Inside Voices: ‘We’re the Nobodies’
There’s “V-Doc” (Vinny Curry) and “Fletch” (Fletcher Cox) and “Swamp” (Cedric Thornton, given to him by Jim Washburn who thought he was built like the Swamp Thing). Then there’s “Wado” (Wade Keliikipi) and “B-Bair” (Brandon Bair) and “T-Hart” (Taylor Hart). Those are some of the nicknames you might hear bouncing off the walls inside the defensive line room.
There is also a nickname for the group that the players have embraced in recent weeks.
“We’re ‘The Nobodies,’” said Cox. “That’s us.”
The moniker was born following the win over Dallas on Thanksgiving. Prior to that game, Bennie Logan stepped slightly out of character to say that he was tired of all the hype surrounding the Cowboys’ offensive line. Judging by his comments and those of his teammates, you could tell that the unit was feeling disrespected. Logan then offered this quote after the D-line put the clamps on DeMarco Murray and company:
“I’m a nobody. I’m a nobody. We’ve got a lot of nobodies up front,” he said. “People don’t give us the credit and things like that. We just play football. We have fun when we do it.”
To Logan’s point, the defensive front has been toiling away in relative anonymity for much of the season despite being one of the real strengths of this Eagles team. That has a lot to do with how they are deployed within Billy Davis’ 3-4 scheme; there’s not a whole lot of room for flash when you’re busy two-gapping. But their work has been critical for a defense that has been very sound against the run and ranks second in the NFL in sacks.
So, who are ‘The Nobodies’?
A young group, for one. Outside of Bair (30), each member of the D-line is 26 or younger. Connor Barwin described Cox as the leader, Thornton as the workhorse (“He plays balls to the wall”) and Logan as a steady force that is growing in confidence by the week. Curry brings comedy (along with a nasty pass rush) to the proceedings.
“Man, everybody’s chill, man. Everybody’s laid back. Everybody just wants to get better,” said Cox. “There’s always at least two funny moments during the meeting to wake everybody up.”
That atmosphere is established by Jerry Azzinaro, who is “not afraid to tell us that we are full of crap and a lot of times we do the same to him, joking around,” said Bair. It’s an open atmosphere where ideas are bounced around and stones are busted. They do a lot of self-scouting in that room and analyze all their film. If one of them gets trucked, rest assured they’re going to hear about it.
“I don’t know, if anybody gets pancaked, everybody just try to go to the store and get some Aunt Jemima,” Cox deadpanned. “If somebody gets pancaked we’ll be like, ‘Syrup!’ And everybody busts out laughing.”
“We rip on each other for past plays and give each other a hard time,” added rookie Beau Allen. “It’s all in good fun.”
Bair described it as a brotherhood where “we fight with each other, we fight for each other.” They pride themselves on being lunchpail guys that don’t crave or need recognition for their efforts.
But they are beginning to get it, particularly because of the play of Cox. The 23-year-old is really starting to come into his own and his star is rising nationally. Between his All-Pro caliber play of late and Curry’s eight-sack campaign, people are starting to pay attention.
“They won’t be ‘The Nobodies’ much longer if they keep playing the way they’re playing,” said Barwin.
“Nah, we haven’t done nothing yet, man,” said Thornton. “Once we accomplish something then we can talk about that. Fletch is playing real good, he’s accomplished a whole lot. Got sacks. Playing a Pro Bowl year. Hopefully he’ll get to the Pro Bowl. But me and Bennie, we’re still grinding, still trying to get to where we need to be. And as a unit we’re trying to establish ourselves and be ranked higher than where we are, No.1, No. 2 defense. We think we can be that but right now we haven’t accomplished nothing.
“We’ll talk in four weeks, five weeks. Right now, we’re still nobody.”
Kelce And the O-line
While the defensive front has been consistently stout for most of the season, the Eagles’ offensive line has been up-and-down. That has a lot to do with the injury bug hitting that group pretty hard this year. No injury was bigger than when Jason Kelce was sidelined for five weeks following sports hernia surgery. Many expected the offensive line to regain 2013 form when he and Evan Mathis returned back in November, but that hasn’t exactly been the case. There have been positive signs, for sure, but there have been ebbs and flows. Same could be said for the play of Kelce, who is still not totally past the injury.
“This is kind of an ongoing thing for me,” he said. “It’s weird, it was really, really good against Houston [his first game back] and then it kind of got really sore – probably because I hadn’t played in so long – and now it’s starting to come back really strong again. So hopefully we’re on the back end of it and it will continue to improve as the season goes.
“I can run a little bit better [compared to when I first got back]. Some of the things that limited me after my first game back was that my stride wasn’t the same and my ability to change direction in space wasn’t quite what it used to be. And it’s still not 100 percent back to where it was but it’s definitely getting better each week.”
The offensive line really appeared to be rounding into form in the two-game stretch against Tennessee and Dallas, with the Eagles racking up a staggering 420 rushing yards in eight quarters of football. Then came the Seattle game.
“We saw progress. Obviously last week we took a little bit of a step backwards. I think for the most part we were making a lot of progress and then last week for whatever reason we just didn’t hit the blocks the right way, didn’t really surface things correctly, weren’t on the same page a lot of times. That was really what led to the downfall of the running game last week,” said Kelce.
The hope is that was a one-week setback on a climb back towards their expected form, especially now that Kelce is feeling more like himself.
Dez’s Cheap Talk
Following the Eagles’ 33-10 win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, Dez Bryant complained that the defensive players were being “kinda cheap.”
Why did he feel compelled to say that?
“I don’t know, I guess because we won the game,” said Brandon Boykin. “I don’t know how we cheated. I don’t know how you can cheat in football unless you’re a ref or something. I don’t know how a player can cheat, right? Ain’t got no answer to that one.”
“I don’t know what we did to make him so angry but if that’s what he wants to say, that’s what he wants to say,” said Nolan Carroll, who was on the wrong end of blindside hit by Dwayne Harris during a special teams play in the first matchup. “I thought we were playing fine. I don’t think we took any cheap shots.”
Were the refs lenient towards contact in that game?
“They let a lot of stuff go. They didn’t try to control the game at all. They just let us play. But I didn’t see any cheap shots so I don’t know what he’s talking about,” said Carroll.“When they just let us play I think that’s when receivers start to get a little frustrated. They always want the call. Anytime there’s any type of contact, they’re always looking for some type of call.”
Bryant was definitely frustrated, telling the media afterwards:”They beat us and I’m going to accept that, but I cannot wait to go up there and play them again. Cannot wait.”
The secondary is expecting to be facing a very motivated Bryant come Sunday night.
“He’s probably going to be ready for this week,” said Boykin, “so take it with a grain of salt and know he is going to be ready to play, for sure, this week.”