Eagles

Preseason opener 1st chance to see how Eagles adjust to coaching changes

Preseason opener 1st chance to see how Eagles adjust to coaching changes

A first preseason game provides many opportunities.

For the fans (open practice aside), it’s the chance to see their team back on the field in a game setting for the first time in six months. Naturally when you're coming off a Super Bowl title, that anticipation is heightened.

For the players, it all depends. The starters who play will make a brief cameo and get a chance to reacclimate themselves with game speed and work on execution. For the long shots to make the roster, it’s their first shot to make an impression and a name for themselves.

The grouping we tend to forget about in this setting is the coaches.

The Eagles' coaching staff had a pretty significant shake-up this past offseason. These things tend to happen when you get a ring. Out are offensive coordinator Frank Reich (Colts head coach) and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo (Vikings offensive coordinator). Mike Groh is now offensive coordinator, elevated from wide receivers coach, and Press Taylor moves up the food chain from offensive quality control coach to quarterbacks coach. Duce Staley is also taking on a bigger role as the assistant head coach, while still coaching the running backs.  

While Pederson called the plays, Reich and DeFilippo played major roles in the construction of the high-octane Eagles' offense. Reich was an excellent game planner and sounding board for the head coach. DeFilippo was the quarterback whisperer and noted red-zone schemer.    

Fortunately, all three that were promoted are from within, so there is a level of continuity. But change nonetheless. So this first dress rehearsal against another team has an added importance. 

“Obviously you got used to those two guys the last couple of years, and you know for them to take big roles, with Press with the quarterbacks and how he’s worked with them and his involvement now on game day," Pederson said Tuesday. "Mike on the sidelines still being more of a voice in my ear like Frank was, sometimes being the voice of reason. It will be a great working environment. These are all reasons for these games, obviously, now with a couple new coaches in position to work these things out."

The role changes also impact the players.

“You’re really just getting to know each other every day," Nick Foles said. "You’ve heard me talk a lot about football is special because of the relationships, teammates and coaches alike. That’s where you see the bond. It’s not just players, you have to enjoy being around your coach and trust them and I think you got that from the mic’d up stuff from last year when we’re talking to coaches.

"I use the 'Philly Special' play as a great example. Doug and I have a lot of trust in each other, we’ve known each other for a long time, where that conversation if you don’t know each other probably didn’t go that well. But because we know each other, we’re like, 'Let’s do it.' And I use that conversation as an example because that is so important to be a winning team. It’s not just players, it’s everyone in this building getting along."

So maybe Thursday’s first tune-up versus the Steelers holds a little more significance than we thought?

More on the Eagles

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson said he hopes to get recently re-acquired running back Jay Ajayi more involved in the offense as the Eagles head into the stretch run.

Ajayi has eight carries for 25 yards and a 3.1 average in two games since returning to the Eagles following a year layoff. 

A Pro Bowler in 2016 with the Dolphins and a stud down the stretch during the Super Bowl season, Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 last year and didn’t play from Oct. 7, 2018, until Nov. 24, 2019, when he made his 2019 debut against the Seahawks.

Ajayi didn't have OTAs or a training camp and didn't even practice until the Wednesday before the Seattle game. 

It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, he's a bigger, powerful guy that we can use in spots.

With Jordan Howard missing the last three games with nerve damage in his shoulder, rookie Miles Sanders has essentially been the entire running attack. But the Eagles are so hesitant to increase his workload significantly that it’s created a situation in which the Eagles just haven’t run the ball very much during their three-game losing streak because they haven’t had a viable second option.

During these last three games, Sanders has 40 carries, Ajayi eight and Boston Scott seven.

This is the first time the Eagles have leaned this heavily on one back in a three-game stretch since 2012. 

During a late-season three-game stretch in which LeSean McCoy was hurt, Bryce Brown got 52 carries and Dion Lewis had four.

The Eagles ran 45 percent of the time in the nine games Howard played and 31 percent since he got hurt. They’re 0-3 without him.

Miles has done a great job,” Pederson said Saturday. “I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season.

The current stretch is the first in franchise history that the Eagles have thrown at least 40 times and run the ball 23 or fewer times in three straight games.

Howard hasn’t played since before the bye week and is out for the Eagles’ game Monday night against the Giants. 

Pederson said earlier in the week he doesn’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, but will Howard be able to pick up where he left off after such a long layoff even if he does return?

The Eagles began the season with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles in what looked to be a deep running back rotation. 

Sanders is the only one of that group left. Can Ajayi make a difference after such a long layoff? Sounds like Pederson wants to find out.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Updated: 3:39 p.m.

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week and are listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday and won't play Monday night. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. He's officially questionable. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles