Eagles

No 1,000-yard runner or receiver means Doug Pederson's done his job

usa-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

No 1,000-yard runner or receiver means Doug Pederson's done his job

Doug Pederson was the designated opening-day starter in 1999, Andy Reid's first year with the Eagles, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before Donovan McNabb would be the starter.

And about a week before the season began, Reid announced that he would actually give McNabb a few series here and there in relief of Pederson to get him acclimated to the NFL game before he became the permanent starter.

That made Pederson the first QB in history to get benched before he even took a snap.

I remember catching up with Doug in the parking lot after practice the day Big Red made that announcement and asked him about leaving games so a rookie could get some reps.

And Doug essentially said, Oh, OK, well, that's great, that's a terrific opportunity for him. It'll help him get a feel for the speed of the game before he becomes the starter. Doug said Donovan was the future of the franchise and he was all for whatever made the team better.

I was floored.

Here was a veteran NFL quarterback who I thought was being almost publicly humiliated by the head coach — I mean, who announces that he's going to take the starter out before the game even starts? — and he was handling it like a total team guy.

Now, almost two decades later, that same team-first mentality has carried the Eagles to a 12-2 record and a first-round bye.

Same guy. Same attitude.

Doug was asked Monday what the biggest challenges of this 2017 season have been, and he first mentioned all the injuries the Eagles have dealt with and the second thing he brought up — on his own — was how tricky it is making sure all the skill guys stayed focused on team goals while getting limited reps and putting up what some may perceive as subpar stats.

The Eagles won't have a 1,000-yard rusher or a 1,000-yard receiver. When the Pro Bowl teams are announced Tuesday night, Carson Wentz (and probably Zach Ertz) will be the only offensive skill players on the list. 

But here the Eagles are on pace for the 20th-most points in NFL history.

Pederson has found a way to keep veterans like LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery, who are used to being THE MAN, focused on team goals while their individual numbers suffer, and that wasn't easy.

It comes down to this: Every NFL coach understands that stats and Pro Bowls and incentive bonuses don't win football games. But very, very few have the ability to convey that to their players to the extent that they actually buy in.

"Managing all of that can be tough," Pederson said. "But one thing that I know about this football team is it's very unselfish and it's a group that doesn't really care who gets the ball. The bottom line is trying to win the game."

And how do you go about telling former Pro Bowlers and NFL TD leaders that they're going to share the ball?

"Just communicate with the players," he said. "Be open with them and be honest with them and say, 'This is kind of how we see this game unfolding, this is the game plan.' 

"Everybody has to be on the same page and as long as you communicate, there's really never any issues."

Easy to say. Really, virtually impossible to pull off. But Pederson has found a way to convince all these egos, all these personalities, that they have a chance to be a part of something special if they suppress their personal ambitions and just watch the wins pile up.

Balance and unpredictability are two of the Eagles' greatest strengths.

Five different guys have led the team in receiving. Five guys have led the team in rushing.

And when I sit here and try to understand how Pederson has created a culture where team goals are legitimately more important to 53 guys with incentives in their contracts than personal goals, I think back to 31-year-old Doug Pederson in the parking lot outside the Vet 18 years ago and just how excited he was for Donovan, even though it meant he would be getting benched every Sunday.

With Doug, it's all real, it's all genuine. He's lived it, and that allows him to preach it. And they all listen and believe.

Play-calling, personnel decisions, when to punt, when to challenge … all that stuff is important.

But that command of a locker room is what sets Doug Pederson apart. That's what makes him a special coach, and that's what makes this a special team.

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

us-kelce.jpg
USA Today Images

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

The Eagles are scheduled to have a pretty boring Day 2 of the draft this year. Because after they pick at No. 32, they don’t have another selection until the 31st pick of the fourth round. 

That means 98 players will be taken between the Eagles’ first and second picks. And they’ll have to watch other teams pick that entire Friday (Rounds 2-3) without them … unless they make a move. 

“We’re not looking at it like we’re sitting out on Friday,” Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said. “We’re going through our draft process looking at every scenario. When we get to Friday, we get to Friday.” 

Even if the Eagles don’t make a move, they’ll be plenty busy on Saturday, the final day of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas showed up to his media availability with a stat ready to go to illustrate the importance of Day 3. 

“We’re excited that we have five picks on Saturday,” Douglas said. “When you look at the Super Bowl, there’s 22 starters that were third-round picks or lower. Of those 22, 18 of them were fourth-round picks or lower. So 18 starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents. We choose to keep the glass half full.” 

Douglas is right on all those stats — 22 of 44 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the third or lower and 18 of them would be considered Day 3 picks. Not bad. 

Here’s how the Super Bowl starters broke down by round: 1-10, 2-12, 3-4, 4-4, 5-3, 6-3, 7-2, UDFA-6. 

The Eagles accounted for seven of the 18 players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, so the Patriots were the ones who found even more value late in drafts. And of those seven, just three were original Eagles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills. 

Of the six undrafted players who started in the Super Bowl, two were from the Eagles — LeGarrette Blount and Rodney McLeod. Neither was an original Eagle, but the Birds also relied heavily on running back Corey Clement, who was an undrafted rookie last season. 

With a dearth of high draft picks, it would make sense if the Eagles attack the undrafted market following the draft, but Douglas thinks it won’t be as easy as many might think. 

“You would think because we’re coming off a Super Bowl, we don’t have a second or third round pick that it would be a lot easier after the draft,” Douglas said. “But my experience coming off a Super Bowl, it’s sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it’s going to be that much tougher to make the team. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us and we know it and we’re going to attack it.”

The Eagles in recent years have shown a willingness to pony up significant money to entice undrafted players to sign with them and if Douglas is right, they might need to do it again to land some this year. 

Either way, the Eagles know how important Day 3 and beyond can be. So when they’re bored on Day 2, they don’t plan on losing focus. 

Eagles reward Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles with reworked contract

usa-nick-foles-celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles reward Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles with reworked contract

The Eagles gave Nick Foles a little raise on Friday, reworking the Super Bowl MVP’s contract, a league source confirmed. 

Basically, the Eagles are rewarding Foles after he helped the franchise win its first-ever Super Bowl a few months ago. 

Foles, 29, is still entering the final year of his contract with the Eagles, but the new deal also includes a mutual option for the 2019 season, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. The mutual option will still allow Foles the possibility to test the free agent market next season, but could leave the door open to a possible return beyond this upcoming season. 

Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport from NFL Network first reported the revised contract, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and “several millions in incentives if he’s the starter and hits various benchmarks,” according to Rapoport. 

That part makes a ton of sense. If for some reason Carson Wentz isn’t ready to play in 2018 or if he goes down again, Foles will have a chance to earn what might be closer to starter money. 

Foles was set to earn a base salary of $4 million in 2018, with a salary cap hit of $7.6 million on the contract before Friday’s renegotiation. 

Wentz and Foles grew very close last season — third-string QB Nate Sudfeld too — and have both been very selfless in a situation that would be awkward for many others in the league. But both have been incredibly selfless throughout the entire process. Just this week, Wentz admitted he had to fight jealousy but was truly happy for his teammate and friend, who became the Super Bowl hero (see story)

Earlier on Friday, Foles tweeted out this photo with his wife and daughter from the NovaCare Complex. That’s a $2 million smile.