 30-yard landing go to Quez Watkins on the finish of the primary half. I even thought his incomplete go to Watkins within the again left nook of the top zone after scrambling round within the backfield was completely positioned underneath the circumstances and contrasted nicely with the interception he threw working to his left towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers within the playoffs final season.
By TruMedia’s EPA (anticipated factors added) per dropback, it was Hurts’ eighth-best efficiency of the season.
2. Against a greater group, Brown’s fumble would have been much more pricey. It was his second misplaced fumble within the final two weeks and capped a hellish week for the star broad receiver. He was so sick on Thanksgiving that he spent the day vomiting a lot that he popped a blood vessel in his eye and misplaced round eight kilos. With his former group coming to city subsequent week, you may be positive he’s motivated to bounce again shortly.
“I told myself I was going to work on (ball security) this week,” he stated. “And to be honest, I was sick. I’m not making excuses. But, I’ve just got to be better with the ball. I wouldn’t change how aggressive I am with the ball in my hand because that’s who I am. But I’ve just got to do a better job with the details and protecting the ball.”
4. Kickoff protection was a major problem once more. The Packers returned kickoffs to their very own 47-yard line twice, with one other to the 41. The Packers’ common beginning area place of their very own 37 1/2 was one of the best for an Eagles opponent this season. The Eagles ranked twenty first in kickoff DVOA getting into the sport, which appears higher than some may need anticipated. But even when the roster will not be constructed to prioritize particular groups, the continued protection leaks are worrisome.
Jake Elliott, in the meantime, banged residence his essential 54-yard area aim late within the fourth quarter to increase the Eagles’ result in 10 factors. Arryn Siposs, who struggled final yr as soon as the climate turned chilly, nailed his solely punt of the night time with a 52-yarder proper to the sideline. Jack Stoll additionally recovered the Packers’ late onside kick.
5. Leftovers. … Some new formations from the Eagles’ offense. We noticed three snaps of 10 personnel (no tight ends, one working again) for the primary time, with two of them placing Zach Pascal in a cut up backfield. Those three performs included two runs for 9 yards and an incomplete go meant for Smith. The Eagles additionally used Cam Jurgens because the sixth offensive lineman for 2 performs, together with Hurts’ 42-yard scramble all the way down to the 3-yard line. Two reverse however significant methods of attempting to compensate for the overuse of 13 personnel final week with out Goedert. The Eagles didn’t run a single play from 13 towards the Packers. … I assumed Kenneth Gainwell ran nicely between the tackles once more (competitors stored in thoughts) with 39 yards on eight carries. But he lacks the explosiveness of Sanders, who continues to run higher than he ever has. … The Eagles have been capable of preserve their defensive sort out rotation somewhat extra even this week. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave led the best way with 31 snaps (68 %) adopted by 30 for Linval Joseph and 18 for each Milton Williams and Ndamukong Suh. That’s rather a lot to ask from Joseph in his second week taking part in, however he appeared as much as the duty. … Robert Quinn continued his underwhelming begin with solely 11 snaps, although he did notch a quarterback hit. … Tough scene for the Packers with so many defensive gamers struggling minor accidents whereas the Eagles have been working tempo. Just dangerous luck.
The 7-4 Tennessee Titans come to city in a battle for the center of Brown. The Eagles open as six-point favorites.
(Photo of Reed Blankenship: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)