Eagles

How Eagles plan to get Andre Dillard snaps with everyone healthy

How Eagles plan to get Andre Dillard snaps with everyone healthy

Lane Johnson and Jason Peters played all 75 of the Eagles’ offensive snaps in their Week 1 win over Washington, so there wasn’t much meat left on the bone for Andre Dillard. 

And if Peters and Johnson are able to stay healthy this year, that means the Eagles’ first-round pick won’t play much. So the Eagles are getting creative. 

On Sunday, Dillard still played four offensive snaps as an in-line tight end, something we’ll probably see more and more as the season progresses. 

It’s definitely different than anything I’ve ever done in football before because I’ve never played tight end,” Dillard said after the game. “I’ve always been a tackle. It was fun to experience something new along with experiencing my first NFL touchdown and win all at the same time. It was just all new stuff for me today.

Dillard played just four offensive snaps. The first came on the Eagles’ second offensive play and he didn’t get back on the field on offense until the fourth quarter. Aside from playing a new position, three of Dillard’s four snaps on Sunday came from the right side of the line after spending all spring and summer on the left. 

The Eagles didn’t even use Dillard at tight end all training camp. He had just one week to prepare for his new role. “A week’s worth of preparation can work wonders,” Dillard said. 

So how did it go? 

“I thought he did a nice job,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He probably over sat on the one protection a little bit too wide on (Redskins LB Ryan) Kerrigan on the second play of the game. I thought he, for the most part, played well. Kind of a new position for him. We worked him there all week. Tried to get him comfortable in that spot. And really, they are blocking the same guys, those outside linebackers or D-end type guys. So yeah, he is a little bit wider but the technique is still the same. It's something we’ll continue to grow with him.”

 

You can see that Dillard does get a little too wide on his first snap. But his first NFL snap is also coming at a new position against Kerrigan, who has 84 1/2 sacks in his career. That’s a tough ask. 

Dillard’s next snap came on the first play of the fourth quarter on the backward pass to Alshon Jeffery that counted as a rushing touchdown. 

 

On this one, Dillard was actually off the line (another new thing) and was in position as the play developed. He just needs to find a hat to block. 

Dillard was also on the field for the ensuing 2-point conversion, but the play was a quick one to the other side, so he didn’t have much of a role. 

I thought the rookie’s best play of the day came on the tail end of that 19-play drive in the fourth quarter. It was 2nd-and-17 and Carson Wentz passed it right to Jordan Howard for a gain of 6. Dillard lined up on the left side next to Peters for this one. 

 

You can see Dillard circled here. He shuts down fellow first-round pick Montez Sweat by himself and eventually gets a little help from Zach Ertz who stayed in on the play. 

While he got just four snaps in the opener, you can expect this role to increase as the season goes on. The Eagles like using an extra tackle like this and have done it in the past with Halapoulivaati Vaitai and even Isaac Seumalo before he became the starting left guard. 

The biggest difference with this new position, Dillard said, is that he’s a lot farther out. He has to work out how to gauge where he is on his angles and it can be a little harder to hear the quarterback. He also has to report as eligible to the official, something that must have been stressed ad nauseam by the coaching staff because he said it’s already “ingrained in my head.” 

Eventually, Dillard is expected to be the starting left tackle for the Eagles. But in the meantime, as long as the guys in front of him are healthy, this is his best shot to get some game reps under his belt. 

“Yeah, however I can,” Dillard said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m just really glad I got to get my feet wet.” 

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How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

Jordan Howard still hasn’t been cleared for contact nearly five weeks after he hurt his shoulder, and at this point it certainly seems more likely than not that he will miss a fourth straight game when the Eagles face the Giants Monday night at the Linc.

A lot of factors have contributed to the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, but Howard’s absence is an under-rated huge one.

The Eagles were 5-4 and averaging 23 points per game with the fourth-year running back, and they’re 0-3 and averaging less than 17 points without him.

With Howard on the field, the Eagles were controlling the clock and keeping defenses off-balance. Doug Pederson spoke more than once about how an authoritative running attack had become the team’s identity.

That identity no longer exists.

Howard injured his shoulder in the win over the Bears on Nov. 3.

Pederson didn't mention Howard's injury after the game or the next day, and when the Eagles went into the bye there was no reason to believe it was serious.

Pederson first referred to Howard's injury as a “stinger,” or nerve damage in the shoulder area, on Nov. 15, nearly two weeks after Howard first got hurt.

Howard has practiced on a limited basis since the injury, but Pederson said Thursday he still hasn’t been cleared for contact and said there’s no change in his status.

Although rookie Miles Sanders has played very well, the Eagles miss Howard tremendously.

Through nine games, he was 14th in the NFL with 525 rushing yards and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Most importantly, he was moving the chains and getting in the end zone.

Going into Week 10, he had rushed for 28 first downs, 14th-most in the league (despite averaging just 13 carries per game), and he had six rushing TDs, 6th-most in the league.

In the three games Howard has missed, Sanders has averaged 4.6 yards per carry but has only 40 carries as Pederson has moved away from the running game.

The Eagles don’t have a rushing touchdown since Howard got hurt.

Interesting to note that in the nine games Howard played, the Eagles ranked 5th in the NFL in time of possession at 32:13 per game. Without Howard, they’re 13th at 30:44.

There are obviously other factors, but the Eagles’ offensive scoring is also down dramatically without Howard, from 23.3 to 16.7.

And most notably, instead of increasing Sanders’ workload with Sanders out, Pederson has simply decided not to run nearly as much.

In the nine games with Howard, the Eagles had the 6th-most rushing attempts in the NFL and a 55-45 pass-run ratio.

In the three games without Howard, the Eagles have the 3rd-FEWEST rushing attempts in the NFL and a 69-31 pass-run ratio.

The Eagles, who have lost running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles to season-ending injuries, signed Jay Ajayi a few weeks ago, but he’s only averaging 3.1 yards on eight carries so far.

When can we expect to see Howard?

It’s impossible to tell.

Pederson said Thursday he doesn’t expect this injury to be season-ending, but the season is over in 24 days, and Howard hasn’t played in 32 days.

Adding to the equation is the fact that Howard is scheduled to become a free agent after this season and the Eagles need to decide whether to offer him a long-term deal or not.

The season is slipping away, the Eagles haven’t won a game in over a month and one of the players they miss the most remains sidelined with an injury that won't go away.

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Eagles sign training camp standout receiver Marken Michel to practice squad

Eagles sign training camp standout receiver Marken Michel to practice squad

The Eagles on Thursday signed preseason and training camp standout Marken Michel to their practice squad.

Michel, 26, had an impressive summer in Philadelphia and was a strong contender to make the initial 53-man roster but was released at final cuts. The Eagles kept just five receivers out of training camp.

The Eagles reportedly had Michel in for a workout earlier this week.

During the preseason, Michel had four catches for 117 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on a deep post against the Titans from Nate Sudfeld.

Michel is the older brother (by about a year and a half) of Patriots running back Sony Michel. While Sony has found a home in the NFL, Marken’s route has been more circuitous to this point.

Marken Michel went undrafted out of UMass in 2016. He spent one summer with the Vikings and then carved out a career in the Canadian Football League for two years. He was a teammate of Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton on the Calgary Stampeders when the Stampeders won the 2018 Grey Cup.

With this move to sign Michel (5-11, 190), the Eagles’ practice squad is now at capacity with 10 members and three of them are receivers. They have just four receivers on the 53-man roster.

The Eagles also have Robert Davis (6-3, 210) and Marcus Green (5-8, 191) on the practice squad.

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