Eagles

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

Doug Pederson: Eagles 'probably' more talented than '90s Super Bowl Packers

It's been so long since the Eagles won a playoff game there are only three players still active in the NFL who've worn an Eagles jersey in a playoff victory: Brent Celek, Trent Cole and DeSean Jackson. And Cole may be finished.

It's been almost a decade since the Eagles beat the Giants in a conference semifinal game after the 2008 season. They haven't won a postseason game since, and second-year head coach Doug Pederson's job is to end that streak.

Now.

Howie Roseman brought him receivers, defensive linemen, offensive linemen, corners and a running back, and with Carson Wentz now in Year 2, everything points that way.

Does Pederson think this team is ready to finally make a run?

"I think you’re capable," he said. "There are a lot of (factors). I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there. And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?

"But we also had a lot of talent in 2010, here, and where did that get us?"

Pederson spent 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 backing up Brett Favre in Green Bay, and the Packers reached the postseason in all seven of those seasons, winning seven playoff games and reaching two Super Bowls, winning one.

If the Eagles have as much talent as those Packers teams, shouldn't 10-6 and a playoff berth be a reasonable goal? Maybe more?

"It’s hard to put a number on that," Pederson said. "There’s a lot of things that factor into a season. You can lose your quarterback on opening day."

OK, what if Wentz stays healthy? Is 10 wins a reasonable goal?

“It still goes back to, 'There’s a lot of those factors,' " he said. "So it’s hard to put a number. I’m not going to put myself in a box that way, obviously. It’s still a game-by-game mentality. We focus on our division. We focus on the NFC East, we start there. We have to win those games, focus on those. We focus on the NFC. There’s layers."

The Eagles have reached the playoffs three times since reaching the 2008 NFC Championship Game — 2009 and 2010 under Andy Reid and 2013 under Chip Kelly — only to lose in the wild-card round each time.

The eight-year gap without a playoff win is the Eagles' longest since they went 11 years from 1981 through 1991. The three years without even reaching the postseason matches the franchise's longest drought since a six-year drought from 1982 through 1987.

The Eagles are one of 12 teams that hasn't won a playoff game the last eight years and also one of 12 that hasn't reached the playoffs the last three years.

After winning 10 playoff games and reaching five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl from 2000 through 2008, it's been a dismal eight seasons.

"There has to be a combination of blending all of this talent with a coaching staff, with my ideas and philosophy, to bring all that together, with the egos aside — put pride aside — and just go focus on winning this game that we have in front of us," Pederson said. 

"I’m a big believer that if you do that, then you look back at the end of the season, and you’re probably going to be where you want to be, and that’s playing in the postseason."

The last Eagles head coach to not reach the playoffs in his first two years (not counting the 1987 strike season)?

Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984.

But if this team has as much talent as those Packers powerhouses, they have to get there this year, right?

“I’m not one to make predictions or bold predictions but obviously (we want) to show the incremental improvement from last season and get better as a football team," Pederson said.

"Ultimately, you're judged and critiqued on Super Bowl wins and getting yourself into the postseason."

The Eagles won their first three games last year, then went 2-9 over the next 11, then won their last two, including the finale over the Cowboys' backups.

It marked the franchise's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1998 and 1999.

“By no means are you satisfied with 7-9, and you definitely want to get better," Pederson said.

"I want to get better personally as a head football coach, not only from managing the football team but also with play calling and just the little things, working with Carson Wentz, spending more time on special teams and defense, getting to know those schemes and philosophies as well. … You’re definitely trying to get yourself better."

How does Pederson define a successful season?

This is a franchise that has gone 56 years without a championship. They are one of only 13 current NFL franchises without a title since 1961, although four of the others — the Chiefs (Texans), Bills, Oilers and Chargers — won AFL titles before the merger.

“Oh, man, if you win the Super Bowl," he said. "That’s a successful year. Thirty-one teams failed to win the Super Bowl. I think if you’re not winning or playing in that game, everyone’s trying the next year.

"I think success can be measured in a few different (ways). If we go 8-8 is that a successful year? I don’t coach to be average. I’ll tell you that. These players don’t practice the way they do to be average. We’re all in this together. We’ll just continue to work every single day until we get to that goal.” 

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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