Philadelphia Eagles

Even without Wentz, Eagles will chuck it

Even without Wentz, Eagles will chuck it

The question that everyone is waiting to get answered is can Nick Foles lead this team into the postseason by clinching home-field advantage and a first-round bye?

Winning two of the final three games will give the Eagles both home field and the bye. Also, an Eagles win and a Vikings loss this weekend would accomplish both of those goals, as well. 

And I am confident in Foles' ability to lead this team. His challenge will be to get the ball to his playmakers. This is the difference between Foles and Carson Wentz. Wentz is the playmaker. Foles has to be the facilitator for the playmakers. Our expectations for Foles have to be focused on just that — a facilitator.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has lost his best offensive playmaker, but he believes in his new starting QB's ability to throw the ball. In fact, I see the Eagles’ offense throwing more because of the trust Pederson has in his veteran QB. So, I know everyone is dead set on the Birds running, but I would put money on Pederson's run-to-pass ratio being 2-to-1 in favor of passing.

There are playmakers everywhere in this offense on which Foles can rely:

• Alshon Jeffrey — 50/50 ball, red-zone threat.

• Nelson Agholor — slot WR and explosive player.

• Zach Ertz — red-zone threat and more than likely Foles' security blanket to pick up first downs.

• Corey Clement — screen game and red-zone threat.

But more importantly, the other phases of the team will have to adjust to Wentz's absence.

The defense may have to play more reps throughout the course of a game. Wentz was unbelievable at extending drives with his scrambling and picking up the first down. At times, picking up the first down on a 3rd-and-8 was as easy as 3rd-and-2 to this offense.

So, how aggressive will the Eagles be in 3rd-and-longs? It is a little easier to be aggressive with Wentz at the helm, which means, the defense will have to step up. There will be more reps for the defense during games. It may be up to 10 more plays for this defense in a game. That’s 10 more opportunities the opposing QBs will have to execute with their offense.

Coach Dave Fipp will also need to get his special teams back on track after struggling in punt protect against the Rams last week. Having a punt blocked and allowing good returns for the better part of the last few games forced the Eagles to bring back special teams guru Bryan Braman.

Role talk, Giants' mess, quotables and more

Role talk, Giants' mess, quotables and more

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. 

Get ready to learn a lot about these Eagles

Get ready to learn a lot about these Eagles

We'll learn a lot about this Eagles team over the next few weeks and into the playoffs. 

This week we've already learned a little. 

It would be pretty understandable if the Eagles didn't have a very good week at practice. After all, they're down an MVP now. The team has overcome injuries to several key players throughout the season, but this is decidedly different. This time it was Carson Wentz. 

"It's tough," head coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "It's tough when you lose your starter. But the guys have really responded well offensively around Nick (Foles). And he's jumped in and commanded the huddle." 

There were probably a few downtrodden faces moping about through the NovaCare Complex this week. Really, it would be strange if there weren't. It's a lot, overcoming the loss of a guy like Wentz. But the way the Birds have handled this week should be encouraging for fans who were ready to pack it in and cancel Christmas. 

The overall excitement and cheerful attitude have come from Pederson. He won't let his players be depressed. And then it comes from Foles; as a veteran, he's taken over with confidence, which rubs off. 

Still, it's a pretty natural response for other guys to feel the need to step up when a key contributor like Wentz goes down. That's a good thing. The thing the Eagles have to make sure doesn't happen is guys trying to do too much. Pederson admitted there's a little bit of a fine line. 

"At the end of the day, I don't want guys to go above and beyond what they've been doing to help us win games," Pederson said. "They don't have to do anything more than just their job and their responsibility in whatever their role is in the game plan. That goes for Nick. It's been a while since he's been out there playing and you don't want him to press. You want to let the game unfold in front of you. The guys around him, I think as a team there's going to be that sense of rally. Let's support him, but let's support everybody." 

Several members of the Eagles' defense said this week that they don't feel any extra pressure going forward without Wentz. Again, it would be understandable if they did. Wentz was such a dynamic player this season that he could make up for mistakes. This team probably lost some leash when it comes to playing mistake-free football. 

But the Eagles' defensive players can't try to fill in for Wentz. They have to just play their role. 

"It's about everybody trusting the guy next to him and doing your job, not trying to do anything out of the ordinary," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "Not trying to be a superhero. Just go out there and do your job."

Pederson is happy his team already clinched the NFC East, but a win this weekend would earn a first-round bye. If the Eagles win and the Vikings lose this weekend, they can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

As of Friday, Pederson said he hadn't thought about if he'd rest starters in the season finale if things are already wrapped up. 

"You just have to stay the course, stay consistent," Pederson said of his message to the team. "We know what's ahead of us, we know what's in front of us. We still control a lot."