With the Doug Pederson Eagles, the 53 is more important than the 22.
We tend to naturally think of NFL rosters in terms of starters and backups, but one underrated and important aspect of Pederson’s three years as head coach has been a true focus on the roster as 53 contributors as opposed to 22 starters and 31 backups.
Every coach talks about “next man up,” but the personality of this team has really become that, and it’s been pivotal to the Eagles' success.
It starts with Pederson’s culture, one where nobody makes excuses. Once you establish that, everything else falls into place.
Lose your quarterback a few weeks before the playoffs? Nobody hangs his head. Nobody whines about it. Nick Foles just pops off the bench and wins a Super Bowl.
Pederson’s whole program is geared toward getting 53 guys ready to play. Not just physically but mentally, too.
Talk to any non-starter in the Eagles’ locker room and he feels included, he feels prepared, he feels ready, he feels confident.
He doesn’t feel like a backup, he feels like a piece of the puzzle.
Think about Rasul Douglas coming in cold off the bench against the Falcons when Ronald Darby got dinged, playing two snaps, picking up a huge interception in the red zone, then heading back to the bench.
Think about Wendell Smallwood against the Colts. His last extended playing time was the Chargers game almost a year ago, but with two running backs down he comes out of mothballs for 91 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches.
Think about Corey Graham, who wasn’t even going to play football this year. Rodney McLeod gets hurt during the Colts game and Graham plays a season-high 47 snaps — at a high level.
Think about Josh Perkins down in Tampa. The Eagles were down so many wide receivers they moved Perkins — a receiver in college — outside and he caught four passes for 57 yards, and he did have two drops but this is a guy who had three catches in his career before that game, and he made plays.
Think about Dallas Goedert, who had 34 snaps, three targets and one four-yard catch to show for his first two NFL games. The Eagles decided to spotlight him against the Colts and he responded by catching all seven targets for 73 yards and a TD.
Think about Jordan Matthews, who went from high-paid starter to minimum-wage emergency backup and goes out five days after re-signing here and catches a 14-yard first down on a scoring drive and a seven-yarder on the game-winning drive in his first game — regular season or preseason — since Dec. 3, three teams ago.
Think about Josh Adams, who goes from the practice squad to 6 for 30 rushing in his first NFL game.
They were ready. Every one of them.
This is the personality of the Philadelphia Eagles. This is the culture that Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and Doug Pederson have created.
It’s one thing to say, “Next man up,” but this team really believes it.
Pederson and his assistants make sure everybody gets reps during the week just in case they have to play, but it goes deeper than that.
There’s just a sense of inclusion that runs throughout the roster and really throughout the organization. Everybody is made to feel important, everybody is made to feel necessary.
You see it during training camp, where the assistant coaches spend as much time teaching the last guy on the roster as the All-Pros. You see it on game day, where every last guy asked to contribute seems to always be ready without hesitation.
The whole world saw it in the Super Bowl and we see it every Sunday, when the Eagles take whoever’s available and find a way to make it work.