Doug Pederson to blame for many of Eagles' issues

Doug Pederson to blame for many of Eagles' issues

When Doug Pederson told his team, "It's on me," after the Eagles' latest loss Sunday night, he was dead right.
Just about every issue the Eagles are facing right now is a direct reflection of the head coach. You're a genius one year and you're clueless the next year, and that's the nature of the NFL.
Everything Pederson did last year worked. Every move, every call, every decision.
It was a magical season, and whatever happens this year shouldn't take away from that. It wasn't a fluke and it wasn't happenstance and it wasn't luck. The Eagles earned that championship, and Doug was the biggest reason there was a parade up Broad Street.
So far this year, no sign of that magic, and it's fair to say as brilliant as Doug was last year, his coaching has been largely questionable this year. And is a big reason the Eagles are in the mess they're in.
• The Eagles have scored just three first-half touchdowns in five games and have been outscored by 20 points in the first half, which is a direct reflection of a team that's unprepared when games begin. That's on Doug.
• The offense has lacked balance, especially the last couple weeks, which has left Carson Wentz a sitting duck in the pocket. In the Eagles' three losses, Doug has called 149 pass plays and 52 runs. Most of the time, those games were close. That's on Doug.
• The Eagles are the third-most penalized team in the NFL with 43 — more than 8½ per game. They're allowing 79 penalty yards per game. Some have been bad calls. Some have been unavoidable. Most have simply been mental errors and a lack of discipline. You're not going to win games giving the other team 79 free yards per game. That's on Doug.
• The Eagles, best in the league in the red zone last year, are 18th this year, scoring touchdowns on just 53 percent of their red-zone drives. They're 23rd on third down after finishing eighth last year. That's play-calling and gameplan, and that was Doug's strength last year. That's on Doug.
• The Eagles have allowed 17 sacks, seventh-most in the league. They've allowed 12 the last four games, their worst four-game stretch since 2012. Part of that is on Wentz, who's been holding onto the ball too long, and a big part is on the linemen and backs. But pass pressure has been a problem for a month now, and we haven't seen Pederson adjust in terms of play-calling, having Carson get rid of the ball faster, mixing in the running game more to keep defenses off-balance or just finding ways to get the offense into a rhythm where he's not getting sacked. That's on Doug.
• Some of Doug's decision-making at key moments has just been terrible. Like that Jay Ajayi run deep in the red zone with one timeout left just before halftime against the Titans, which essentially guaranteed that the Eagles wouldn't score a touchdown. Or that inexplicable challenge of an obvious Stefon Diggs sideline catch Sunday. Or benching a mediocre Stefen Wisniewski for an overmatched Isaac Seumalo. That's all on Doug.
Pederson isn't the one dropping passes and giving up sacks and missing tackles and lining up in the wrong place. This isn't to absolve the 53 guys on the roster, who have yet to play a complete game on both sides of the football.
But when a football team is undisciplined, mistake-prone and unprepared, that's a direct reflection of the head coach and his staff.
Doug deserved every bit of credit he got for the 2017 Super Bowl run, and he deserves a huge chunk of the blame now for a team that's lost three of its last four games, all in frustrating, agonizing fashion.

Doug got the Eagles into this. It's up to him to get them out.

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Why this year's Eagles longshots actually have a chance

Why this year's Eagles longshots actually have a chance

Conventional wisdom says you don’t want to be a late-round rookie this summer. Or worse, an undrafted rookie.

How are you supposed to impress the coaches without preseason games? How are you supposed to learn the offense or defense without spring practice? How are you supposed to prove you belong in what amounts to a few weeks of stripped-down training camp?

For the higher draft picks, the team is committed to you because of your signing bonus. 

The late-round picks and undrafted players have a tough enough time during a normal summer making the team. This year? You would think it’s going to be virtually impossible. 

Not necessarily, Doug Pederson said.

On the contrary.

“When you have an opportunity like this … of coaching everybody up, it’s not just about the starters and getting them prepared, which we do every year, but now more importantly it's about getting these young guys [prepared],” Pederson said Monday. “Because we truly feel these young guys are going to be the ones who are going to have to help us throughout the entire season.”

Pederson seemed to be saying that because the team anticipates temporarily losing players to the COVID list — which is both for players who’ve tested positive and those who've had close contact with them — they’ll need a deeper bench.

Which means they’ll be relying on some of these camp long shots.

Maybe several of them.

Because of the risk to players, practice squads were increased for 2020 from 10 to 16, and six of those spots are available for players with any level of experience. So you could conceivably see someone like Jordan Matthews — a six-year veteran with close to 300 career catches — on the practice squad. 

Last year, the Eagles’ injuries were so extreme they wound with four practice squad wide receivers on their roster by the end of the season, and some 73 players got on the field at some point during the season.

Now add the COVID risk, which could strike any position group at any time, and you see why the Eagles want to get as many people as possible ready to play.

“We're going to get some really good opportunities here in these next coming weeks,” Pederson said. “They are going to learn a lot from the veterans. The way I have the schedule set up is for them to learn and to be successful. Then once we get into the padded portion of training camp is where we really get to see where these guys are. 

“I think that this is actually a good time to be a late-round pick and possibly a free agent.”

If the roster is at 80 and the regular-season roster is 53 plus 16 on the practice squad, you see why it’s important for the coaches to get everybody ready.

Because just about everybody is going to have a chance to be a part of the 2020 Eagles. 

If there is a 2020 Eagles.

For guys like undrafted running backs Michael Warren and Adrian Killins, 6th-round receiver Quez Watkins, undrafted defensive tackle Raequan Williams and undrafted safety Grayland Arnold, this is very good news.

They don’t have a lot of time. But they have a chance.

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Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

As we prepare to enter an unprecedented 2020 NFL season in a little over a month, one thing is become clearer as training camp continues: 

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback. 

The big news in Philadelphia as the weekend came to a close was that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, but that wasn’t the only important NFL news over the weekend. Because two starting NFL quarterbacks — Matt Stafford in Detroit and Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville — were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and will have to clear protocols before returning. 

With that in mind, the Eagles can’t open themselves up to the possibility of not having a quarterback ready to play each Sunday during the season. What if Carson Wentz contracts the virus? Worse, what if the coronavirus spreads through the quarterback room? It’s one thing to lose a running back or an offensive lineman or even a head coach. But every team needs a quarterback to be competitive. 

Every team needs a plan. 

Earlier in the offseason, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was on Chris Long’s Green Light podcast and said he might quarantine a quarterback. Pederson in June said it’s something they would consider. 

On Monday, I asked Pederson if he had given any more thought to the possibility of doing that. 

It's unfortunate that that happens,” Pederson said on a Zoom call. “I think we know that these things are going to happen probably throughout the course of the season.

“If it happens, and you hope it happens early enough to where you don't get to the regular season, but conversations that are ongoing still with my staff and the offensive guys on staff, Press [Taylor] and Rich [Scangarello], Marty [Mornhinweg], those guys, and haven't decided anything yet on that, obviously, but it is something to consider as we move forward.

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback as an insurance policy and the obvious choice is Nate Sudfeld. 

Wentz is the starter and needs practice time. Hopefully for the Eagles, Wentz stays healthy and is able to play an entire season. If that happens, he’ll need to be game planning each week for the upcoming opponent and getting in reps with the first-string offense. And third-string quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to be at practice and in the quarterback room too. As a rookie, the 2nd-round pick is playing catch-up after an unusual offseason. In-person practices and meeting time are both really important for him.  

They won’t be as important for Sudfeld, who is entering his fourth season with the Eagles and fourth season in Pederson’s offense. 

Sudfeld, 26, hasn’t played much in the NFL. He has attempted just 25 career passes. But he’s the Eagles’ backup quarterback for this upcoming season and there’s a good chance he’s going to have to play at some point. 

What I’m proposing is that the Eagles allow Sudfeld to practice and participate normally at training camp for now but remove him and begin quarantining him two weeks before the season. He would still be able to participate virtually in the meeting rooms and while he’d miss practice time, he’d still be able to work out and stay in shape on his own. 

The phrase “quarantine” might be a little too strong. Really, what I’m proposing here is that the Eagles take extra precautions with Sudfeld and don’t expose him any more than they have to. 

Will all that guarantee that he doesn’t contract the virus? No, it won’t. But it will minimize the chance and give the Eagles an insurance policy at the most important position in the sport. 

If this 2020 season happens, players are going to test positive. Coaches are going to test positive. Guys are going to miss games. 

What the Eagles absolutely can’t afford is to go into any Sunday without a legitimate quarterback and expect to have a chance to win. The best way to avoid that scenario is to exercise extreme caution with their backup and hope it was all for naught. 

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