Eagles

The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

In less than five years, Doug Pederson has gone from a mostly unpopular coaching hire to being considered one of the top head coaches in the league. 

Earlier this week, NFL.com ranked Pederson as the fifth-best coach in the league. And after the last two years, that’s hard to argue. 

A big reason folks were so skeptical of the hire back in 2016 was because of Pederson’s relative inexperience. Ten years earlier, he was coaching high school ball, he had been an offensive coordinator for just three seasons and a play-caller for minimal time. But even as he enters Year 4, Pederson still isn’t a finished product. He’d be the first to admit he has more to learn. 

But before his team broke for summer, Pederson was asked about where he’s grown most as a head coach in his first three seasons on the job. 

He named three areas: 

Situational football 

“Situational football, you know, in the last three years has really been a top priority of mine. I think I've learned a lot from in-game decisions and different third-down decisions, fourth-down decisions, when to go for it on two-point conversions, things like that. And listen, I've got help in that area, but I think I've become better educated, I've studied that a little bit more, I've grown in that area, quite a bit.”

My take: If you’ve been paying attention to Pederson’s press conferences, especially during teaching times in minicamps and training camp, you’ll already know how important situational football is to him. We’re talking about third downs, fourth downs, red zone, backed up. Success in these situations is paramount to overall success and Pederson realizes it. This is where experience helps and there’s no expediting the process of acquiring it. Remember, Pederson didn’t have much time as a play-caller in K.C., so he’s been learning on the job and doing it well. 

We all know the Eagles use analytics, but some of it comes down to Pederson’s gut, too. He’s managed to find a real balance of the two over his first three years. What’s been most impressive is that in three years, Pederson managed to find his aggressive style fairly quickly. He knows the type of coach and play-caller he wants to be and backs it up with gutty calls all the time. In his first three seasons, the Eagles have gone for it on fourth down 76 times, the most in the league. The next closest team (Green Bay) has 65 attempts. The average of the other 31 teams during the three-year span is 46. 

Managing personalities

“I think just overall managing the football team with a lot of the different personalities that kind of come and go with your team and, you know, being able to handle the LeGarrette Blounts and Jay Ajayis and now DeSean Jackson back on your team and guys that are unique personality types and profiles, I mean, just being able to manage all that and listen to the team. I think I've had a pretty good handle on just listening to the guys and understanding where they are.”

My take: You’ve heard the cliche, but it’s true. The locker room really is a melting pot. This is where we get back to Jeff Lurie’s “emotional intelligence” comment during the coaching search of 2016. Pederson has emotional intelligence and his time as a player in the league has informed his knowledge about the variance of personalities in a locker room. He holds his players accountable, but he doesn’t treat them all the same; they’re not. Treating players the same is a high school/college mentality that doesn’t seem to fly when you’re coaching professional athletes who are making a ton of money and are at varying stages of their careers and lives. This is something Chip Kelly never seemed to understand. 

One of the most important things Pederson has done was when he set up his veteran council to report back to him with concerns of the whole team. Pederson immediately understood the more players are listened to, the more invested they’ll be, which can never be a bad thing. 

Building a staff

“And then I just think building a staff each year, because coaches are going to come and go, and being able to replace them with quality guys and teachers. And I think that's another area where I've gotten better in the last four years.”

My take: This is important for a team that’s having success because coaches will leave for promotions. I think it’s fair to question some of these decisions — promoting Mike Groh, hiring Gunter Brewer — but overall, the Eagles have so far been able to remain successful from a coaching standpoint. Promoting from within is something always stressed by Andy Reid and Pederson seems to feel the same way. Pederson got off to a good start in 2016 by bringing on Jim Schwartz and then having the humility to keep a bunch of good coaches from Kelly’s staff. Pederson thinks he’s grown in this area, but it’s hard for us to judge this just yet. We’ll learn more about this skill in the coming years. But Pederson’s willingness to listen to his coaches makes finding quality coaches to surround him even more important.  

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Cooking up on-field comfort food with Carson Wentz

Cooking up on-field comfort food with Carson Wentz

Doug Pederson called Monday night’s 23-17 win over the Giants the best game of Carson Wentz’s career but it certainly didn’t start that way. 

After the Eagles’ second drive of the third quarter, Wentz was actually struggling. 

So what changed? 

Well, the Eagles’ offensive coaches cooked up some “comfort food,” as offensive coordinator Mike Groh called it, for Wentz. 

“I wouldn't want to give away any game-plan secrets there,” Groh said. “But I'm sure you can speculate a little bit as to what those things might be. But try to find easy completions where you can get the ball out of your hand in rhythm and once you get one or two of those, a lot of times you just kind of settle in the game. And then the game comes to you.”

Rhythm can be an important thing for quarterbacks and Wentz is no different. Groh said we could speculate and it isn’t hard to figure out how the Eagles were finally able to get Wentz into a rhythm in the second half on Monday. 

On the third drive of the third quarter, the Eagles began to use an up-tempo offense and utilized short throws and screen passes. 

It worked. 

Just take a look at Wentz’s splits before that drive and after it began: 

Before: 12/23, 98 yards, 63.3 passer rating 

After: 21/27, 227 yards, 2 TDs, 126.4 passer rating 

First, the tempo really seemed to work. The Eagles have used the no-huddle plenty during Wentz’s four years in Philly and it’s just up to Pederson’s discretion. They have even opened games with it before. 

“That’s one thing I’ve always loved about coach since I’ve been here is he has a feel for when we need something to change,” Wentz said. “When we’re struggling. Sometimes we do tempo early because that’s what we see when we’re scouting other teams, that’s what we see is going to work. Sometimes we get to it later in games. Some games we don’t even use it. I think coach has a really good feel for it. I think that was the case the other night. I think that definitely helped us get out of the rut we were in.”

Aside from going with tempo, the Eagles made life easier on Wentz with shorter passes. There were plenty of easy reads, screens and throws to the flat. Those aren’t necessarily all easy throws to make, but they’re also not 20 yards downfield. 

On the tempo drive and the one that followed it, the Eagles seemed to get Wentz in a rhythm. None of the first eight passes on those two drives traveled more than 10 air yards.  

Against the Giants, this is what worked. But the specifics sometimes change. 

“The so-called 'comfort food,' it’s all based on what coverages we’re getting, how teams play us,” Wentz said. “But that concept, just finding completions, finding a way to get into a rhythm. Like I said, each week is always different, but there’s always those completions within a game that do kind of get you going and get you going in the right direction.”



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5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Redskins in NFL Week 15

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Redskins in NFL Week 15

The Eagles (6-7) head to Washington to face the Redskins (3-10) on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. 

Here are five matchups to watch: 

Dwayne Haskins vs. Jim Schwartz 

Case Keenum was still starting in the opener, so this will be the Eagles’ first shot at the rookie first-round pick. Haskins has played in seven games this year with five starts and is 2-3. He has completed just 55 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. 

Since Jim Schwartz became defensive coordinator, the Eagles are 4-1 against rookie starting quarterbacks: Dak Prescott x2, C.J. Bethard, Mitchell Trubisky and Luke Falk (the only loss came to Prescott in 2016). In those five games, those quarterback have three touchdowns and seven interceptions. 

And those four quarterbacks in five games have combined for a passer rating of 53.8. 

Schwartz on Wednesday was asked how playing young quarterbacks benefits his defense. 

“I don't know, I've never really thought about it that way,” he said. “We have a job to do every Sunday and we try our best to accomplish that. Every game plan is different, every experienced quarterback is different and every rookie quarterback is different. So, I don't know if there would be a whole lot of carry-over from week-to-week. I don't have a folder somewhere that says, ‘Rookie Quarterback’ and you pull that out and that's the game plan. It depends on a million different other considerations going into it.”

Terry McLaurin vs. Eagles corners 

In his first NFL game, McLaurin had five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles in the opener. That included a 69-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. 

The Eagles have been susceptible to big plays before. And McLaurin has the ability to make big plays. He has averaged 15.3 yards per catch this season. 

Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills will have to be ready for the speedy rookie. 

Adrian Peterson vs. Eagles linebackers 

The future Hall of Famer isn’t playing like he’s still in his prime, but he’s still one of Washington’s biggest weapons. And he still ranks tied for fifth in the NFL in average yards after contact per attempt at 2.7. If you miss tackles against him, he’ll make you pay. 

“He's strong, still has great vision and is a very productive runner,” Schwartz said. “We're going to have our work cut out for us. We saw it last year. He's one of those guys that if you fit a run wrong, he can make you pay by taking it to the house. He did it against us in that first game last year.”

Miles Sanders vs. Washington run defense 

Washington is bad in several key areas. One of them is rushing defense, where they’re giving up 134.8 yards per game. But it’s important to note that they’re giving up just 4.4 yards per attempt. So they’re not really as bad as they appear. 

In that opener, the Skins really bottled up Sanders, who had 11 carries for 25 yards and one catch for two yards. But since then, Sanders has really come around and is having one of the better seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie in Eagles history. 

Coming into Sunday’s game, Sanders has 948 yards from scrimmage this season. With three games to go, he is just 60 behind DeSean Jackson for the Eagles’ rookie record. 

Brandon Brooks vs. Matt Ionnidis 

The former fifth-round pick out of Temple leads Washington in sacks with 8 1/2 and has four in his last three games. Even without Ryan Kerrigan, who will miss this game, that’s still a relatively solid defensive line and Ionnidis has arguably been their best player. He primarily lines up on the left side of the defensive line, so we get to watch him go against Brandon Brooks, who has been playing like one of the best guards in the league this season. 

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