The Eagles will have just about six weeks away from organized football starting Friday, and most players are planning some combination of rest and football workouts during that time (with several players slated to head to San Diego to throw around with Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz).
When they return on July 24, Doug Pederson knows he has a group of very capable athletes arriving back in Philadelphia — due in large part to a few outspoken veteran leaders on this year’s roster.
“It’s a very smart football team; meaning they have picked up the schemes extremely well,” Pederson told the media Thursday. “This is a group that also has some tremendous leaders on the football team, guys that I’ve seen sort of from afar kind of taking charge at their position groups.”
Each position seems to have one main guy, as far as leaders go — from the linebackers to the offensive line to the quarterbacks. And though it’s still quite early in the Pederson era, the leaders have already jumped on board and are preaching the gospel to their fellow position parishioners.
“Another thing is they have bought into the things that I’ve talked to them about, and that’s encouraging,” the coach said.”The [idea] that I can trust them and they can trust me and that’s the bottom line in this deal. You know, we come to work every day ready to go, and looking forward to camp.”
Here’s a look at who’s the locker room leader at each position at the NovaCare Complex.
Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Clearly, a team’s QB1 is the assumed leader of a locker room and though he is soft spoken (and despite his early offseason holdout), Bradford still commands respect from all of his offensive teammates. As he showed at times last year— particularly with his shower-room, players-onlymeeting that propelled the team to victory over the Saints — he knows how to be a leader.
Running backs: Darren Sproles
Another soft-spoken veteran, Sproles is the most experienced offensive player (other than Jason Peters) on the team. He leads by example and will be a big part of the offense and special teams in 2016.
Wide receivers/tight ends: Jordan Matthews
Matthews has transformed himself into an emotional leader for the wide receivers, and the entire offense. Never shy to speak to the media, nor to have a chat with a younger player on the sidelines, Matthews hasone of the most important voices on the roster. He and elder statesman Brent Celekare the key cogs in the locker room.
Offensive line: Jason Kelce
While Peters is the longest-tenured offensive lineman, Kelce plays at the center position and is the quarterback of the offensive line. And like Matthews, he is a vocal leader to the media and to fellow teammates.
Defensive line: Brandon Graham
The defensive line is a talented bunch this season, with Fletcher Cox expected to continue his ascensioninto one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. But another first round pick, Graham, is the go-to-guy in the locker room for most younger players. A close second is Connor Barwin, who is also a talented and valuable veteran leader.
Linebackers: Jordan Hicks
Yes, Hicks is the leader of the linebackers. With no disrespect for Mychal Kendricks, who will move to the outside this season, Hicks has all the characteristics of abudding star and is a vocal leader in the middle despite entering just his second pro season.
Secondary: Malcolm Jenkins
Jenkins, fresh off his first trip to the Pro Bowl, is the Sam Bradford of the defense. He’s the unit’s leader and has a spectacular rapport with rookies, veterans and media members alike. And he — like everyone else on this list — is a big proponent of the Jim Schwartz defense.