NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.
Offensive guard, Philadelphia Eagles
Born: Aug. 19, 1989
Experience: Sixth NFL season
I don't know what it is, man. It's probably more or less people assume that because you play in the [Mid-American Conference] and the level of competition ... I think we all come from a background from having a chip on our back, because you're always told you're not really playing real football. Let's see how you did in an all-star game. I'd ask friends, "You coming to the game this week?" And they'd be like, "Nah, forget that, we're going to Ohio State." That used to burn me up. To this day, I'm not an Ohio State fan because of stuff like that.
Coming out, it was always, "You guys don't play anybody." I still get stuff to this day, "Do you guys even play on TV?" Or we'd play on Tuesday and they'd be like, "You gotta love those prime-time games, huh?" I'd be like, Come on, man.
[My first year in the NFL, with the Houston Texans,] was an adjustment period. That's probably the biggest thing that's a difference between a MAC school and an SEC school: the adjustment. I don't think the adjustment is as big for someone from Alabama, because you're playing the best, week in and week out. Most of the dudes from the SEC go to the league.
I wasn't the best guy on the field or in the trenches every Sunday. Early on, mentally, you go from 10 plays in a MAC playbook to all these different plays, different checks, different protections in a matter of seconds. Between that and physically. When you're young, it's so much false movements and excitement, you get tired. You might tire yourself in warm-ups. As I've gotten older, I've just learned how to play the game. It's slowed down tremendously.
Philly and [Houston in 2012-'13 under head coach Gary] Kubiak are similar. Zone, West Coast, short passes, take some shots down the field. Those are similar. With [current Texans coach Bill] O'Brien, it was like the New England offense. Different traps, just a different type of feel, especially in the running game. Pass game, you're going to take some shots here and there, but realistically, the offense is set up for anything that the defense puts out there. You have to check to a good play. Those were kind of different things. I'm glad I came in under Kubiak, had John Benton, excellent O-line coach. I actually saw him after the 49ers game. (Benton is now the Niners' offensive line coach.) Learned how to block in the zone scheme.
Zone blocking, you have to have a certain type of offensive lineman. They really excelled when Kubiak was there because of three reasons: 1) Kubiak, you've seen when he was in Baltimore, the OC ... then what he did in Denver, obviously had Peyton Manning and probably one of the best defenses of the modern era. 2) You had [running back] Arian [Foster], and Arian had crazy vision, man. He wasn't the fastest back by any means, but [he had] crazy vision and would always get you forward, fall forward.
Then up front, as far as the offensive line, you had Chris Myers, Wade Smith, Duane Brown. Dudes who weren't the biggest dudes but were very athletic. With the zone, it's not necessarily about powering dudes off the ball; you've just got to beat a dude to a spot, and then front-side stretch it, backside cut. As simple as that is, to perfect that is pretty tough. It has to be choreographed all the time. Learning how to run that at a young age [helped me out].
I saw the Eagles as a team that just got rid of [coach] Chip [Kelly] and what happened with that, kind of rebuilding, from what I understood, and [in 2015,] I played [Eagles coach] Doug [Pederson] twice. (Pederson was offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2013 to '15.) First time, lost; last time, lost 30-0 at home in Houston, like golly, you know? So [when choosing to sign with Philadelphia in 2016,] I knew offensively what he would bring to the table. I knew we were going to score points. I knew the offense was going to be good; it was just a matter of time.
They call him Skinny Andy. I never played for [Chiefs coach] Andy Reid, but I understand it's pretty similar in a lot of things he does and how he carries himself. (Pederson worked under Reid for four seasons in Philadelphia and three in Kansas City.) That was one of the reasons. Jason Peters, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce were already there. Two have been to the Pro Bowl. JP's probably going to the Hall of Fame. Lane's probably going to the Pro Bowl this year. I knew it was a chance to probably be part of the best O-line I was going to be a part of.
Honestly, we've got a stable of backs back there. All have been proven starters. LeGarrette [Blount], Jay [Ajayi], the Clement kid's (Corey Clement) really coming on. All really can do different things. Obviously, Carson [Wentz] is playing out of his mind right now, finding different guys down the field, escaping stuff; he's like Houdini back there. It's impressive.
Probably the most impressive thing is, it's Year 2, and he plays quarterback, and he's excelling. Obviously, got receivers out there, Torrey Smith taking the top off, Alshon [Jeffery] being Alshon, really coming on in these past two weeks, catching balls over dudes, running down the sideline and scoring. Obviously, [Zach] Ertz didn't play [in Week 9], but prior to this last game, Ertz was first in every category for tight ends. It's a team effort, and calling different plays in different situations, they make the plays. As far as up front, we're playing well as a unit and got to keep it going.
The team is really close. A lot of dudes do a lot of things with each other outside of the facility. Dudes don't just come to the facility, go through practice, go through meetings and be like, "All right, I'll see y'all tomorrow." Dudes kick it a lot, do a lot of things together, do a lot of stuff as units. Dudes really having fun. Obviously, being 8-1 really helps. Everything's fun when you're winning.
It's almost like being on a high school team. It's just pure love for the game. It's an amazing feeling. You don't have super big-name guys who are too big for so and so, or egos or anything like that.
So I live across the street from Steve's. Went to Pat's, Geno's, Jim's. So I go to Steve's a lot because it's right across the street, but out of everything I've had, [the best cheesesteak] has been (pauses) Jim's. Jim's is legit.
We do a lot of different stuff out of a lot of different formations. It's not like, "This is what they do well, so we've got to stop this." We get it, it's the National Football League. Not everything is going to work every day. This ain't working, well, we'll do this. Something's going to work. Coaches are open to different suggestions from the players. It's unlike something I've seen in a long time. Say we're in this protection, but we're like, "Well, maybe we should do it this way, because we get the running back out, and according to the rules, this guy's probably not coming anyway." Coaches are like, "That's a good point, we'll do it that way." Little stuff like that.
I talked to [Duane Brown] yesterday. A couple of dudes have been older brothers to me: Jason Peters, Duane Brown, Chris Myers. I keep in contact with those dudes all the time. I think the craziest thing is, when I was a rookie in 2012, going through that year, I was like, "Man, the NFL season is a long time." But then, as you get older, you realize it's like a snowball effect. Because when you're young, you're new and your eyes are wide open. When you get older, it's pretty much the same thing each year, just different teams you're playing. The time is flying. Wade's retired; Chris retired. JP, who knows what he's going to do? (The 35-year-old Peters is out for the season after suffering ACL and MCL tears in Week 7.) Duane, this is Year 10, so a couple more years. For me, I was just in Year 1, and now it's Year 6. It's crazy.
I do a lot of stuff now. I do a lot of banking and stuff, so I'll just go to that when I'm done. I started getting my MBA at the University of Houston when I was down there. I really just like numbers.
One word for why the offense is rolling the way it is: Carson. We put so much on his plate from Year 1. Think about it. A week before the season, all right, the franchise is yours. Here's the keys. Go out there and play. You put together different stuff, and obviously, he's a rookie, right? Learning curve. 2) He's a quarterback in the league. Highly focused position. 3) As the year goes on, there's going to be more and more tape, more and more tendencies. Usually, you see a quarterback starts off hot, and then eventually he's going to take a dip, just because teams start to scheme you. But then going into Year 2 and being in it from the beginning, it's just been like a rocket ship. It's been crazy.
[Carson Wentz's mobility] makes it a little easier, because he can run up out of some stuff. But then it makes it harder, too, because you don't know where he might be. Or sometimes he might think he's Michael Vick back there, he can outrun dudes who are faster than him. Sometimes on those plays, just get the ball away. But with the plays he's making now, keep playing the way he's playing.
I went to the actual ceremony [of an Eagles fan's wedding] and then I went to the reception. It was good. The guy went to Miami, wrote me a letter. It was the offseason; I wasn't doing anything else. So I went, had a great time, great ceremony. It was awesome.
Yeah, to be honest, [the invitation was a surprise]. I don't score touchdowns. But it was good. It is very MAC.