10 Eagles playoff connections you may not know about

·7 min read

10 Eagles playoff connections you may not know about originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

If you’re like me, when you watch NFL games that don’t involve the Eagles, you’re always keeping your eye out for former Eagles on the field and former Eagles coaches on the sideline.

Like if I’m watching the Vikings and I see trainer Eric Sugarman run out on the field to check on a player, I’ll scream to nobody in particular, “HE WAS THE EAGLES’ ASSISTANT TRAINER UNTIL 2005!!!!!”

My colleague Dave Zangaro is the same way. He’s the world’s leading historian on the Eagles’ practice squad past and present. Like if there’s a Raiders game on and he sees veteran tight end Derek Carrier make a block, he’ll blurt out, “He was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2012.”

Those connections are always fun, and there are former Eagles coaches, players, scouts, GMs and, yeah, even trainers all over the NFL.

Here's a look at 10 players, coaches and otherwise whose teams will be in action this weekend that you may not have known about.

1. We all know Andy Reid spent 14 years in Philly before becoming head coach of the Chiefs, but there are an awful lot of other Eagles connections on the Chiefs. For starters, general manager Brett Veach started out with the Eagles in 2004 as a 26-year-old coaching intern under Big Red. Running backs coach Greg Lewis, quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy all played for Reid with the Eagles, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, tight ends coach Tom Melvin and special teams coach Dave Toub all coached under Reid here. Additionally, Chiefs linebackers coach Ken Flajole was Doug Pederson’s linebackers coach for four years with the Eagles (and was also with Reid in Green Bay in 1998). And Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder was Reid’s trainer all 14 years with the Eagles and has now been with Big Red for 23 consecutive years.

READ: Ranking Eagles positional needs coming out of 2021 season

2. There is one player alive in the playoffs this weekend who was in training camp all summer with the Eagles, and that’s safety Andrew Adams. The Eagles surprisingly released him as part of final cuts on Aug. 31 and he quickly re-signed with the Bucs, where he played from 2018 through 2020. Adams played 244 snaps on special teams and 214 on defense for Tampa this year. It was Adams that Bucs coach Bruce Arians smacked Sunday to try and stop him from drawing a penalty for pulling Eagles players off a pile, costing Arians a $50,000 fine.

3. Unfortunately he’s on IR and out for the rest of the season, but Titans WR Marcus Johnson – who had a 100-yard game against the Saints in November – got a Super Bowl ring after spending 2017 with the Eagles (he played in 10 game on special teams). Johnson has been in the league five years now - with the Eagles, Colts and Titans - and has 51 catches for 839 yards and three TDs.

4. Jordan Poyer made 1st-team all-pro this year eight years after the Eagles drafted him. Poyer’s story is a fascinating one. The Eagles drafted him in the 7th round in 2013, and he made the initial roster and played in three games on special teams before he was released so the Eagles could elevate running back Matthew Tucker from the practice squad. But before the Eagles could get Poyer onto the practice squad, the Browns snapped him up, and he spent the rest of 2013 and 2014 through 2016 in Cleveland, playing mainly on special teams but also making 10 starts. Poyer signed as a free agent with the Bills in 2017 and in his fifth year finally became a full-time starter at free safety. He had five INTs that year and five more this year, and he now has 20 career interceptions, 18 of them with Buffalo. He's the Bills' first safety to make all-pro in 29 years.

5. Of course you know that Sean McDermott – who was on Reid’s staff here from 1999 through 2010 – is Bills head coach. But did you know his wide receivers coach is Chad Hall? Hall played college football at Air Force – he was third in Division 1 in all-purpose yards in 2007 - and after spending two years as a maintenance officer with the 388th Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah, he signed as a free agent with the Eagles in the summer of 2010. He was on and off the active roster at various points over the next three years – he caught 13 passes in an Eagles uniform, including TDs from Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick – and also had brief stints with the 49ers, Chiefs (under Reid in 2013) and Jaguars before going into coaching. He’s been on the Bills’ coaching staff since McDermott became head coach in 2017.

6. DeMeco Ryans finished his illustrious career with the Eagles from 2012 through 2015 – he should have made the Pro Bowl in 2013, when he had two INTs and four sacks. Kyle Shanahan had just been named head coach of the 49ers in the winter of 2017, and Shanahan knew Ryans from their days together in Houston, when Shanahan was Gary Kubiak’s offensive coordinator and Ryans was a young Pro Bowl linebacker. Shanahan hired Ryans as an entry-level quality-control coach soon after he was hired by the 49ers to replace Chip Kelly, and Ryans quickly moved up to inside linebackers coach in 2018 and defensive coordinator this year. The Niners ranked 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed this year and 10th in points allowed. Ryans will be a head coach at some point. Also on Shanahan’s staff are assistant special teams caoch Matt Harper and secondary coach Cory Undlin, who both coached for the Eagles under both Kelly and Doug Pederson, and QBs coach Rich Scangarello, who was here last year under Pederson, as well as assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp, who spent 2010 through 2012 playing for the Eagles.

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7. The NFC’s top seeded Packers had 18 interceptions this year, and eight of them were by former Eagles. Mid-season Packers pickup Rasul Douglas – with his fifth team in a year – had five interceptions and two pick-6’s in 12 games, matching his total from his first four NFL seasons, and Chandon Sullivan, Douglas’s Eagles teammate in 2018, added a career-high three picks for Green Bay.

8. Bucs General Manager Jason Licht started his scouting career as a scouting assistant with the Dolphins in 1995 under Tom Heckert. After spending some time with the Patriots, he reunited with Heckert with the Eagles in 2003 and spent five years here before two stints with the Cards and a second stint with the Patriots. He joined the Bucs in 2014. His teams have appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two.

9. One interesting guy on the 49ers’ roster is wide receiver River Cracraft, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad late in the 2019 season. Cracraft, who went undrafted out of Washington State in 2017, has played in the 49ers’ last seven games – all on special teams. He has seven career receptions in five seasons and has been released 12 times by three teams. Gotta root for a guy like that.

10. There are no significant Eagles-Bengals connections, although Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s brother is the brother of one-time Eagles QBs coach Press Taylor, and former Eagles Elijah Holyfield and Joe Bachie are both on the Bengals’ practice squad. But one thing is notable: The beautiful John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which connects Covington, Ky., with downtown Cincinnati and Paul Brown Stadium and was the world’s largest suspension bridge when it opened in 1866, was built with steel wire manufactured at Roebling Steel in Trenton (which later moved to Florence, N.J., where the steel mill village became known as Roebling). The Cincinnati bridge was the model for Roebling’s construction of the Brooklyn Bridge several years later.