Spence is All Smiles to be in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There are a lot of things to like about South Florida.
These days, professional football is not one of them, however. In a league where parity is king, the rebuilding Miami Dolphins are almost stipulated as being the least-talented team in the NFL.
That's where new Eagles defensive tackle Akeem Spence was in 2018, starting all 16 games for a team then piloted by Adam Gase and it could have been his lot in life again under new coach Brian Flores as the "tanking" word gets thrown into the South Beach lexicon.
Spence is no star but he's a competent professional player with 57 career starts on his resume and that's the class of player the Dolphins weren't really interested in any longer which turned into a bit of a break for Spence.
Yes, he was unemployed for a week but trading a game check for the opportunity to go from perhaps the worst team in the league to one of the best had Spence all smiles in the Eagles locker room on Wednesday after his first practice in Philadelphia.
“I’ve never been on a winning team, so just being here, I’ve been all smiles,” Spence beamed.
In an unforgiving sport a break for someone often means bad news for another and Spence, 27, got his opportunity because Malik Jackson suffered a Lisfranc injury in the opener against Washington, an injury that will more than likely cost Jackson the rest of the season.
Originally drafted by Tampa Bay, Spence found his second contract in Detroit where things were going well with Jim Caldwell but a coaching change to Matt Patricia and a move to the 3-4 had the Lions shopping Spence.
“I was playing for [Jim Caldwell] in Detroit, a great coach, loved him, and then they brought in Matt Patricia. I wasn’t a 3-4 guy,” Spence explained.
History repeated itself with the Dolphins once the revolving door turned Gase to Flores, a Bill Belichick disciple.
“I was kind of expecting it,” Spence said of his ultimate release. “Just the direction they were taking things. It was just a matter of when.”
Jim Schwartz and the Eagles are a better fit, employing the same wide-9 front that Spence was comfortable in with Caldwell in Gase. In Miami last season the defensive coordinator was Matt Burke, Schwartz's good friend and now a special assistant with the Eagles.
“I feel like this defense is something that I’ve been in playing for Coach Burke, so it’s just gonna be getting down the terminology," Spence said. “... I love the way they coach defense, I love the way coach D-line and I have a passion for playing attack defense.”
The goal is for Spence to be part of the rotation inside with Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway moving forward. Friday will be only his third practice with the Eagles but coach Doug Pederson left the door open for Spence playing against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night.
"He’s a big guy. Physical," Pederson said. "Matt Burke was with him in Miami. He can be disruptive. He definitely fills the need that we have there at that open spot. He will give us some really good minutes as a fourth tackle. ... [defensive line] coach [Phillip] Daniels will get him coached up with what he needs to know, and, yeah, it's realistic [he could play Sunday]."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen