Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles are not yet NFC East champions after the Dallas Cowboys won last night. That means the Eagles must beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday to clinch the division crown this week. You're reading the Friday edition of Early Birds. It's free for anyone to sign up here to receive 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
Zach Berman: If you were giving yourself a scouting report, what separates you as a defensive tackle?
Tim Jernigan: "I don't think a lot of people play the game like I play anymore. And that's not even from a talent standpoint. All from a mindset standpoint. You don't come across many, in my eyes, who play the way I play. You come across some damn good ones, people who are probably better stat-wise, but the way I play, the swagger I play with, ain't nobody got that."
Zach Berman: You've been described as a junkyard dog. What does that mean to you?
Tim Jernigan: "It's crazy, because I was in college, I remember [Jeremy] Pruitt, our defensive coordinator, he'd always say, 'That's what we want, we want junkyard dogs, 11 junkyard dogs on the field. We don't need no pretty boys.' I take it as a compliment."
Zach Berman: You've played meaningful December football. What's different this time of year?
Tim Jernigan: "Really, I think those early-season games, all they can do is help you set up for what's about to happen in November and December. The beginning of the season is important, but that later stretch is definitely more important – especially if you're in the situation where you have a fighting chance to get into the playoffs. Because the main thing is just getting in the playoffs. Because once you're there, everything you've done before doesn't matter. It's only a three-, four-game season. The biggest thing is just getting to the playoffs."
Joe Walker has missed the past two days with a stinger. If he doesn't play, look for veteran Dannell Ellerbe to be active for the first time and play middle linebacker. Najee Goode is another option, but this is why the Eagles signed Ellerbe. After three weeks, he should be far enough along to fill that role in base downs. "He's still improving," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He got some practice time last week. I told all our guys, no matter what role you have, you're going to have to contribute in some way. I'm confident that he'll be ready when his time comes, whenever that is."
These games are huge for the Eagles. They might affect playoff positioning, although the Eagles could potentially be in good position even if they lost both of these games. A 10-1 record gives them cushion, and 13-3 is usually good enough for a first-round bye. But you raise a good point about the psyche. I think that's relevant. There's a certain confidence that comes from beating these types of teams, and confidence is a powerful tool in the NFL. The Eagles are a confident team right now. Would it be different if they return to Philadelphia 1-1 or 0-2? They shouldn't be swayed if they're 1-1 on this trip. I'd consider that a successful trip. A winless trip would be different.
Fair question. I can't speak for other reporters, so I'll speak for myself — I saw a 9-7 team. I didn't see a 13-win team — or maybe even a 15-win team! There were a few things I missed, but I'd say there are three big areas I was wrong about when forecasting this team: