Finding Right Fits For Locker Room Culture
March 19, 2018 01:18 PM | Dave Spadaro
Haloti Ngata has friends in the Eagles' locker room from his Baltimore Ravens days. Daryl Worley has a reunion with his former West Virginia University teammates waiting. Corey Nelson and Jordan Hicks played high school football together. Michael Bennett is tight with Jason Peters, among other Eagles he has known in his long and successful NFL career.

This is all very important considering the way a locker room comes together, something that happened so magically for the Eagles in 2017. New players are welcomed with open arms, and their ability to fit in and feel good about their standing on and off the field contributes to their performance.

"We've had a great locker room and I think that's a big reason we won the Super Bowl," linebacker Nigel Bradham said last week. "We're all brothers. That's the way we look at things in the locker room."

No doubt the Eagles carefully consider every personality when they add to the roster. They know, for example, that both Bennett and Ngata were their respective teams' (Seattle and Detroit, in these instances) nominees for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. They know Worley from studying him prior to the 2016 draft and, obviously, knowing that running back Wendell Smallwood and wide receiver Shelton Gibson and cornerback Rasul Douglas played with Worley at WVU. Nelson's background, from his days at Oklahoma to his four seasons with the Denver Broncos, was thoroughly researched.

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Not everyone is going to be aligned on every issue in a 53-man locker room (plus practice squad and injured players). Not everyone is going to be best friends. But the Eagles know just how important locker room harmony is, so this class of additions adds to the veteran leadership with Bennett and Ngata and adds some young personalities to blend in.

"You want everybody feel like he has his place in the locker room," Bradham said. "We're a team and we win as a team. We need everyone thinking on the same page."

One of the big questions, as the Eagles change out some of the key pieces from 2017 to 2018, is that of chemistry. A season ago the Eagles learned how much it matters when a team checks egos at the door, when it takes ownership in its actions on and off the field, when it has a team-first mentality all the way through. The Eagles were the definition of a "team" in 2017, and that mentality and daily practice helped the Eagles overcome so many devastating injuries and win the Super Bowl.

Every year brings change and challenge to the locker room. This season is no different. The Eagles have added some commanding personalities - Ngata as a father figure in a sense with the gray covering much of his beard, with his playing legacy well established, and Bennett with his very public opinions and his intensity and his commitment to the community.

The Eagles are going to have to be unselfish and team-oriented and egoless to win again in 2018. Roles are going to have to be accepted. Look at the defensive line, for example, where the Eagles have Bennett and Brandon Graham and Chris Long and Derek Barnett and Steven Means on the roster. That's a lot of talent. There are only so many snaps to go around. Same at defensive tackle, where Ngata joins Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan to divvy up reps. Players want to play. Don't ever forget that. What occurred last season across the board as players shared touches and reps and cared not a bit about their individual statistics, was extraordinary.

So the goal is to replicate last season with the championship-level locker-room chemistry. It's also fascinating to see how the locker room blends together. So far in the free agency period, the Eagles have added some veteran players very well known in the league, and some younger players trying to find the right kind of stability. We've all spent a lot of time thinking about how the new players fit in on the field. How they fit in and establish a new culture for the 2018 campaign is every bit as vital for the Eagles to have success.

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