Maybe it was just his mood at the time, but Doug Pederson got a little defensive this week when asked about his level of concern with the Eagles’ offense after an injury-filled preseason.
Sure, it’s just the preseason. …
But at times this summer in practice or in games, the Eagles were without (takes deep breath) Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, Mack Hollins, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Nick Foles, Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery.
And to top it off, when the first-team offense (what was left of it) was on the field this preseason, it didn’t look good. The Foles-led unit failed to score any points. And Foles will now lead the Eagles into the 2018 season.
Despite all that, when Pederson was asked if he’s worried about rust, he flatly said, “No.”
But it’s fair to wonder, isn’t it?
Because even though the Eagles have some real talent on the offensive side of the ball, even though they’re coming off a Super Bowl and will start the Super Bowl MVP, even though they overcame every injury that got in the way last year, there still seems like cause for concern.
Band back together
The entire starting offense (most of it, anyway) won’t be on the field together as a unit until the first snap of Thursday’s game against the Falcons to open the 2018 NFL season.
How do they flip the switch?
“You gotta go out there with confidence and believe in yourself,” Lane Johnson said. “We’ve done this stuff before. It’s really about going out there and don’t be scared to make mistakes. Just go out there, and with how we train, more times than not, we’ll be fine.”
Will it really be that easy?
I certainly have my doubts.
Maybe that is part of the reason for Pederson’s seeming consternation. Because even though he acts like everything is fine with the offense, it certainly seems like the opener kind of crept up on us.
“I don’t think you ever just bring it all together,” Ajayi said. “I think, for sure, we’ve got some guys who have been banged up here and there. I think as a professional, you always have to be ready and that comes down to preparation, taking care of the stuff you need to do to be ready for Thursday.”
Practice makes perfect
Pederson stressed that while some of his players like Peters and Sproles, among others, haven’t played in preseason games, the Eagles’ practices show them all they need to see. He says their practices are sometimes more intense than games. We’ll have to take his Super Bowl-winning coach’s word on that.
It does seem like the Eagles are making a concerted effort to ramp up the intensity in practice. On Sunday, they had a really competitive period of first-team offense vs. first-team defense. Zach Ertz estimated the team did that for the first 10 or so weeks of the 2017 season. He thinks that’s what separates the Eagles’ practices from other teams.
“When we’re able to go against a defense like our defense, it’s going to be a very good test for our offense,” Ertz said.
Jason Kelce pointed out that last year when Foles got off to his slow start, it was probably in part because by that point in the season, the Eagles had ramped down practice intensity. All the other guys were into the flow of the season and they were trying to preserve their health. But with those practices, Foles couldn’t get anything near game reps until he got into the games. So they ramped up their practices to get Foles better work … and they went on a run.
The Eagles are hoping they can get Foles and the offense into rhythm with some intense practices this week. They’re basically winding up one of those toys with legs and hoping it hits the ground running.
A lot of the Eagles’ preseason woes on offense were pinned on Foles and that’s not entirely inaccurate. He didn’t play well. But Kelce had a different reason.
One word: Mistakes.
“That’s what killed us in the preseason,” he said. “Whether it’s turnovers, whether it’s dropped passes, whether it’s penalties, whether it’s missed assignments. Those are the things we need to eliminate. We’re continuing to improve, we’re continuing to watch film so we don’t make mistakes. Why we’re putting a huge emphasis on going out there and practicing hard.”
No, the Eagles won’t have the entire band back together on Thursday night against the Falcons. But they’ll have most of it.
Will they really be able to bring it all together?
“We gon’ see, ain’t we?” Johnson said.
We gon’ see, indeed.