Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles will practice at 12:30 p.m. for the first time this week. Before practice, Doug Pederson will hold a 10:30 a.m. news conference. The players will speak to reporters after practice.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (right) and tight end Zach Ertz slap high-five after connecting on a 1-yard touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field October 29, 2017. The Eagles won 33-10. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (right) and tight end Zach Ertz slap high-five after connecting on a 1-yard touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field October 29, 2017. The Eagles won 33-10. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Now and later

Be honest: This Super Bowl trip happened sooner than you likely expected. When the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz, their hope was to have these types of seasons during his career. And when Wentz led the Eagles to success through the first three months of the season, it seemed like they could threaten to make it this year. But after Wentz's injury, it seemed unlikely.

Now they're heading to the Super Bowl without Wentz under center, and there's internal optimism that they'll be back again when Wentz returns as the starter. The Eagles have a young core in place, most of whom will play in their first Super Bowl next Sunday. Wentz, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, tackle Lane Johnson, guard Brandon Brooks, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, defensive end Derek Barnett, and cornerback Sidney Jones are among a core group of players in their 20s who are locked up or have team options through at least 2020. All their thoughts are obviously invested in this game, but Ertz is expecting to reach this point again.

"The expectation in this organization isn't that this is going to be a one-time thing," Ertz said. "That's kind of the organization standard now is to be in this game over and over. That's what we expect as a team and that's why they have the players here to have that sustained success."

Belichick’s respect for Fletcher Cox

In Patriots coach Bill Belichick's praise of the Eagles, he singled out Cox. The Eagles' three-time Pro Bowler is the best player on the defense, and Belichick doesn't think there's a better defensive tackle in the NFL.

"Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position," Belichick said. " He's a very disruptive player, hard to block, run, pass, no matter what it is."

During the early portion of Cox's career, he sought that type of respect for his skills. The Eagles' six-year, $103-million contract was validation, but praise from someone like Belichick also carries weight.

"It's respect," Cox said. "It's a lot of respect from a coach like Belichick, a guy that's been around, a guy that's seen a lot of players in this league. For him to say that, it means I obviously must be doing something right. But at the same time, I have three other guys beside me that's helping me push that limit, that's helping me get that recognition."

Congratulations hitting close to home

Malcolm Jenkins grew up in Piscataway, N.J., so he didn't need to be told of the passion of Eagles fans when he signed with the Eagles in 2014. He's also immersed in the city, so he's aware of the excitement about this team. But it hit close to home for Jenkins this week — literally — when he took his trash out and his neighbor come running out to shake his hand.

"I know what it means and how close we are and how excited the city is," Jenkins said. "We love it. We feel the same way as players."

Jenkins won the Super Bowl in New Orleans during his rookie season. It was the first time the Saints won a Super Bowl and he saw what it meant to the fan base. He wants to bring that same sensation to the Eagles fans in two weeks.

If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here to receive the newsletter in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Fletcher Cox and Nick Foles. (MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer)
MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer
Fletcher Cox and Nick Foles. (MICHAEL BRYANT/ Staff Photographer)

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

It may seem like nitpicking in the wake of such a spectacular win, but why are the Eagles keeping Shelton Gibson active?  I don't think I've seen him do anything useful or positive all season, and his penalty for bumping into the returner was completely stupid and costly (yes, I know it didn't matter in the end) and his "who me?" reaction was lame.  I know he is getting no snaps at WR, so is he making positive special teams plays that I'm missing?  Is there no one else (Jaylen Watkins, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones) who could do a better job on special teams? I am afraid he will make a stupid mistake in Minneapolis and we can't afford many of those if we want to beat the Pats. – Brian W.

That's a fair question. I wondered last month why the Eagles made the switch from Marcus Johnson to Shelton Gibson as their No. 5 wide receiver, especially because I had heard positive feedback on Johnson's special teams contributor. I never heard a good explanation other than they wanted to give a different young receiver an opportunity. My best guess is they wanted Gibson's speed, which can be asset as a gunner and maybe situationally on offense. Other than the penalty last week, he hasn't done anything that would seem to cost them games.

Jaylen Watkins is a already a special teams contributor — he plays more than Gibson. They use Gibson and Douglas about the same on special teams. Sidney Jones is not active over him because the Eagles usually play five wide receivers — not six cornerbacks and four wide receivers. So Jones sits behind Douglas, not necessarily Gibson. The question with Gibson is whether he should play over Johnson. They went with Johnson for most of the season before switching around Thanksgiving.