Marcus Johnson felt like he had carved out a nice little role with the Eagles this season. The second-year receiver wasn't playing a ton but had averaged nearly 12 snaps per game as the team's fifth wide receiver.
Until three weeks ago.
That's when Johnson was inactive against the Bears. That was just the start. Without much warning, Johnson has gone from being a contributor to being inactive in the last three games, replaced by rookie draft pick Shelton Gibson.
"I was [surprised]," Johnson said Friday. "It's part of it. It's part of how it goes. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job. Being undrafted, you have to stand out. You can't just fit in."
Johnson caught just two passes in nine games, but he seemed to find a role as the team's receiver when the Eagles use 13 personnel (three tight ends). Johnson thinks the switch was more about special teams instead of offense. Because while Gibson has barely played on offense since becoming an active player, he has averaged eight special teams snaps per game, while Johnson averaged just 6.5. Even that seems like a little bit of a stretch.
The Eagles haven't really offered a definitive reason for the switch. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich, the week after the first time Gibson was active over Johnson, said it was about "spreading the love a little bit."
"It's frustrating as a competitor," Johnson said. "You want to be out there. I want to be out there. I want to be productive. I want to help this team, whether that's special teams, offense or whatever it may be. And when you're not out there, you're watching and it's definitely frustrating."
Johnson, 23, has taken this news in stride for the last month. He's been trying to continue to work hard in practice; he doesn't want coaches to see any type of dropoff because he knows he'd be in trouble then.
"Tough situation, but I feel like I handled it well," he said. "I just have to be ready when I get back out there."
A Giant mess
The last time the Eagles and Giants met was in Week 3 and the Eagles handed the Giants their third straight loss to start the season. But it was just a three-point loss, so plenty of folks in North Jersey probably thought things could only get better from there.
Those people were wrong.
The Giants ended up losing their first five games, have won just two all year and have seen their head coach and longtime general manager get the boot midseason.
"It's been a rough one," interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said on a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week. "You just never know when these things are going to happen, not only in the NFL but in life. Sometimes it gets tough to get back on course.
"You can make all the right decisions and I'm going to say this like I've been saying up here all week: I think Ben McAdoo is a terrific head coach. I thoroughly enjoyed working for him, I'm indebted to him for having kept me here two years ago.
"We're all tired of this. I'm tired of the failure as well. I don't forget that. Now, I've had to step in to do this job; I'll do it with honor. I respect this organization and love the New York Giants and we're going to just move on and hopefully unite, and try to find a way to win some games has been the motto."
The late Bum Phillips once found a pretty succinct way to sum up the coaching professions: "There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired."
Yup. Pretty much.
Pretty much every NFL coach either has been — or will be — fired. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is no different. He was a part of that 2012 coaching staff under Andy Reid that was fired. While the Eagles let that staff finish out the year, pretty much everyone saw the writing on the wall. Pederson joined Reid in Kansas City the next season.
"It's not what you wish on anybody," Pederson said. "As a coach, you're looking for where am I going to be next spring? As players, it's very uneasy and unsettling a little bit. The one thing I know about Spags is he's going to continue to rally. He's going to continue to coach his tail off. He'll have those guys ready to play."
Take a seat
The Eagles didn't have Joe Walker (neck) for last week's game in Los Angeles, but it didn't really matter. The Rams used three-wideout sets all game, so the Eagles were in their nickel defense all game. That meant the MIKE linebacker in the base defense — normally Walker, but Najee Goode last week — didn't see the field.
Expect that to continue this weekend. The Giants' offense normally revolves around 11 personnel, which means they have three wideouts on the field. That forces you to use either nickel or dime defenses to combat it. The Giants haven't used 11 personnel as much this year because of injuries at the receiver position, but they still prefer to use it.
That should make for a lighter workload for Walker as he returns from injury this week.
Quote of the Week I: "What happened is, I'm an idiot." — Jason Kelce on his temper tantrum after getting cleated during Thursday's practice (see story)
Quote of the Week II: "I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team." — Nick Foles
Quote of the Week III: "All due respect to our trainers, they are not a challenge to cover, and he's only been working with those guys." — Jim Schwartz on Sidney Jones' return to practice (see story)
Random media guide note: Donnie Jones' first job was working at the Chicken Shack at Blue Bayou, a water park in Baton Rouge.