Chase Daniel may not play more than a handful of snaps at quarterback for the Eagles this season, if all goes according to plan. That doesn’t obscure the fact that he’s one of the team’s most valuable players.
Daniel is the in-the-room mentor for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, the let’s-get-some-coffee-and-watch-game-film partner who meets Wentz at 5 a.m. each day and goes through the laborious process of studying opponents’ defenses.
Daniel is the first player to greet Wentz as he comes off the field, he’s usually side-by-side with Wentz on the bench dissecting the previous offensive series, and he’s Wentz’ aide-de-camp, if you will, in just about every facet of the NFL life.
“Chase means so much to me,” Wentz said. “He’s awesome and I learn from him every day working with him and studying film and defenses and what we’re doing. He has been a big, big help.”
Daniel isn’t the one garnering the headlines. He’s not a player the daily beat writers go to for sound-bite gold. But if you want to have a good, in-depth conversation about the Eagles offense, or about the defense the Eagles are about to play, Daniel is more than willing to open up. He’s a fountain of knowledge and he’s serving the exact role the Eagles envisioned when they signed him to a three-year contract in March as an unrestricted free agent.
“We see Chase as the best No. 2 quarterback in the league,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “He knows his role and he’s great at it. If we need him, we know Chase will be ready to play.”
There have been a slew of contributors to this 2-0 start, and not all of them have been as obvious as you might think. A list, then, from this perspective …
NIGEL BRADHAM, LB
The Eagles haven’t had a standout SAM linebacker since Carlos Emmons roamed the plains in Jim Johnson’s defense in 2000-2003. Bradham is rangy, as evidenced by his interception last week of Jay Cutler that helped turn the game in Chicago around in the Eagles’ favor. Bradham is also a tackling machine, sure and physical. He’s been outstanding in this defense and he will be a key part on Sunday against a diverse Steelers offense. Bradham has to be outstanding in the run game against the NFL’s leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, and he has to cover tight end Jesse James, who has 8 catches and a touchdown in two wins.
NELSON AGHOLOR, WR
There has been significant progress in Agholor’s game. He isn’t there yet, but he’s a whole lot better than he was last year or even this summer. Agholor looks more explosive and much more confident. He’s got 8 receptions, 99 yards and a touchdown. He blew past a cornerback in Chicago and couldn’t reel in a Wentz pass that was underthrown and then broken up by the defensive back. A chance in the end zone dropped to the ground when the DB swiped the ball out of Agholor’s hands. These are catches Agholor needs to make and he knows that. He’s made strides and has a chance to pile up some catches against a Steelers defense that plays a lot in zone, giving some cushion, and allowing for underneath throws.
BRANDON GRAHAM, DE
Is it ridiculous to say that Graham has become one of the more complete defensive ends in the NFL? He has 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in two games. He plays the hell out of the running game. He’s physical and relentless and Graham brings the energy on every play. Graham started his career as an end in a 4-3, stood up as an edge linebacker in the 3-4 and is back to where he belongs with his hand in the ground in the 4-3. He’s a disruptive force who leads the pass rush and stuffs the run.
ALLEN BARBRE, OG
Strong and more athletic than you think, Barbre has been rock solid at left guard for two games. His value will skyrocket should right tackle Lane Johnson get suspended by the NFL at any point this season. If that happens, Barbre moves to right tackle. That’s pretty impressive position flexibility.
TREY BURTON, TE
He probably isn’t under the radar any longer given his strong performance in the Monday night win over Chicago, but Burton still deserves a mention. He is a receiver in a tight end’s body and the Eagles are thankful that Burton has been able to fill in so capably with Zach Ertz missing the game in Chicago and out for Sunday’s game against the Steelers.
RON BROOKS, CB
Scrappy and tenacious, Brooks has played in 77 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this year and he’s been able to help in coverage as an outside corner as well as a slot cornerback in the nickel. Having Brooks allows the Eagles to keep Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins on the field and in coverage. Consider how valuable Brooks has been: In four seasons in Buffalo, Brooks never played more than 27 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz needs Brooks to be versatile for the cornerback rotation – remember, the Eagles are carrying only three true corners into the game on Sunday – to work.
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