Eagles

Eagles' bye was one of most well-timed ever

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Eagles' bye was one of most well-timed ever

The week following the bye is always hit or miss regarding a team’s focus. This may be one of the most strategically set bye weeks the Eagles have ever been dealt. 

It comes at virtually the halfway point of the season and against one of the best opponents head coach Doug Pederson can ask for: the Dallas Cowboys (see story).

This is one of the most intense rivalries I have faced in the NFL and I have been a part of some great ones. 

I played in Green Bay when the Chicago Bears were contenders and Brett Favre matched wits with inside linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Or maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. I can remember playing down in Baltimore and linebacker Ray Lewis would whip the Ravens' fans into a frenzy while he did his animated dance before the game. It was always a war when "The Bus" Jerome Bettis and the offensive line would face Lewis and the rest of the Ravens' front seven to establish dominance in the AFC North.

But I truly feel that the rivalry between the Eagles and the Cowboys surpasses even those intense battles in their respective divisions. There was nothing better than traveling down to Irving, Texas, to play the Cowboys during the mid-90s. There were so many Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers on the field during those battles. The hatred — yes, hatred — I felt looking at the star will affect how I analyze this game in Jerry’s House this Sunday. I was trying to break down how the Cowboys' D-line matches up with the offensive line of the Eagles, but the hype of this Sunday’s game took over.

Dallas will run various tackle-end and end-tackle stunts to get the Eagles' O-line on different levels. This will create pass-rushing lanes to free up rushers. Dallas will run these stunts as a run-stopper on first and second down to slow the Eagles' run game.

But Eagles fans need not worry about the team entering the field flat or unenthusiastic to play after this bye week. There will be plenty of spirit and focus going into this game.

The bye couldn't have come at a better time.

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

To rest or not rest is Doug Pederson's question

It's a pretty good problem to have, but it's still a problem that needs sorting. 

By the time the Eagles play the Raiders on Christmas night next Monday, they might have already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Then what? 

Do they rest some starters? Do they play everyone and try to win? What's the plan for the next two weeks? 

"I've begun thinking (about it), but my focus is winning the game on Monday night," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "Because that, to me, is the most important thing. Once we get to next week, we'll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football."

To put it in baseball terms, over the last two weeks of the season, the Eagles' magic number to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs is one. So either a win from the Eagles or a loss from the Vikings would ensure that the Birds have the top spot. 

That means if the Vikings lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Saturday night, the Eagles will have clinched and will have a couple days to make a decision before playing on Monday. 

Even if the Vikings win, the Eagles could beat the Raiders and still clinch the top spot this weekend, which would set up a situation where that last game of the season is meaningless. 

"You just make the best decisions for your football team," Pederson said. "If that means resting a guy, you rest a guy or two or three. But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you've got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you've got to keep that alive.

"You just can't go -- it's not a preseason game, you know what I'm saying, where you can rest in Week 4 and rest all your guys. You can't do that because you're still limited to the roster limits on game day. Guys are still going to have to play, but at the same time, I'm going to be smart about the decisions we make moving forward and getting guys who need it rest, if possible."

While rest is obviously helpful at this time of year, the Eagles could be in a spot where they have three straight weeks -- two nothing games and a bye -- without a meaningful game. Good for rest, potentially bad for momentum heading into the postseason. 

The quarterback position, specifically, is a bit of a quandary. Had Carson Wentz not torn his ACL, it would be a fairly easy decision; rest him. But Nick Foles hasn't played a lot this year and could probably use the work, especially with his relatively unfamiliar receivers. The problem with that is, if he gets hurt, the team is down to Nate Sudfeld. Pederson also said that he'd ideally like to get Sudfeld some work. 

The Eagles haven't been in this position in quite some time. You'd have to go all the way back to the 2004 Super Bowl season to find a similar situation. Like what could happen with a Minnesota loss on Saturday, the 2004 Eagles had homefield clinched with two games to go. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' starters played just one series in Week 16 and then most key players were rested in Week 17 before the bye in the wild-card round. 

Because of the rest, the Eagles lost their last two games heading into the playoffs, but it didn't matter. In the divisional round, they went up 14-0 early in the second quarter and took down the Vikings 27-14, their first step in the playoffs toward the Super Bowl. 

On Monday, Pederson didn't want to answer too many specifics questions about hypothetical situations, but he and his coaches will probably have some sort of plan in place if the Vikings lose. That plan could either be to play like normal or begin the coasting process into the playoffs. 

"Like I've said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now," Pederson said. "So that's the focus for me."

Patrick Robinson's concussion could open door for another CB

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Patrick Robinson's concussion could open door for another CB

Eagles nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson is in the NFL's concussion protocol, head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. 

Robinson, 30, left Sunday's game in New Jersey in the third quarter. When the play happened, it looked pretty scary. Robinson was down on the field for a few minutes while his teammates looked on concerned. 

Eventually, he got up and began walking directly into the visitors' locker room. 

The good news for the Eagles is Robinson will have an extra day to get over the concussion because they don't play again until next Monday night (Christmas Day) against the Raiders. 

In Robinson's absence, Corey Graham played a season-high 54 snaps. He came in at safety, which allowed Malcolm Jenkins to play in the slot. Jaylen Watkins also got on the field for a handful of snaps. 

Rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas wasn't even active, so he wasn't an option on Sunday afternoon. It was the first time since the opener that Douglas was inactive. Douglas played pretty well when called upon earlier this season. With the return of special teamer Bryan Braman, the Eagles had to find an active spot. 

On Monday, Pederson tried to explain why Douglas didn't dress. 

"When you look at the whole picture, special teams, you have to look at everything," Pederson said. "And then you have to look at defensively, who gives us the best value. If a safety goes down, if a corner goes down, if a nickel goes down. Of course, Jaylen Watkins is in the mix of being that guy. And we've juggled that back and forth from week to week. That was kind of the reason."

If Robinson isn't ready by Monday, Douglas would presumably be active again.