Eagles

Weekly meetings helping Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz get on same page

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USA Today Images

Weekly meetings helping Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz get on same page

It doesn't seem like such a big deal at first. The head coach and quarterback get together and talk? 

So what?
 
Doug Pederson said Saturday it is a big deal and said his wide-ranging weekly 1-on-1 shoot-the-bull sessions with Carson Wentz have become an important part of Wentz's success as a quarterback, Pederson's success as a coach and the Eagles' success as a team.
 
Pederson said before practice Saturday morning that every Thursday night -- or Friday night the week of a Monday night game -- once most people have left the NovaCare Complex, he and Wentz sit down and just talk.
 
"We kind of talk about a lot of things," he said. "A little bit about football and a little bit about life."
 
The Eagles are 5-1 going into their huge Monday night showdown with the Redskins at the Linc, and Wentz and Pederson, both in their second year, are both enjoying considerable acclaim. 

Wentz, with 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions, is having an MVP type of season so far, and Pederson is an early favorite for Coach of the Year.
 
They're clearly on the proverbial same page, and Pederson said something as simple as a weekly brainstorming session with nobody else around is a key part of that success.
 
“I think it’s important for myself as a play caller and (Carson as) a quarterback that we kind of get on the same page," Pederson said.
 
"I want to hear his thoughts from the week of practice and he wants to hear my thoughts. We spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes talking football and the rest of it is we’re talking deer hunting stories. He loves to deer hunt and all that and I do too. I talk about my days in Green Bay with Brett.
 
"It’s just that time where he and I can just sort of take a deep breath and exhale and really kind of get on the same page going into the game basically. I think it’s important we continue to do that."
 
Pederson said he and Wentz met individually occasionally last year and earlier this year, but in recent weeks the Thursday night sessions have become a regular and important part of his and Wentz's regular routine.
 
Obviously, the head coach and quarterback meet all the time, but Pederson said these sessions are a unique opportunity because it's late in the week, it's just the two of them and the conversations aren't just limited to football.
 
“Andy (Reid) would do it during the week, not necessarily 1-on-1 at night or anything like that, but he would pull Alex (Smith) aside during the day," Pederson said.
 
"I know back when Donovan (McNabb) was here, even then he would have conversations with him. Marty Mornhinweg would do it with Michael Vick.
 
"I’ve been around coordinators or play callers who have done that with the quarterback. I just think it’s important that that line of communication is open, the dialogue is there and I want to make sure he and I are seeing the same things going into those games."

Eagles Injury Update: Hicks, Kendricks should be OK; Darby questionable

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Eagles Injury Update: Hicks, Kendricks should be OK; Darby questionable

It's still unclear whether or not the Eagles will have Ronald Darby for Monday night's game, but at least they'll have their linebackers. 

Both Jordan Hicks (calf) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) will be OK to play against Washington on Monday night, head coach Doug Pederson said. Both are listed as questionable. So is Wendell Smallwood (knee), but he practiced in full all week. 

"Both [linebackers] will practice today," Pederson said on Saturday morning. "They're both doing well. Just to get a couple extra days of rest. And Mychal has actually practiced all week. Jordan's been the one we've kept out. Both of them will go today and we'll get a better understanding of where they're at but they'll be fine for the game."

Hicks said he hurt his calf in the last game overcompensating for his injured ankle. He said he will definitely play on Monday night. 

Darby (ankle) is listed as questionable for the game, but earlier in the week Pederson said "stars have to align" for the cornerback to play this week. 

Darby, who dislocated his right ankle in Week 1, returned to practice for the first time this week. 

"[Darby has] looked well. It's just day by day with him," Pederson said. "We'll get through today's practice with him. Obviously, have limited his reps during practice. He is doing well and we'll get through today and tomorrow to make a decision for [the game]."

The Redskins will be without their star corner Josh Norman. Norman suffered a fractured a rib and damage to the lining of his lung in Washington's Week 4 loss to the Chiefs and has been out since. Left tackle Trent Williams and starting corner Bashaud Breeland are questionable. 

Eagles-Redskins should be a big fantasy game through the air

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AP Images

Eagles-Redskins should be a big fantasy game through the air

Monday night's game between the Eagles and Redskins should feature a whole lot of passing.

In 4-point passing TD leagues, the Eagles have allowed 17.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, 11th-most in the NFL. The Redskins have allowed 15.4 per game, but they're without their first-round defensive lineman (Jonathan Allen) and have two banged-up starting cornerbacks (Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland).

This is the last game on the Week 7 schedule but could affect plenty of fantasy matchups.

TE Zach Ertz
Ertz has been the most consistent fantasy tight end this season and legitimately looks like a second-round pick next summer. 

He has a long track record of destroying the 'Skins and there's no reason to expect that to change Monday night. With Jordan Matthews gone, Ertz has become Carson Wentz's go-to guy on third down and in the red zone. 

Ertz is on pace to finish with 91 catches, 1,080 yards and 11 TDs this season. In NFL history, the only tight ends to reach all three numbers were Jimmy Graham in 2011 and Todd Christensen in 1983.

Projected stat line: 6 catches, 78 yards, TD

QB Carson Wentz
There aren't too many quarterbacks I'd start ahead of Wentz this week ... just Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins.

Wentz is averaging 264 passing yards per game and has 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He should be able to throw on this Washington secondary, with the main worry being Ryan Kerrigan's pass rush.

Projected stat line: 310 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

QB Kirk Cousins
I'd expect similar stat lines from these two quarterbacks, with Cousins perhaps compiling more yards because he has less of a running game.

The strange thing about Cousins' season so far has been that he's put up numbers without Jordan Reed or Terrelle Pryor doing much of anything. In the four games Reed has played, he's averaged 4.5 catches for 35.5 yards and hasn't scored. Pryor, aside from his 44-yard touchdown, has 15 catches for 165 yards in five games.

Jamison Crowder (121 receiving yards) hasn't made much of an impact either.

But it hasn't prevented Cousins from averaging 267 passing yards per game with nine TDs and two picks. Cousins also already has a career-high 103 rushing yards with a rushing TD.

Cousins' two biggest-play threats have been running back Chris Thompson and backup tight end Vernon Davis, who's had catches of 69 and 51 yards in his last two games.

For me, Cousins is the No. 5 QB of the week (excluding the Thursday night game).

Projected stat line: 330 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

WR Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery has lined up nearly equally on the left and right sides this season — 46 percent on the left, 38 percent on the right. The Redskins haven't used a cornerback to shadow a particular receiver in any game this season, even when Norman has been healthy.

(Update: Norman has already been ruled out.)

So Jeffery should see some opportunities against both Breeland and Norman if they play, as well as Kendall Fuller.

In Week 1 against Washington, Jeffery caught three of seven targets for 38 yards, though you can almost throw that game out because it was the very first he played with Wentz.

With 10 days off in between Week 6 and Week 7, Wentz and Jeffery had plenty of time to work on their rapport. The Eagles had plenty of time to figure out additional ways to get Jeffery the ball downfield. The gut feeling here is you could see Wentz go deep to Jeffery on a jump-ball in the first series of the game. See if you can at least generate a pass interference call.

It seems like a matter of time until Jeffery, averaging eight targets per game, has his first huge stat line. To date, he's been a low-end WR2.

Projected stat line: 5 catches, 95 yards, TD

WR Nelson Agholor
Agholor has lined up in the slot on 88 percent of his snaps, and Fuller has done so on 87 percent of his snaps, so that's the matchup on Monday night. 

Agholor is not a safe start. In Weeks 2 through 4, he had six catches combined. But he's been a big-play threat, averaging 16.1 yards per reception and scoring TDs in four different games.

I'd start Agholor this week ahead of guys like Pryor, Randall Cobb, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and any Rams receiver. 

I would not start Agholor ahead of Mohamed Sanu or DeSean Jackson.

Projected stat line: 4 catches, 62 yards

TE Jordan Reed
It's Week 7, he's already had his bye, and yet Reed admitted again this week he's still not playing at 100 percent. In the past, it hasn't mattered much because Reed has produced even when banged-up. But this season, he's been extremely disappointing to those who drafted him in the fourth or fifth round.

Reed used to swallow up massive target shares from Cousins. In his first nine games last season, he saw 8.8 targets per game. The year before, he averaged 8.1 targets in 14 games.

This season, he's had target counts of 8, 6, 5 and 5. In his best game, he had six catches for 48 yards without a TD.

The Eagles' strong work against tight ends has carried over into 2017. After allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to TEs last season, the Eagles have allowed the ninth-fewest this season. 

Through six weeks, the only tight end to exceed 45 yards against the Eagles was Travis Kelce (8 for 103) in Week 2. They've allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends — Kelce and Hunter Henry.

Reed is not a great start this week, but tight end is so thin that you probably have to start him if you have him. 

I'd start Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kyle Rudolph ahead of Reed this week.

Projected stat line: 5 catches, 55 yards

Other notes:
• Don't love LeGarrette Blount or Rob Kelley in this one. Wendell Smallwood will cut into Blount's carries, and Samaje Perine and Thompson will cut into Kelley's.

• I do really like Thompson in this one. Should be a fast-paced, vertical game and he's getting opportunities on more than just third down. I'd start Thompson ahead of Doug Martin, both Packers running backs, James White, Orleans Darkwa, Bilal Powell, Buck Allen, Duke Johnson and Frank Gore.

• Over the last two weeks, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has made separate comments indicating he wants to get both Crowder and Josh Doctson the ball more. Doctson has a better matchup this week than Crowder, who will line up mostly against the resurgent Patrick Robinson.