Eagles

How will Eagles' offense change with Nick Foles?

How will Eagles' offense change with Nick Foles?

There aren't many teams that have a backup quarterback who's been a Pro Bowl MVP, tied an NFL record for touchdowns in a game and has his cleats in a display case at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Doug Pederson's message Monday after announcing that Wentz will miss the season was that his loss is a devastating blow to Wentz, but that the Eagles are in terrific shape with Nick Foles taking over for the second-year pro.

"The reason we went out and got Nick Foles was reasons like this, situations like this," Pederson said after learning that there's no hope for Wentz's return to action this year.

"I'm excited for Nick. I hate it for Carson, I hate it for the season that he's been having, but at the same time it's the next-man-up mentality, and that's how we approach it this week."

Wentz suffered a torn ACL in his left knee Sunday night against the Rams and will need surgery.

Pederson wouldn't speculate on when Wentz would return to football activities, but for Foles, it's a chance to start for the Eagles for the first time since the first eight weeks of 2014.

"Nick has played a ton of football," Pederson said. "I was here when we drafted him (in 2012). We drafted him for a reason. Then we went out and got him again this offseason for a reason.

"You never want it to be under these circumstances but at the same time, my confidence is extremely high in Nick. You saw what he did in the game last night. The big 3rd-and-8 (conversion) to Nelson (Agholor).

"People ask me, 'Why did you throw the ball?' Because I've got confidence in Nick, I've got confidence in the guys, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm going to be aggressive."

Of the nine current backup quarterbacks who've started at least 30 games in the NFL, Foles' .556 career winning percentage is highest.

"It's huge, it's huge," Pederson said. "I love to be 11-2 and everything is great but at the same time I know and I think everybody in this room knows and everybody out there knows if you don't have a backup quarterback who's played and had snaps in this league, it's tough to continue the things that you've done, the things you've built this season. Nick is very capable of getting the job done."

Pederson said he won't have to change the offense very much to accommodate Foles, who is now in his fifth year under Pederson in the last six years.

The only year they weren't together was 2015, when Foles had his worst year ever with the Rams.

Pederson said he'll take input from Foles during preparation just like he took input from Wentz.

"He's a veteran player who's played and he's won a lot of games, not only here but in other places he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player, he's smart … and he and I will continue to dialogue like Carson and I did during the week.

"I want to make sure there are plays in the plan that he likes and I want him to speak his mind like Carson would, and we keep going. This is a veteran player we're talking about, so I feel comfortable doing that.

"I've known him for a lot of years and we're going to continue to have the same communication that Carson and I had during the weeks, and Carson is going to play a big part of helping Nick get ready too. Not much going forward is going to have to change."

Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh concerned by Titans' pass rush

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Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh concerned by Titans' pass rush

Three takeaways from Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh’s chat with the media Tuesday:

Did you see what the Titans did to Blake Bortles?

The Titans are fourth in the NFL in point allowed (16.7 per game), and they really did a terrific job on Blake Bortles Sunday, limiting the Jaguars’ quarterback to just 155 yards on 34 passing yards and sacking him three times. Bortles’ longest completion went for just 19 yards.

“They just made it really challenging on Bortles,” Groh said. “They got good pressure, (and) he couldn't really set his feet in the pocket and make any throws. They had some throws down the field to make, but he would have to move off his spot, and then when he tried to reset the throw there was somebody else in his face and he couldn't get the ball out of there.”

This is big because the Eagles are coming off a game in which Carson Wentz was sacked five times, matching the most sacks the Eagles have allowed at home in five years. 

It wasn’t all on the offensive line. Wentz did run into some trouble Sunday. But the bottom line is that the offensive line has to pass block better and give Wentz time to work. If they don’t, it’s going to be a difficult day Sunday.

Why opening in no-huddle made so much sense 

One of the underrated coaching moves Doug Pederson and Mike Groh did Sunday was opening the game in no-huddle. What better way to get a quarterback who hadn’t played in 9 ½ months into a quick rhythm?

This wasn’t out of the Chip Kelly playbook. Running tempo all the time is lunacy because of the pressure it puts on a defense. But as a change-of-pace, it can be a tremendous weapon, and it was Sunday.

Wentz was 5-for-7 for 55 yards and a touchdown to Dallas Goedert on that drive, with all but the first snap coming on no-huddle.

“Just another way to try to get Carson immediately into the game and into the flow of the game and not have any time to think about anything,” Groh said. “Just get up to the line of scrimmage and be able to conduct the game from there.”

Where are the big plays?

There are a lot of explanations for the lack of big plays from the Eagles' offense so far.

No Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace or Mack Hollins. No Darren Sproles or Jay Ajayi last week. A quarterback change. A couple new coaches.

But the reality is that the Eagles are making it very difficult on themselves by not getting the football down the field.

They have only five pass plays of 20 yards or more so far, and only the Bears (four), Cowboys (three) and Titans (three) have fewer. 

“We haven't had as many explosive passes as we would like,” Groh said. “For 40 minutes (time of possession), we would like to have more than 20 points. We left some points out there on the field.”

Yeah, you can’t control the clock for 40:20 minutes and score just 20 points. The Eagles are only the third team in the last 10 years to do that (not counting OT). But that’s what happens when you don’t hit big plays. You can move the ball all over the place between the 20s, but you don’t score. The Eagles were fortunate to escape with a win Sunday but they won’t be able to get away with it every week.

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Titans love to run, which will play right into Eagles' hands

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Titans love to run, which will play right into Eagles' hands

In an era where the average team throws 41 times a game and runs 24 times a game, the Tennessee Titans are a rare exception to NFL convention.

They run more than they throw. Way more.

The Titans love to run. Which should play right into the Eagles’ hands Sunday, when they face the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

The Titans are averaging 32.7 rushing attempts per game so far, second-most in the league (they have one carry fewer than the Redskins). But they’re only 24th in yards per carry (3.7).

It’s an anachronistic way of operating an offense in the NFL these days.

So far, the Titans have run 54 percent of the time and thrown just 46 percent.

The league averages are 37 and 63.

So Tennessee runs 27 percent more than the average 2018 NFL team.

They’re averaging six more rushing attempts per game through three weeks than passing attempts.

The combination of a very good defense and ball control means the Titans want to win low-scoring games, like they did Sunday, 9-6 over Jacksonville.

They’ve only scored three offensive TDs this year, but they’re 2-1.

The Titans are the only NFL team that hasn’t scored or allowed more than 50 points, and they’re actually only the third team to do that after three games in the last nine years.

But in the Eagles, the Titans will see the best rushing defense in the league.

Since 2016, they’ve allowed an NFL-low 89 rushing yards per game. This year, that number is an NFL-best 61.7, their lowest since 2008.

At their current pace, the Eagles will become only the 11th team since 1960 to allow fewer than 1,300 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

The Eagles have faced 54 runs so far this year, only four for 10 yards or more and only two of those by running backs.

Nobody has even rushed for 40 yards against the Eagles in their last five games, the first time that’s happened since the last two games of 2002 and the first five games of 2003.

The Eagles haven’t allowed a second-half run over nine yards this year and just one over six yards.

So a team that wants to run far more than it throws is about to take on a historically great rush defense.

“They are committed to the run,” Jim Schwartz said. “They've invested a lot of resources in it.

“Drafted a couple offensive lineman, offensive tackles (in the first round). They’ve got a veteran offensive line. They have a Heisman Trophy running back. They had probably their premier free-agent pick-up this year, Dion Lewis, and they have a running quarterback.

“So obviously it's what they want to do and they're committed to it, so it's our job to combat that. … So our goal is to get opponents stopped. However we do it, we do it.”

Lewis is the Titans’ leading rusher with 143 yards but only 3.7 per carry. Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner for Alabama, has 139 yards but only a 3.0 average.

QB Marcus Mariota is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has a 5.9 career average, ninth-highest in NFL history.

He’s really the Titans’ only threat in the backfield.

“He's probably the fastest quarterback in the NFL right now,” Schwartz said. “Looks like a 40-yard dash he's running so fast.”

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