Eagles

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

I know you're feeling conflicted right now. The Eagles are 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. They've already clinched the NFC East. Home-field advantage and a playoff bye are a very real possibility. But the Carson Wentz injury is an equalizer and then some.

On the bright side, the Flyers steadied their sinking ship in Western Canada by winning three straight. But the Sixers have dropped four in a row. Maybe the Phils will land Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado? Dare to dream. You're up, you're down. Welcome to Philadelphia sports. So what better time to provide some nice, healthy Rob's Rants? Letting things out can be therapeutic and after the Wentz news, I need to vent a little.    

Run-pass-option
It's hard to find fault with Doug Pederson this season. He's done an excellent job game planning and having his team prepared week in and week out, and his most impressive work has been his ability to overcome injuries. The Eagles have lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, just to name a few. All of the above represent major core pieces and Pederson's team is 11-2. Losing Wentz trumps them all and presents the head coach's biggest challenge. So look at this not so much as a rant but a plea to Doug P. moving forward.     

Nick Foles entered the Rams game late in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing 35-31. Certainly a difficult spot for any backup. He hadn't taken a meaningful snap all season. Logic would dictate emphasizing the run to let him get his feet wet. This was not the late fourth quarter, no timeouts, need to move down the field quickly type of circumstances. Further, the Eagles have three very capable running backs.

Pederson elected to throw the ball five straight times and called pass plays on eight of nine in the possession. The Birds did wind up getting a field goal on the drive and Foles completed three passes, but you wonder if it's the wisest move to drop Foles back that much, that quickly. I know Doug has been aggressive all season and that in part has helped the Eagles get where they are, and I'm also well aware of the heat he took by many (including me) for being too passive in the Seattle loss. But with Foles' lack of mobility in the pocket and the left side of the Eagles' offensive line struggling mightily against the pass rush, a bigger dose of the run could have made his transition back to starter a little smoother. But beyond the Rams game, balance and a commitment to the run will be Foles' best friend, along with a strong defense.    

Sixers' struggles
It's one thing to lose in Cleveland and New Orleans, especially without Joel Embiid for both games and Robert Covington vs. the Pelicans. It's another to drop home games to the likes of the Suns and the Lakers prior to those defeats. For that, there is no excuse. The Sixers have lost four in a row and stand at 13-13. They continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and of late have not come to play to start games, particularly at home. Some of this can be chalked up to youth. Some not so much.

They are losing far too many 50-50 balls. Too many offensive rebounds and second chances allowed. That's just hustle and want. They also need veterans like Jerryd Bayless to be better, especially in the absence of T.J. McConnell. I've pointed this out before in this space but the Sixers are beyond losing to the NBA's dregs. It would also be nice to get the No. 1 overall pick from this past draft on the floor at some point.    

Army-Navy
Let's close out this Rob's Rants on two positives. First, the 118th edition of Army-Navy football was played Saturday right here in Philadelphia. It is everything that is right about sports and our country. The men doing battle on that field at the Linc put sports into the context it deserves. Battle hard on the field, win or lose, respect to your opponent, represent our service men and women and country. Then it's on to further protecting and serving. They are truly unique individuals. And to have it played in the snow in such a cool setting was awesome.

DJ and the Kernal
Lastly, Dick Jerardi and Mike Kern both recently announced their retirements from the Philadelphia Daily News. They were as good of writers as this city has ever seen. They were even better people. I grew up reading them and had the opportunity as an adult to work with them professionally as a producer, then as a host and the pleasure was all mine. They knew of what they wrote, you learned something every time you read them, and they provided a sense of humor while doing it. Nothing beat our yearly Daily News Live Christmas Eve shows with Hall of Famer John Chaney. Their bylines will be missed.

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

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USA Today Images

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

Rasul Douglas made a huge play during the special teams portion of Wednesday's practice. Going 1-on-1 against veteran special teamer Najee Goode, the Eagles' rookie plowed through him and sent Goode to the turf inside the practice bubble. 

Goode bounced up and locked down the next rep, but for a few seconds, there was pure exuberance on the practice field. A bunch of Douglas' teammates ran toward him and celebrated, while coaches gave him kudos. 

A couple hours later, Douglas didn't even remember it. 

"What play?" the rookie asked. 

After making sure he was serious, out came an iPhone to show Douglas this video: 

"Oh, I don't even remember that," he said. 

While Douglas might have been locked in and focused enough to forget about the most exciting play during the open portion of Wednesday's practice, it was the kind of play that got the whole team going. 

Without remembering the specific instance, Douglas rightly guessed that it was his defensive back teammates, who ran over to congratulate him and celebrate. 

"We get so happy when one of us makes a play because we work hard and we know our goals in our room," Douglas said. "And we know our energy transforms and just passes along to other people. You can get somebody energized and they get somebody else energized." 

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to have his team in pads Wednesday in an effort to keep the team's intensity and physicality high as the team gets ready for the NFC Championship Game. 

That play helped. 

"I think Coach Pederson talks about it all the time; match his intensity," linebacker Nate Gerry said. "So when you see something like that, I guess that's matching the intensity. It just kind of sets the tone for practice."

During the Eagles' first-round bye, the team's players council went to Pederson and asked for an extra day in pads. Pederson planned on one leading into the divisional round game against the Falcons, but his veteran leaders didn't want to go an extra week without that intensity, so the Eagles strapped on their pads. 

They did it again last week and they did it again Wednesday. 

All season the Eagles have believed they're going to play the way they practice, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker. Pederson and the Eagles — despite all the hoopla around the championship — tried to treat Wednesday like any other Wednesday. In part, that meant getting the pads on and going through a tough practice. 

"We ain't going to play on Sunday without pads, so you just have keep in tune with what you do," Douglas said. "I think pads are good." 

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

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USA Today Images

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has moved into the top 10 in NFL jersey sales this week, according to national sales figures from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

This week’s Dick’s Jersey Report shows Ertz making the biggest jump in the top 10, moving up 22 spots from No. 29 last week to No. 7 this week.

“There must have been a lot of women’s soccer fans buying jerseys this week,” Ertz said jokingly, referring to his wife Julie, a member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

Could be. It’s not like Ertz had a huge game Saturday. He caught three passes for 32 yards in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Falcons in the conference semifinal playoff round at the Linc. But he did make his first Pro Bowl this year and finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the miracle last-second pass from Case Keenum to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, also made a huge jump, moving from No. 23 to No. 4.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz remains in the No. 2 position in jersey sales, despite not playing since he tore his ACL Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Only Tom Brady’s jersey sold better over the past week.

The rest of the top 10 is Rob Gronkowski third, Antonio Brown fifth, Leonard Fournette sixth, T.J. Watt eighth, Julio Jones ninth and Le’Veon Bell 10th.

Wentz remains the top-selling jersey this year, according to Dick’s after finishing last year at No. 3. Tom Brady, the top-selling jersey last year, is No. 2, followed by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Gronkowski.

There are no Eagles other than Wentz and Ertz in the top 50.