The Eagles don’t have anyone in the locker room experiencing the joy of earning their first Pro Bowl invitation, a rare initiation into elite company. Rather, they have players who are now building legacies, accumulating multiple Pro Bowls on their resumes that can distinguish a player when widening the lens and evaluating his career.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was notified of his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl berth on Tuesday. Tight end Zach Ertz and right guard Brandon Brooks have now experienced that call in back-to-back seasons.
“The players that I looked up to in the past, those players were able to stack multiple Pro Bowls on top of each other, have that consistency,” Ertz said Wednesday. “One of my goals was to be a multiple-time Pro Bowler. A lot of people can do a lot of great things one time in their life. But what separates the good ones from the great ones, the overall consistency is what separates those guys.”
Ertz, whose 101 receptions leads all NFL tight ends, knocked on the door of the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016. With the Eagles’ success last season, Ertz finally broke through. This year, there was no question. Ertz said playing in the same system is a big part of his success, crediting Doug Pederson for the way Pederson details the offense. He also noted how continuity with Carson Wentz helps, too.
Ertz said he doesn’t compare himself to other tight ends, although he has a friendly competition with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, the brother of Eagles center Jason Kelce. He complimented San Francisco’s George Kittle, the NFC’s other representative at tight end, but he’s not ready to call it a rivalry in the conference for a starting Pro Bowl spot in coming seasons. Ertz said he’s simply “trying to take it year by year.”
“I don’t play for the Pro Bowl,” Ertz said, “but it is cool to be recognized like that.”
Cox has become used to the honor. However, there’s significance to his fourth Pro Bowl. It moved him past four other players to give him the second-most Pro Bowls of all defensive linemen in Eagles history. The only player with more is Reggie White, someone Cox has long admired.
“Just to even be talked about in the same sentence as that dude is very humbling,” Cox said. “I just want to keep stacking them.”
Brooks has now reached the Pro Bowl twice in his three seasons in Philadelphia. The honor is validation of how his career has blossomed with the Eagles. He credited offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, whom he campaigned to keep in Philadelphia, and the longstanding linemen he joined, including former Pro Bowlers Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, and Jason Kelce.
The Eagles thought they were getting a high-level player when Brooks left Houston to sign in Philadelphia, but he’s now considered among the elite players at his position. Stoutland doesn’t think there’s a better guard.
“I thought I was a good player [before] coming here,” Brooks said, “but coming here has made me raise my game tremendously.”
Pederson joked that he thought the “entire team” deserved to go before crediting the players who earned the invitations, as well as the alternates – Johnson, Kelce, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and defensive end Brandon Graham.
Jenkins, who has been on the snubbed list before, knows what this day is like when he doesn’t get in. He’ll still likely end up going as a first alternate because of Landon Collins’ injury. Jenkins said that he thought Washington safety D.J. Swearinger deserved a bid, too. He keeps the Pro Bowl in perspective, but he also knows the meaning it has to players.
“It’s an honor to be considered the best at your position,” Jenkins said. “Respect is something in this game you can’t really buy. You’ve got to earn it. So when you get recognized – it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of everything, but at the same time, it means everything that your opponents respect you, coaches respect you, and fans recognize what you’re doing. But when you don’t get in, it doesn’t necessarily define you.”
Linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back) would have been limited participants if the Eagles had a regular practice on Wednesday – Pederson only held a walkthrough – and their activity was a positive sign considering they both missed time in recent weeks.
Defensive end Michael Bennett (foot), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (illness), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), guard Isaac Seumalo (pectoral), and quarterback Carson Wentz (back) all missed practice.
Linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring), Cox (hip), Ertz (ankle), and punter Cameron Johnston (back) were limited.