Eagles

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

It's been so long since the Eagles won a playoff game there are only three players still active in the NFL who've worn an Eagles jersey in a playoff victory: Brent Celek, Trent Cole and DeSean Jackson. And Cole may be finished.

It's been almost a decade since the Eagles beat the Giants in a conference semifinal game after the 2008 season. They haven't won a postseason game since, and second-year head coach Doug Pederson's job is to end that streak.

Now.

Howie Roseman brought him receivers, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, corners and a running back, and with Carson Wentz now in Year 2, everything points that way.

Does Pederson think this team is ready to finally make a run?

"I think you’re capable," he said. "There are a lot of (factors). I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there. And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?

"But we also had a lot of talent in 2010, here, and where did that get us?"

Pederson spent 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay, and the Packers reached the postseason in all seven of those seasons, winning seven playoff games and reaching two Super Bowls, winning one.

If the Eagles have as much talent as those Packers teams, shouldn't 10-6 and a playoff berth be a reasonable goal? Maybe more?

"It’s hard to put a number on that," Pederson said. "There’s a lot of things that factor into a season. You can lose your quarterback on opening day."

OK, what if Wentz stays healthy? Is 10 wins a reasonable goal?

“It still goes back to, 'There’s a lot of those factors,' " he said. "So it’s hard to put a number. I’m not going to put myself in a box that way, obviously. It’s still a game-by-game mentality. We focus on our division. We focus on the NFC East, we start there. We have to win those games, focus on those. We focus on the NFC. There’s layers."

The Eagles have reached the playoffs three times since reaching the 2008 NFC Championship Game — 2009 and 2010 under Andy Reid and 2013 under Chip Kelly — only to lose in the wild-card round each time.

The eight-year gap without a playoff win is the Eagles' longest since they went 11 years from 1981 through 1991. The three years without even reaching the postseason matches the franchise's longest drought since a six-year drought from 1982 through 1987.

The Eagles are one of 12 teams that hasn't won a playoff game the last eight years and also one of 12 that hasn't reached the playoffs the last three years.

After winning 10 playoff games and reaching five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl from 2000 through 2008, it's been a dismal eight seasons.

"There has to be a combination of blending all of this talent with a coaching staff, with my ideas and philosophy, to bring all that together, with the egos aside — put pride aside — and just go focus on winning this game that we have in front of us," Pederson said. 

"I’m a big believer that if you do that, then you look back at the end of the season, and you’re probably going to be where you want to be, and that’s playing in the postseason."

The last Eagles head coach to not reach the playoffs in his first two years (not counting the 1987 strike season)?

Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984.

But if this team has as much talent as those Packers powerhouses, they have to get there this year, right?

“I’m not one to make predictions or bold predictions but obviously (we want) to show the incremental improvement from last season and get better as a football team," Pederson said.

"Ultimately, you're judged and critiqued on Super Bowl wins and getting yourself into the postseason."

The Eagles won their first three games last year, then went 2-9 over the next 11, then won their last two, including the finale over the Cowboys' backups.

It marked the franchise's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1998 and 1999.

“By no means are you satisfied with 7-9, and you definitely want to get better," Pederson said.

"I want to get better personally as a head football coach, not only from managing the football team but also with play calling and just the little things, working with Carson Wentz, spending more time on special teams and defense, getting to know those schemes and philosophies as well. … You’re definitely trying to get yourself better."

How does Pederson define a successful season?

This is a franchise that has gone 56 years without a championship. They are one of only 13 current NFL franchises without a title since 1961, although four of the others — the Chiefs (Texans), Bills, Oilers and Chargers — won AFL titles before the merger.

“Oh, man, if you win the Super Bowl," he said. "That’s a successful year. Thirty-one teams failed to win the Super Bowl. I think if you’re not winning or playing in that game, everyone’s trying the next year.

"I think success can be measured in a few different (ways). If we go 8-8 is that a successful year? I don’t coach to be average. I’ll tell you that. These players don’t practice the way they do to be average. We’re all in this together. We’ll just continue to work every single day until we get to that goal.” 

Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

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Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

Nate Sudfeld stood by his locker on Wednesday afternoon, early in his first week as the Eagles' backup quarterback, and claimed his game-day responsibilities won't change. He'll still be helping the starter to see coverages, go through plays and diagnose pressures. 

The only difference is he'll now wear a helmet and shoulder pads. 

Well, actually, there's one more difference. 

"I won't be dead tired when the game starts," Sudfeld said. 

During the first 14 weeks of the season, when Sudfeld was the Eagles' third-stringer, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo would put him through an intense 45-minute workout before each game. Sudfeld is grateful for those workouts, which helped him with throwing and footwork, but said DeFilippo "kills" him each week. 

Those workouts are over. Because come Sunday, thanks to Carson Wentz's torn left ACL, Sudfeld will be dressing for each game as the Eagles' backup quarterback behind Nick Foles. 

He's now just one play away from being the Eagles' starter. 

"I feel very confident," Sudfeld said. "I mean, I wasn't just sitting back, watching practice all year, just expecting to never play football. I was definitely getting ready in case something like this happened. It's my responsibility as a 3 to be ready to be a 2. One play away and then one more play away. So I definitely feel prepared being here however many weeks, 14 weeks, has really helped. But I've treated each week as if I was going to play. I feel very confident."

But the difference between Foles and Sudfeld is glaring. Foles has been a starting quarterback in the NFL before and even in Philadelphia (see story). He's been to a Pro Bowl. His experience has been lauded all week (see story).

Meanwhile, Sudfeld is 24. A sixth-round pick to Washington last season, he's never played in an NFL game. Heck, Sunday will be his first time dressing for an NFL game. He didn't even join the Eagles' active roster until early November, when the Birds signed him from the practice squad. And that was just to prevent the Colts from poaching him. 

Has the Eagles' faith in him as the backup validated his decision to stay? 

"I mean, I've always wanted to be here since I got here so I'm just very excited that they do think enough of me to give me the opportunity," Sudfeld said. "I'm looking forward to if my name does get called, being ready to go." 

Since joining the Eagles' active roster, he's been inactive every week. But the fact that they were willing to use a roster spot on him, knowing he would be inactive each week, speaks to the way the organization feels about him. 

Foles didn't hesitate during his press conference on Tuesday to include Sudfeld every time he mentioned the quarterback group. The two have grown extremely close during the last few months. 

"Nate's a tremendous player," Foles said. "I'm excited about his future. Really smart, works his butt off, he's got all the tools to be a great player in this league. He's been there. I'm always going to include Carson, me and Nate. That's just sort of how it's been every single day going to work. We're going to lean on that. I'm going to lean on Nate through this process and we have the kind of quarterback room where you can do that, so it's sort of awesome. He's a tremendous player and I'm excited about his future in this league."

While not much will change for Sudfeld on game day — unless of course something happens to Foles — his workload during the week is very different. With Foles now taking all of the first-team reps at practice, Sudfeld gets all the scout team reps. 

While he got a few scout team reps over the course of the last few months, most of his reps with the Eagles have been mental. Sudfeld has been in the building with Wentz and Foles every day to watch film at 6 a.m., the trio would prep for each team and go through everything together, but when they got onto the practice field, the top two guys got to play and Sudfeld became a spectator. 

Fans probably don't know much about Sudfeld. Until this week, there's a good chance most Eagles fans had never even heard of him. Well, Sudfeld was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year. He spent the entire 2016 season with Washington, but was cut on Sept. 2. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad the next day. 

What kind of quarterback is he? 

"It's hard to assess yourself," Sudfeld answered. "I'm very confident in my game and I think I can make all the throws. I think I can move if I have to. I think I know the game pretty well. I'm continuing to improve. I'm a work in progress, but excited what I know I can do."

Perhaps the thing Eagles fans might know best about Sudfeld is that he's tall, white and lanky, and folks would probably say he looked like Wentz if he didn't look exactly like Foles. He and Foles look so much alike that their teammates razz them for it and fans confuse the two (see story).

Just last week in Los Angeles, fans got the two confused. Fans thought Sudfeld was Foles, even though the Real Nick Foles was walking in uniform right in front of him. 

When it was pointed out to Sudfeld that no matter how well Foles plays, he'll probably feel it too. 

"True," Sudfeld said. "Hopefully he keeps doing what I know he can do so people love me walking down the street."  

Eagles Film Review: Going back to same play with Nick Foles

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Eagles Film Review: Going back to same play with Nick Foles

Arguably the best and worst play in the Eagles' 43-35 win Sunday over the Rams came on the same call from Doug Pederson. 

The interception in the first quarter and the key 3rd-and-8 conversion late in the fourth were nearly identical. Carson Wentz was the quarterback for the first one, Nick Foles ran the second. 

Give credit to Pederson. The play clearly didn't work the first time, but he went back to it at a pivotal moment in the game. That's trusting the play and trusting the backup quarterback. 

Let's first take a look at that early interception: 

 

It's 3rd-and-5 from the Eagles' 30-yard line. Wentz is in shotgun with LeGarrette Blount flanking him. One tight end on the same side. Alshon Jeffery at the top of the screen, Torrey Smith at the bottom. Nelson Agholor (circled) is being given a cushion by Rams cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman. The aptly named cornerback is the Rams' slot corner in their nickel package. 


The running back and tight end stay in to block, which creates a lot of room in the middle of the field for Agholor vs. Roby-Coleman. Wentz is locked in. The Eagles need to get to the 35-yard line for a first down, so Agholor reaches the top of his route at the 39, before cutting back. 

You can see there's not much of a window here, but this is a back shoulder throw that has to be perfect. 

It's a tight window, and although Wentz hits Agholor in the hands, Roby-Coleman is able to get a paw in there to deflect it to Kayvon Webster, who broke toward the play. Webster picked off the ball on the deflection and the Rams took over in Eagles' territory and scored a few plays later. 

So the play didn't work the first time. Had the throw been absolutely perfect and if Agholor could have made a great catch, it would have. But this is a play that has to be perfect to work. 

The next time, it was. 

This probably looks pretty familiar. It's 3rd-and-8 from the Eagles' 23-yard line. With 1:52 left in a two-point game, they know if they pick up this first down, they can pretty much run down the clock and escape Los Angeles with a win. This is huge. 

Same play. This time, Foles is in shotgun with Blount next to him. The tight end on the same side; both will block again. Jeffery and Smith are the wideouts. But we'll focus on Agholor (circled). He's against Roby-Coleman again and has that cushion. 


Foles is locked on Agholor, just like Wentz was in the first quarter, but there's just not much separation. Really, there's no separation. Roby-Coleman plays this really well. 

Foles needs his pass to be absolutely perfect. He needs to put it in a spot where only Agholor can catch it. 

How's this for perfect? 

On this particular play, Foles actually threw a better pass than Wentz did in the first quarter. Now, Foles obviously isn't going to be Wentz, but this pass should at least give fans some confidence. 

And confidence isn't lacking. At an absolutely pivotal moment of the game, Pederson went back to a play that produced an interception the first time. And he went back to it with his backup quarterback who hasn't really played much all season. It was gutsy, it worked out and it shows the head coach's confidence in his new QB.

On Wednesday, Pederson pointed out Foles and Agholor were able to complete this pass after not working together all week or all season. All those reps have been going to Wentz. Now, Foles will get the chance to work with Agholor and the other starters the rest of the way.