Doug Pederson at his best when facing challenges — on and off field

Doug Pederson at his best when facing challenges — on and off field

When I think about how the Eagles will respond to Sunday's loss and the abrupt loss of their status as consensus GREATEST TEAM ON EARTH, I think back to last year and everything the Eagles dealt with.
Legal issues for Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Nigel Bradham. Sam Bradford going AWOL for two weeks of minicamp. The Bradford trade and Carson Wentz's sudden ascent from third-stringer to the starting lineup eight days before the opener. Lane Johnson's suspension. A mid-season five-game losing streak. Brandon Brooks missing a couple games with what he later revealed was extreme stress.
It was a lot for an NFL rookie head coach to deal with, and the one thing you kept noticing was that Doug Pederson always found ways to keep the thing on the rails and navigate his team through every challenge it faced.
Whatever chaos was swirling around the Eagles last year, you never saw things snowball. You never saw things get out of control. Pederson continually demonstrated a knack for dealing with whatever issues arose around the football team, and by the end of the season, they were playing pretty good football.
That's a unique skill and just as important for a head football coach as calling plays, making substitutions or challenging bad calls.
All those little mini-dramas can take a toll on a football team, but it seemed like with each one, the bond in the Eagles' locker room grew stronger, as did the respect the players have for Pederson.
All of which is why I'm not all too worried right now.
What this team went through last year has a lot to do with the success it's experiencing this year, and I don't think that's going to change.
The Eagles lost a football game Sunday for the first time since Week 2, and we've got to keep this in perspective.
They lost. Sometimes teams lose.
The Seahawks have the best home record in the NFL over the last six years. They've lost eight home games with Russell Wilson at quarterback since 2012. Yes, two of them were in November, but it's not the end of the world losing to an elite football team and Hall of Fame QB in a really tough stadium after nine straight wins.
Big picture?
Nobody in the NFL has a better record than the Eagles. And for a franchise that's been around for 84 years, they've had a better record after 12 games only three times.
No, they no longer control their own playoff destiny. They could conceivably win out and still have to travel to Minneapolis for the NFC Championship Game. (And if that happens, Case Keenum is not beating this team … but that's another story.)
But when you step back and take stock, this football team is sitting here 10-2 with four games left. Last time they lost? They won their next nine.
There are worse places to be than first place in the NFC East sharing the best record in football with one loss since Phillies season ended.
And if the Eagles haven't demonstrated over the past two seasons their ability to respond positively when faced with a little adversity, I don't know what else they have to do.
Teams lose games. Teams bounce back. This one is really good at it.
I don't think any of us had any idea what the Eagles were getting when they hired Pederson, but he's definitely got his finger on the pulse of the team in a very powerful way.
He gives the players leeway but trusts them to do the right thing, and they respect him for it. If they tell him practice is too hard, he adjusts. He leans on his assistants. He involves everybody in the organization. He listens.
This is as strong a locker room as I've seen, and Pederson is a big reason for it. It's a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulder. Late-round picks. Undrafted dudes. Guys released by other teams.
They're hungry and they are unselfish and they are determined and want to win. They love to work hard, they love playing for Doug, and one loss isn't going to change any of them.
If anything, it will motivate them even more.
That loss Sunday night in Seattle doesn't change the fact that the Eagles are still one of the NFL's best teams.  
It does put into focus a few things they need to work on.
They have to protect the ball at the goal-line. They have to find their offensive rhythm earlier. They have to avoid the defensive breakdowns that led to the Seahawks' big plays. They have to adjust when they realize an opposing quarterback recognizes a zero-blitz is coming. Big V needs to play better. Doug has to stay aggressive.
The Rams are very good, and playing back-to-back games on the West Coast isn't easy. Nobody is going to hand home-field advantage to the Eagles.
There are a lot of challenges facing this team right now, but facing challenges is something they've proven to be very good at.

Nick Foles leads entire NFL in player sales merchandise this offseason

Nick Foles leads entire NFL in player sales merchandise this offseason

Everyone knows the plan is for Nick Foles to eventually head back to the bench in favor of Carson Wentz.

Apparently, Eagles fans just didn’t care.

Because when the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales list for the first quarter of 2018 was released on Thursday, Foles was right at the top for all officially licensed merchandise from March 1-May 31.

Here’s the top 10:

1. Nick Foles
2. Tom Brady 
3. Carson Wentz
4. Saquon Barkley
5. Dak Prescott
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Ezekiel Elliott
8. Jimmy Garoppolo
9. Odell Beckham Jr. 
10. Derek Carr

That means the NFC East took six of the top 10 spots, which is pretty wild.

But it’s even crazier to think that Foles went from starting last season as a backup to having more products with his likeness sold this offseason than any other player in the league, including the guy whose job he took and who is expected to take it back. He also beat that guy who didn’t catch a pass in the Super Bowl.

We definitely saw a Super Bowl spike in this list, starting with Foles, who led all players in photography products sold. I guess everyone wanted an image of him catching the football on the "Philly Special" or perhaps something with the now famous photo of Foles with his infant daughter. On the previous list from last year (from March 1, 2017-Feb. 28), Foles was at No. 22, so we should have seen this coming. Wentz held steady at No. 3, despite the injury and missing the Super Bowl.

Here’s every Eagle on the new list with their ranking on the last in parenthesis:

1. Nick Foles (22)
3. Carson Wentz (3) 
13. Zach Ertz (17)
33. Alshon Jeffery (43)
34. Brandon Graham (N/A)
46. Fletcher Cox (N/A)

The only Eagles player to drop out of the top 50 is Jay Ajayi (45), who is entering the final year of his current contract.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Foles can stay at or near the top of the list, especially if he starts the season on the bench. But based on the way most Eagles fans have celebrated the win in Super Bowl LII, Foles merchandise isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon.

More on the Eagles

Roob Knows: Reminding you how good Carson Wentz is

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Roob Knows: Reminding you how good Carson Wentz is

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank reminds fans of how good Carson Wentz is; despite the magical run from Nick Foles, don't forget about Wentz. Alshon Jeffery's impact goes well beyond his statistics. An unbelievable stat on Zach Ertz. And why Brian Dawkins is a truly unique athlete in Philadelphia sports history.

2:00 - Don't forget how good Carson Wentz is.
4:30 - Alshon Jeffery's value.
9:30 - Unbelievable Zach Ertz stat.
13:00 - Brian Dawkins' route to the Hall of Fame.
18:00 - Dawkins is a unique Philly sports figure because everyone adores him.

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