Eagles

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

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Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Eagles-Saints NFL Week 11 predictions

Eagles-Saints NFL Week 11 predictions

The Eagles (4-5) are coming off a tough loss to the rival Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and now they have to travel to New Orleans to face the Saints (8-1). 

The Eagles opened as nine-point underdogs. It was the first time they opened as underdogs all season. 

To the predictions: 

Reuben Frank (5-4) 
Maybe I’m crazy. This one looks so lopsided, looks unwinnable, looks like a completely lost cause. Heck, I can’t even figure out how the Eagles are going to keep things close Sunday against the Saints. But the NFL is weird. It seems like so often when everybody in the universe is convinced a game is going to go one way, it goes the other way. I’m banking on there being enough pride left in a team that just nine months ago won a Super Bowl to stand toe to toe with the 8-1 Saints and get out of the Superdome with a win. I don’t know how. 

The Saints don’t have a great defense. They don’t need a great defense, but maybe the Eagles’ offense suddenly solves its red-zone issues. Maybe Doug Pederson magically recalls his 2017 play-calling touch. Maybe the defense makes up for the last two months and forces a few turnovers. Maybe a few balls bounce funny and right into somebody’s hands. Maybe the Eagles simply outscore the Saints, who are allowing nearly 27 points per game. I know one thing. As long as No. 11 is out there, the Eagles have a chance. This team rarely gets blown out, and I don’t think it will Sunday. It’s just a matter of whether the offense can get untracked. I say yes. I say Eagles over Saints. No, really.

Eagles 43, Saints 37 

Dave Zangaro (2-7)
Drew Brees has been playing so well and the Saints seem pretty much unstoppable. They’re averaging over 36 points per game and I don’t know how the Eagles are going to stop them or keep up. The Eagles are without Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod. Having Sidney Jones back will help, but it won’t solve the problem. 

If the Eagles were to somehow pull off a win, they would need to play an almost perfect game. Carson Wentz will need to guide them to the best offensive performance we’ve seen from the Eagles all year. I’m not saying there’s no chance the Eagles win; I just don’t see it happening. 

Saints 35, Eagles 27

Derrick Gunn (3-6) 
It's bad enough the Eagles gave one away to Dallas, but now they hit the road to face the hottest team in the league. Brees is playing out of his mind right now with a 77.3 completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, one interception, and has been sacked just nine times. Nobody sees the field better than he does.

The Eagles’ banged-up secondary has to find a way to control Saints WR Michael Thomas, and the front seven’s task is to keep the backfield duo of Alvin Kamara (4.4 ypc) and Mark Ingram (4.5 ypc) from running over it the way Ezekiel Elliott did. Also, the Eagles’ D could use a few turnovers to go its way; it has forced only seven this season, and the Saints don’t give the ball away often.

Pederson said his offense is not that far off numbers-wise from where it was a season ago. That may be true but having scored more than 24 points in a game only once this year is unsettling. Wentz must find a way to get this offense moving, and fast. The Birds’ offense is 17th in red-zone efficiency (55.9 percent) and converts on 41.2 percent of third-down situations. 

I’ve looked at this matchup from every possible angle trying to find a ray of hope for the Eagles, but because of their injuries, inconsistencies and the team they’re playing, it doesn’t look good. 

Saints 37, Eagles 21

Ray Didinger (4-5) 
Crazy things happen in the NFL. Let me take you back to December 2015. The Eagles were coming off a humiliating 45-14 loss in Detroit. Jeff Lurie was about to pull the plug on Chip Kelly. The franchise was in ruins. So what happens? The Eagles go to Foxboro and knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, 35-28. Who saw that coming?

So is it possible the Eagles could go to New Orleans on Sunday and cool off the 8-1 Saints? Look, if Sam Bradford can beat Tom Brady, it is certainly possible Wentz can beat Brees. The Saints lost at home to Tampa Bay and Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this season, so it's not like it can't happen. Of course the Bucs had to score 48 points to do it, so good luck with that, Pederson.

The Eagles are underdogs — nine points this time — and they seem to like that role but the matchup of a red-hot Brees and the Eagles' patchwork secondary is downright scary. Yeah, any given Sunday and all that jazz, but I'm not feeling it this week.

Saints 35, Eagles 24  

Andrew Kulp (4-5) 
I don't think it's a question of whether the Eagles are going to lose, but by how much. With all the injuries, they appear to be completely outclassed by the Saints, who look like the best team — or at least the hottest team — in the NFL right now.

Brees should absolutely dissect this secondary, and while the Eagles could score some points, they haven't demonstrated the ability to do so with any consistency. This could get ugly.

Saints 34, Eagles 20

Corey Seidman (3-6) 
The NFL is a week-to-week league. Losing to a mediocre team one week does not mean you're going to get blown out by a good team the next.

I think the Eagles' offense wakes up in a big way in this game and it ultimately falls just short against a Saints offense that can do whatever it wants.

This is the best Saints offense we've seen Brees engineer. Kamara runs precise routes and catches everything. Thomas runs even more precise routes and catches everything. Taysom Hill makes the Saints borderline unstoppable on a 3rd-and-3 or shorter.

Saints 36, Eagles 33

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Eagles will wait 1 more week to get Tim Jernigan back

Eagles will wait 1 more week to get Tim Jernigan back

The Eagles won’t have Tim Jernigan for this weekend’s game in New Orleans. 

Even though Jernigan has been practicing for two weeks and has been rotating in with the starters, the Eagles are going to give him another week to get ready. If Jernigan was going to play this weekend, he needed to be activated by 4 p.m. Saturday. That deadline has passed. 

During the past week, head coach Doug Pederson said twice (most recently on Friday) that he was optimistic Jernigan would be able to play against the Saints. 

The lack of a move with Jernigan was signaled early on Saturday, when the Eagles put Ronald Darby on IR and brought up De’Vante Bausby. And on Friday, they activated Richard Rodgers to the 53-man roster. 

Because Jernigan is still on the non-football injury list after offseason back surgery, the Eagles weren’t required to put him on their injury report this week and didn’t need to give an official game status for him. 

Jernigan was cleared to return to practice on Nov. 5, which started a 21-day practice window. By the end of that window, the Eagles must decide to either activate Jernigan to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the year. That window will end next Saturday, so the Eagles will likely have him for next week's game. 

The fact that he was even close to returning this week makes it seem like he will return this year. That will be a boost for the Eagles, but it might also be too little too late. 

The Eagles have really missed Jernigan this season and they’ll probably miss him again this weekend. Haloti Ngata (knee) enters the weekend listed as questionable. If he can’t play, they’re down to either Treyvon Hester or T.Y. McGill next to Fletcher Cox. In fact, that spot next to Cox has probably been one of the weakest starting positions on the depth chart this year. 

For a long time, there were serious questions about whether or not Jernigan would be able to return at all this season. His injury still has plenty of mystery surrounding it. It seems like he’s getting close, though. Maybe next week.

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