Fletcher Cox

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Rivera thinks Pederson has been 'outstanding'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Rivera thinks Pederson has been 'outstanding'

There were plenty of people who were surprised last year when Jeff Lurie decided to hire Doug Pederson as the Eagles' head coach. 

Ron Rivera wasn't one of them. 

The head coach of the Panthers, the team the Eagles will face on Thursday Night Football, has known Pederson for nearly 20 years. Back in 1999, when Pederson was brought to Philly by Andy Reid to be the Eagles' quarterback until Donovan McNabb was ready, Rivera was brought in to coach linebackers. 

At the time, Rivera was a 37-year-old getting a position coach job for the first time and Pederson was a 31-year-old quarterback finally getting the chance to start.

Pederson spent just one year with the Eagles as a player but he left enough of an impression that 18 years later, Rivera didn't hesitate to answer this question. 

Did you think then that Pederson could be a head coach? 

"Oh yeah," Rivera said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters on Tuesday. "If coaching was going to be the path he took, I had no doubt that this young man was going to get the opportunity. He's so smart, he's a hard-worker and he's got the passion to want to win. 

"You look at what his situation was when he got to Philadelphia with Andy and you can see him help with the development of Donovan. He was right there. He was what you hope to have in a guy that's coming in to be in that role. And that's exactly what he did. I just remember saying a couple times, 'he's going to be a good coach one day.'"

Rivera remembers Pederson as a team player in '99. He said Pederson was in a "tough" situation back then and the Eagles simply weren't very good. "He stood tall and never complained about anything," Rivera remembered. 

The two went their separate ways after 1999. Pederson went on to stay in the league as a player for five more seasons before eventually beginning his ascent in the coaching ranks. Rivera had three stops before the Panthers hired him as a head coach in 2011. 

Now both head coaches, they're just two of several who have learned under Reid and then got a team of their own to lead. 

"I just think the one thing [Reid has] done, and personally in my case, is he allows his assistant coaches to grow within the system, within the offense or defense," Pederson said. "So the defensive guys, back when they were under Jim Johnson, when they were here, have flourished. And listen, it helps to have successful seasons, too, and good offenses and good defenses. Whether they have gone on to get other coordinator jobs or what, if they were a position coach and just watching their careers over time and the success that they have had, that's the biggest thing. He just allows you to work and to grow and further your career that way."

Rivera's first two seasons at the helm in Carolina didn't go that well. The Panthers went 6-10 his first season and 7-9 in Year 2. It wasn't until the third season that they made the playoffs. They lost in the divisional round in 2013 and 2014 before making it to the Super Bowl, losing to the Broncos, in 2015. 

That's probably why Rivera understands patience. And it's probably why he thinks Pederson has done a pretty good job so far. 

"I think he's done outstanding," Rivera said. "I think last year was one of those things where they got off to a hot start and expectations rose way too quick for them, to be fair. I think right now, they're exactly where they should be. I think that first year is always tough and you just try to win as many as you can but at the same time, you have to temper your expectations. I think he's done a great job with that. I love the way they've come out. I like the energy and the way he coaches."

No Fletch, no problem
The Eagles have been without Fletcher Cox for the last two games and the defensive line has held it together. Sure, the Eagles really miss their best defensive player but Beau Allen has played well in his place and Tim Jernigan has taken his game to a different level. 

"They're just taking it upon themselves," Pederson said. "I did challenge the D-line last week [that] we’ve got to generate some pass rush and they were able to do that last week and create some edges and it just boils down to each man just doing his job and doing his assignment. Whether your top pass rusher is there or not, you’ve got to figure out ways. With [Jim Schwartz] and (defensive line coach) Chris Wilson, they are utilizing the stunt games and line games and things that create some edges for the D-linemen to get to the quarterback."

In place of Cox, Allen and Jernigan have gotten most of the work, but Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham have been playing inside on third downs. And Elijah Qualls and Justin Hamilton have gotten snaps as well. 

In addition to Cox, the team has also been without fourth option Destiny Vaeao, who is questionable heading into Thursday's game. 

Seeing Seumalo? 
Isaac Seumalo, who began the season as the Eagles' starting left guard, has been inactive for the past two weeks, but should dress on Thursday because of Lane Johnson's concussion. That doesn't mean he'll get playing time at his old post. 

The Eagles are going to continue their left guard rotation on Thursday, but Stefen Wisniewski will start and get most of the snaps, with Chance Warmack rotating in occasionally. 

There's a chance we could see Seumalo, though. This season, the Eagles have used Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an extra tackle/tight end in some run formations. “Big V” won't be able to do that against the Panthers because he'll be starting at right tackle. 

Maybe we'll see Seumalo fill that extra tackle spot on Thursday. 

"Yeah, we train all — we pretty much have all of our offensive line ready to step into that role," Frank Reich said. "It just depends, by game plan, how much of that we want to do, depending upon certain things that they do schematically [and] certain personnel matchups. Sometimes in coverage, we're trying to do things where sometimes when you're — well not to get into some of the details — but there's just certain different ways we like to use it, so that's why it's important those guys all know how to play that position."

Quote of the Week I: "Yeah, I mean it's a lot easier when you don't have to do the long press conferences, then you can get back to work." — Schwartz on dealing with a short week 

Quote of the Week II: "When you go in there, there's a bunch of old people in there. Sitting in the cold tub, laying down, just getting their bodies right." — Rasul Douglas on the Eagles' cold tub room this week 

Quote of the Week III: "The celebration was pretty good. I have to admit. It was good." — Reich on the Eagles' baseball celebration on Sunday 

Random media guide note: Something on Najee Goode's bucket list is a HALO jump — a 30,000-foot skydive at a small landing target. 

Eagles Injury Update: Fletcher Cox practices for 2nd straight day

Eagles Injury Update: Fletcher Cox practices for 2nd straight day

Fletcher Cox was back on the field for the second straight day on Tuesday, two days before the Eagles face the Panthers in Carolina. 

Tuesday's session was a light practice, but Cox had a helmet and was listed as a full participant after being limited on Monday. Cox has missed the Eagles' last two games with a calf injury he suffered against the Giants in Week 3. 

Despite being a full participant on Tuesday, Cox was very noncommittal about his playing status for Thursday. 

"I don't know. I don't make those decisions," Cox said. "I'm not a doctor. And I'm not the head coach. That's the head coach's decision. It's just one of those things, I have one of those injuries where I have to be smart." 

While Cox was on the field Tuesday, the Eagles were without Lane Johnson (concussion) and Wendell Smallwood (knee). 

Johnson suffered a concussion sometime during the first half of Sunday's win over the Cardinals. Smallwood missed the game with a knee injury he suffered against the Chargers the week before. 

Defensive linemen Beau Allen (foot), Chris Long (foot) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist) were listed as limited participants Tuesday. 

The Eagles have a short week without any real practices before they have to battle with another 4-1 NFC team.

Eagles' winning blueprint: Run the ball, stop the run, control the clock

Eagles' winning blueprint: Run the ball, stop the run, control the clock

It's hard to imagine a more effective blueprint for winning football games.

Rush for 176 yards per game, hold your opponent to 46 rushing yards per game, control the clock.

That's it.

It's not complicated. It's not fancy. But it sure works.

The Eagles kind of fell into this blueprint by accident. Coming out of the Chiefs game, head coach Doug Pederson hadn't yet committed to the run, but he gave the ball to LeGarrette Blount early against the Giants, and Blount responded. And the veteran running back and the ground attack haven't slowed down since.

The same formula has repeated itself three weeks in a row now, and the Eagles are 4-1 because of it.

Giants? Eagles ran for 193 yards, allowed 49 rushing yards, held the ball for 37:32.

Chargers? Eagles ran for 214 yards, allowed 58 rushing yards, held the ball for 39:18.

Cards? Eagles ran for 122 yards, allowed 31 rushing yards, held the ball for 35:47.

Three wins, three dominating performances by both lines.

This is only the sixth time in franchise history the Eagles have put together three consecutive games with 120 or more rushing yards while allowing 65 or fewer rushing yards. They did it four games in a row over the 1944 and 1945 seasons.

And despite not doing much running the first two weeks of the season, the Eagles are now fifth in the NFL in rushing yards along with second in rush defense.

Combine those two strengths, and you're going to control the clock. And the Eagles are best in the NFL in doing that, averaging a league-best 35:32 in time of possession. Control the clock and most of the time you're going to control the game.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.

And what's really impressive is that the Eagles are running the ball despite missing Darren Sproles (along with Donnel Pumphrey and this past weekend Wendell Smallwood). They're grinding out the rushing yards with a 30-year-old tailback who's with his fourth team in six years and didn't get a single carry in Week 2.

And they're stopping the run without Fletcher Cox. Tim Jernigan, unwanted by the Ravens, has been a beast in the interior of the line, and Beau Allen has been solid as well.

Five weeks in, the Eagles have more than twice as many rushing yards (694) as they've allowed (314).

They're the first team to rush for at least 690 yards and allow fewer than 315 after five games since the 2000 Ravens (who happened to win a Super Bowl) and only the 12th in NFL history (and seventh since 1950) to boast that kind of disparity at this point in the season.

Run the ball. Stop the run. Control the clock.

You just can't beat that combination.

This is the first time in 27 years the Eagles have held the ball over 35 minutes for three straight games.

When the Eagles rush for 120 or more yards while allowing 65 or fewer yards, they've won 22 straight games (dating back to a 21-20 loss to the Cowboys in 2005), and they're 47-3 since 1992.

The Eagles upgraded both lines this offseason, and upgraded at running back, and it's all paying off.

"It's been a good recipe for us in the last few ballgames," Pederson said Monday. "I think it's important … to establish the run in football games to start. It just helps our offense, helps our offensive line settle into games. And when you see your defense, the three-and-outs that they have and stopping the run, it can frustrate an opponent as it would us when you can't run the ball.

"So both have really contributed to the success that we've had these last few games, and our offensive line has done a really nice job at rising to the challenge against some really good defensive fronts, too."

The Eagles piled up 193 and 214 rushing yards on the Giants and Chargers, and even though the Cards have been statistically very good against the run, Pederson really committed to the ground attack, and Blount responded with 68 of his 74 yards in the second half.

When we talk about a team's identity, I think of it meaning a style of playing that doesn't change week to week and doesn't depend on the opponent and doesn't even depend on what players you have in uniform that day.

You find what you do well, and you do it against everybody. And you keep doing it. That's where the Eagles are right now. It's a winning formula.

These last three weeks, no opposing back has rushed for more than 35 yards against the Eagles, and in each game, Blount has averaged at least 5.3 yards per carry.

The Eagles are only the 13th team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1966 — the first since the 2007 Jaguars — to put together a three-game stretch at any point during a season with 520 or more rushing yards gained and 140 or fewer rushing yards allowed.

It's a roadmap for success, and as long as Pederson follows that map, the Eagles are going to keep winning.