I have some good news for Doug Pederson.
“Maybe I’m superstitious, but I really don’t like being 4-0 in the preseason,” Pederson said Tuesday morning, adding that the preseason is for experimenting an evaluation.
The good news: It can’t happen this year.
The Eagles are 0-2 heading into the third preseason game, considered by many to be more of a dress rehearsal than the others.
So Thursday night’s game in Cleveland at 8 p.m. means just a little more.
It doesn’t necessarily mean more or less if the Eagles win or lose, but starters are going to play a lot. And this week of practice is treated more like a week in the regular season. Starters get “85 percent” of reps during the week, according to Pederson.
Fans should at least hope to see something a little better than they did last week, when the Eagles had a performance that left some panicking.
“Typically this game, I’d like to see them at least get through the first half,” Pederson said. “In situations, in games like this, you’d want to see a two-minute drive either offensively or defensively. We can do that and simulate that in practice, but to do that in a game would be great. Hopefully they can get to that point in this football game.”
Pederson and the rest of the Eagles are hoping that game planning, along with extended reps for the first-teams together during the week of practice will translate into a cleaner and better executed game than the one we saw last week in New England.
That starts with Nick Foles.
Despite sustaining a minor shoulder strain early in the second quarter in New England, Foles returned to practice this week and will start against the Browns. But even before Foles was forced to leave the game early, things weren’t going his way. He completed just 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards and took three sacks.
What does Pederson want to see from Foles this week?
“Just consistency,” Pederson said. “You guys saw a couple throws early in the game were just not Nick Foles-type throws as far as accuracy goes. Just making those sort of routine-type plays. And just overall execution. Would love to see a touchdown drive or two, obviously, or points out of the first unit. I think with them playing more this week together, you’ll see better execution Thursday night.”
While Foles will play on Thursday, the Eagles will still be without some key players. Alshon Jeffery is still on the PUP and won’t play. Corey Clement, Nelson Agholor and Jay Ajayi are also expected to miss the game. Don’t expect Markus Wheaton, Kamar Aiken or Donnel Pumphrey either.
Darren Sproles and Jason Peters also won’t play. Pederson has said before that he doesn’t need to see them in the preseason.
Without Sproles, Clement, Ajayi, and Pumphrey, the Eagles might have just two running backs for Thursday’s game. Josh Adams returned to practice today, but his status for the game is unknown. Either way, it’ll be a big night for Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones as they try to battle for that fourth and final running back spot (see story).
On defense, Brandon Graham (ankle) returned to practice this week, but won’t play on Thursday. The Eagles are just trying to get him ready for Week 1.
While the Eagles will be without several key players, they are treating this week almost like a normal regular season week. There’s game-planning, starters are practicing a ton and even the schedule like a normal week schedule, which is helpful for coaches and players.
Because of all that, Pederson said there’s an increased sense of urgency this week that doesn’t exist early in training camp.
“Hopefully now our units are starting to play more, longer, they’re starting to play together,” Pederson said. “That’s the way practices have been structured this week, just to promote that a little bit. That should help our guys that are so-called penciled in starters to play a little bit better in a game like this.”
Maybe that’ll lead to a win.
But they can’t go 4-0 like they did back in 2016, which should make Pederson happy. They best they can hope for is 2-2 like they were a year ago before, ya know, they went on to win the Super Bowl.
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