The Eagles are about to play the most important game of the season, against a bitter rival, and they’re going into it with a bunch of young and inexperienced skill position players.
They have no choice.
“Throw them out there, man. Seriously,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Throw them out there. That’s the only way. You can’t go back to Alshon or Nelly at this point, DeSean, you gotta put them out there, right? And they kind of grow up in a hurry.”
Aside from Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, who is just finishing his second season, think about the rest of the Eagles’ skill position guys heading into Sunday’s do-or-die game.
Miles Sanders: He’s been a revelation recently and is the Eagles’ most explosive offensive player. But he’s still a rookie.
Boston Scott: Scott, in his second NFL season, was on the roster for the playoff run last year, but he played just three total offensive snaps in the playoffs.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside: He played more snaps than any other skill guy last week, but he hasn’t had a very productive rookie season.
Greg Ward: He’s been around the NFL since 2017 but has played his first five NFL games this year. And now he’s the Eagles’ most productive receiver.
Robert Davis: Like Ward, Davis has played just five career games. He has never played this late in the year.
Josh Perkins: Believe it or not, Perkins actually has the most big-game experience of this group. But it came in his rookie year with Atlanta back in 2016, when he played sparingly in that playoff run.
“They might be young, but they don't feel young,” Pederson said. “They don't want to consider themselves as young. They are veteran players and that's a credit to them and nothing's too big for them right now.”
Sanders leads the Eagles in yards from scrimmage and took down the Eagles’ rookie record last week. He’s also been the Eagles’ most explosive player for most of this season.
But Sanders still feels like a rookie. His teammates and coaches make sure of that. He still has to fulfill his rookie duties, which means getting his veteran teammates food and making sure the meeting rooms are stocked with snacks.
“It’s all year,” Sanders said. “I think the way Duce (Staley) does it, you do the rookie season and then an extra three games the next year and then after that, you’re done being a rookie.”
These guys are young but they understand the stakes in this game. That can’t overwhelm them.
Scott insists the key is for him and the other young guys to focus on the task at hand. That means worry about each day of practice at a time and then when the game comes, worry about each play at a time. You know, all that clichéd stuff that’s repeated for good reason.
“It’s something we’ve done our whole lives,” Davis said. “We’ve been through big games in college, high school. It’s not anything guys aren’t used to. Big games are big games. You approach them the same way.”
Some of these players have played in big-time college football games. Sanders said playing in front of 100,000 people at Beaver Stadium prepared him for the atmosphere they’ll see on Sunday against the Cowboys.
But this is different. This is the NFL with a ton on the line.
Goedert, in Year 2, was in the same position as a lot of these guys last year. He claims he never got overwhelmed because he was able to tell himself those playoff matchups were just like any other games … even if he knew they weren’t.
And in two years, he’s already realizing how special these moments truly are.
“It’s cool this time of year to have something to play for,” Goedert said. “There’s a lot of teams … even, shoot. Talking to a few players on the Redskins, they were like, ‘you know, just ready to get out of here. We ain’t got nothing.’ For us, we got the division on the line, all that. Anytime you’re playing for something this time of the year, it just makes it that much better.”
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