Eagles

What exactly are Eagles losing in Frank Reich?

What exactly are Eagles losing in Frank Reich?

On Saturday night before Super Bowl LII, Doug Pederson and Frank Reich presumably met in the team hotel, the Radisson Blu, for about an hour and a half for a last game-planning meeting. 

This had become the ritual for the head coach and offensive coordinator during their two years together in Philadelphia. 

The duo would sit in a room together with a call sheet and the first 15 scripted plays. "How good are the first 15?" became a little running joke between them. 

Reich explained the ritual in late January: "Those are the little side meetings that if you don't enjoy working with each other and going through the ups and downs of a season — we'll sit in there and talk about the first 15, and he'll say, like he said to me the other night, 'Here's the 15, but I might insert this here or this there.'"

In the specific meeting Reich talked about, Pederson told him his whole philosophy was to be aggressive. Then the two talked about the importance of being aggressive without being reckless. 

For the last two years, Reich, one of the most genuine people in the NFL, kept Pederson grounded. He was a sounding board and a trusted confidant to a budding offensive mad scientist. For two years, that relationship worked. But now it's gone. 

Reich, 56, is the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Pederson is happy for him, but it's also a loss. This is an examination of what made their relationship so special and the importance of replacing it. 

What would you say you do here? 

At first glance, Reich's influence with the Eagles' offense might be pretty hard to pick up. After all, he's an offensive coordinator on a team with an offensive head coach who also calls the plays. But Reich did have a pretty important role with the team. When Pederson first hired Reich, he cited Reich's knowledge of the downfield passing game as a reason why. While both men said they shared a pretty similar offensive philosophy, Pederson thought Reich's knowledge of downfield passing would be a great complement to his base in the West Coast offense. 

“He did an outstanding job there of really taking advantage of what our players did best, I think in the passing game especially," former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said about Reich in 2016 after Reich was fired in San Diego as the Chargers tried to find more offensive balance. 

Together, Pederson and Reich formed the Eagles' offensive scheme and over the next two years the two men fine-tuned it, obviously, with Pederson taking the reins.

Just a few weeks ago, Reich was asked about his role in weekly game-planning and offered this: 

"You know what, Coach has literally put together the best staff that you can possibly imagine and that's how we work. We work as a staff together," Reich said. "It's fun to do it that way. It's fun when it's ‘we.’ It's fun when we've got a head coach who shares that responsibility and who is — and as the role of offensive coordinator that's what you do: you coordinate. You take all the great resources that you have as far as the staff and our head coach, and you pile your ideas together and then you've got to narrow them down and that's what we do. And we get a lot of good input from a lot of different ways, and that's fun. I mean, it's fun to work with the guys we work with and have the players that run those plays."

Reich is a nice guy, genuine. That might not seem like a requirement to be an NFL coach — and it isn't — but that quality allowed him to coordinate ideas while with the Eagles. Plenty of coaches in the NFL have egos that don't fit in stadiums, but Reich doesn't. That's a helpful quality, especially for a coach around other smart and opinionated coaches. 

Reich's mild-mannered personality served him well in his role as offensive coordinator and made his players love playing for him. Jeff Lurie made the term "emotional intelligence" and Reich, like Pederson, certainly has it. It's not a surprise these two grew so close and were able to work together. 

Now, it's about finding that type of relationship again. Pederson might need to have that Reich-like voice to keep him grounded and he might need that type of sounding board. Can that be Duce Staley? Maybe. Can it be Mike Groh? Maybe. But that has to be a key. 

Because what we learned about Reich's role over the last two years was that it became an incredibly important piece, not just to the offense, but specifically to the head coach, who grew into one of the best in the NFL.

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

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USA Today Images

Breaking down 6 young Eagles Doug Pederson is impressed with

On Thursday, before the final practice of the long spring, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there were any players lower on the depth chart who have stood out over the last few weeks. 

Pederson started by mentioning some players who came into the league last year. Eventually, he named six guys. 

Let’s take a look at each of them. 

Rashard Davis
The first name to come out of his mouth. Not bad for a first-year player from James Madison. Davis is 5-foot-9, 175. The receiver also has the ability to return, something we’ve seen him do since he’s been with the Eagles. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago and spent most of the 2017 season on the practice squad. He was signed to a futures deal after the completion of the season. 

At JMU, Davis was a standout receiver and returner, on his way to being named an FCS All-American. Davis returned four punts for touchdowns and had 42 catches for 530 yards and three more touchdowns as a receiver. 

With the Eagles, he faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but they seem to like his versatility. 

Greg Ward
Pederson mentioned Davis and Ward in the same breath and it’s easy to see why. Both are smallish slot receivers who were a part of the same undrafted class. Ward’s story is slightly different though. At 5-11, 186, Ward was a prolific quarterback at the University of Houston but is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level. 

He was signed as an undrafted player last year and spent the season on the Eagles’ practice squad, at times taking over scout-team QB reps to imitate mobile quarterbacks. 

While at Houston, he proved to be a dual threat. He was a good passer, but his legs made him dangerous. This spring, Ward got some run with the first-team offense and the Eagles seemed to like his trick-play potential. This past week, we saw the offense run some trick plays with him, where he became the passer. On one, he even threw the ball to Nick Foles, sort of like the Philly Special. 

Shelton Gibson 
Last year, Gibson was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, but he didn't get to play a ton. He caught just two passes all season and they came in that regular-season finale against the Cowboys. 

But Gibson has looked good this spring (see story). That's a really good sign because he had a terrible spring and terrible summer as a rookie. It was probably in part because he came from a really simple college offense and had to pick up the Eagles' complex scheme. 

This year, he's thinking less and making more plays. 

Rasul Douglas 
It seems a little weird to put Douglas on this list after he was a third-round pick a year ago and then started five games in the Super Bowl season, but he’s buried on the depth chart. 

The thing that hurts Douglas is his body type. He’s strictly an outside cornerback. So while Sidney Jones, De’Vante Bausby and D.J. Killings have gotten first-team reps in the slot, Douglas is planted firmly behind Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby at outside corner. He’s probably behind Jones either way. 

That’s gotta be tough for Douglas, going from starter to being back on the bench. But he’s the perfect example of the depth this team has at the position. Pederson says Douglas has “emerged” this spring. 

Dallas Goedert
It’s no surprise Pederson is bullish on Goedert, whom he said is “going to be a nice fit for us as a tight end.” The rookie from South Dakota State had a great spring. He caught everything and is an athletic specimen. 

There’s a really good chance Goedert can be a monster in the red zone (see story).

Still, a long way to go, and we’ll see what happens when the pads go on, but there’s no reason to think Goedert can’t be a huge contributor as a rookie. 

Aziz Shittu
Probably a name you haven’t heard in a while, but Shittu has stood out as much as any defensive tackle can in non-padded practices. 

Shittu came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2016. But thanks to that stupid college graduation rule he missed all those spring practices. That allowed another undrafted rookie (Destiny Vaeao) to get in front of him and Shittu never recovered. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2016 and then signed a futures contract before last season, but then suffered a knee injury in May and was placed on IR. 

It appears he’s healthy now and is showing some of that burst that made him intriguing to the Eagles in the first place. 

Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings

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Eagles

Eagle Eye: The Eagles got some really big rings

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the Eagles' Super Bowl rings. How does it compare to what Barrett got with the Steelers championship winning team in 2006? How will the players spend these coming weeks off? And the guys get you ready for the weekend.

1:00 - Eagles get their rings.
5:00 - Should Gunner and Barrett have gotten rings?
8:30 - What are those parties like?
11:00 - How hard is it to move on from last year and look ahead?
13:00 - This is when Super Bowls are won.
15:00 - Guys get you ready for the weekend with some weird news stories over this week.

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