Eagles

Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time since the 2016 season ended with a win over the Cowboys at the Linc on Jan. 1, Doug Pederson spoke to reporters at the combine on Wednesday afternoon. 

There was a bit of unfinished business. 

His coaching staff will have just one change going into next season. The team fired wide receivers coach Greg Lewis and hired former Rams and Bears receivers coach Mike Groh to take his place. 

At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, last month, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman passed on the question, saying that all coaching decisions were Pederson's. 

So, Doug, why the switch? 

"You make tough decisions with players, you make tough decisions with staff, and for me, it was a tough one to make," Pederson said at the podium inside the Indiana Convention Center at his combine media availability. "But at the same time, I want to do everything that's right for the organization and I'm looking forward to working with Mike this spring." 

Pederson made sure to thank Lewis for his one season of work under him in Philly. Lewis bounced back quickly from getting fired, moving on to take the receivers coach job under Andy Reid in Kansas City. 

While Lewis didn't have a ton of talent to work with in 2016, his young players didn't discernably improve at all during the season. Pederson didn't get into the specifics of why the decision to fire Lewis was made, but it seems very possible this was the reason why. 

When Lewis was hired by the Eagles last offseason, he had never held a position coach job in the NFL. The Eagles went with more experience this offseason when they hired Groh, who has been a position coach for the Bears and Rams.

"I sat down and had a great conversation with him," Pederson said. "We really hit it off. Some of his expertise, some of the players he's coached, past experiences, and a lot of recommendations from around the league that made him a great candidate for us."

Groh, 45, has worked with two of the biggest free-agent receivers in this year's class: Alshon Jeffery and Kenny Britt. He spent just one season with the Rams, in 2016. The coaching staff underwent a big change after the season, when Jeff Fisher was fired. Before then, Rowe was with the Bears for three seasons. 

The last of those years in Chicago came under head coach John Fox, who allowed Groh to leave after the 2015 season to take a promotion (the label "passing game coordinator" was added to his title) with the Rams. 

"Typically, guys that are under contract, as an organization you can say no," Fox said on Wednesday. "Sometimes you do. I've always been under the belief that you have to let people professionally grow. I thought he did a good job. He had a great opportunity. It didn't work out. Sometimes it doesn't. He's definitely a good football coach, sharp mind, understands the game. He's a very good teacher."

The Bears allowed the Rams to interview and then hire Groh after the 2015 season. The Eagles weren't as giving when it came to quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo this offseason. 

With a vacancy at offensive coordinator, the Jets wanted to interview DeFilippo, but the Eagles blocked that request. While a report surfaced that Jeffrey Lurie was behind the decision, Roseman last month said all coaching decisions were left up to Pederson. 

There hadn't been an opportunity to ask Pederson about the decision until Wednesday. 

"The biggest thing for me was, I took a lesson from a coach many years ago," he said. "It's hard to let good coaches go. DeFilippo has a great relationship with Carson, myself. He is a great coach in the National Football League. And I felt strongly about keeping him, especially in Carson's second year. The development, the growth process and keeping him intact. That was the decision with that."

A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

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A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices

The Eagles ended up not making a first-round selection in April after they traded out of the No. 32 slot. 

Eventually, after all the trade dust settled — and there was more — the Eagles ended up drafting five players, their smallest draft class since 1989. 

But now that we’ve gotten through the rookie minicamp, OTA practices and the mandatory minicamp, it’s time for a draft class progress report. 

2-49: Dallas Goedert
It’s obviously really early, but Goedert looks like a great pick. He was so impressive, he was the only draft pick from this year to make Doug Pederson’s list of six young players who impressed him this spring. 

It’s always tough to figure out how a player from FCS (South Dakota State) will adapt to the NFL game, but the skills Goedert has are hard to teach. He’s big, long, has great hands and is — at the very least — a willing blocker. 

During the spring, we saw Goedert’s hand-eye coordination and body control on full display. It’s why I think he’s going to become a monster in the red zone (see story)

We’ll learn more about Goedert when the pads go on, but I don’t anticipate him slow down. 

4-125: Avonte Maddox
A little bit of an up-and-down start for the undersized (5-9) cornerback from Pitt. The Eagles didn’t care about his size when the drafted him, mainly because of his high compete level. 

While he played outside cornerback in college, even with his lack of height, many thought he projected as a nickel cornerback in the NFL. Apparently, the Eagles agree. Because during the spring, Maddox worked in the slot, but never got time with the first unit. 

It’s going to be a learning process for Maddox. And because of that, we saw some hiccups for the 22-year-old this spring. There are probably a few factors here: learning a new position, catching up to the speed of the game and learning the playbook. The Eagles shouldn’t be too concerned yet. 

4-130: Josh Sweat
So far, Sweat is looking like the steal of this draft class. Once a highly-touted prospect coming out of college before a devastating knee injury, Sweat still had a productive career at Florida State. Right after he was drafted, Sweat said he thought he was a better fit with the Eagles than he was with the Seminoles. Turns out the DE was right. 

Sweat stood out as much as any defensive lineman can stand out in non-padded practices in May. The first thing that jumps out about Sweat is his size. He’s 6-5 and while he could stand to pack on some more muscle to his frame, he’s already an imposing player. 

Now, some of his success this spring probably came from facing extremely inexperienced offensive tackles, but either way, Sweat was impressive. He’s obviously buried on the depth chart, but he should have a chance to make an impact as a rotational player. 

6-206: Matt Pryor
I still love that Pryor was the biggest guy on the roster for less than an hour after they drafted him. At TCU, Pryor played both OT and OG, so the big question about him at the NFL level was about which position he would play. So far with the Eagles, he’s played both. 

The Eagles listed him as a tackle when they drafted him, but to me, he looked better at guard in college. Apparently, the Eagles have some of those same thoughts, because as the spring went on, it seemed like Pryor got more and more reps inside where he can use his strength. 

Now, there are certain downsides to a guy who is 6-foot-7 playing guard and it starts with leverage and throwing lanes for the quarterback. But if Pryor is more natural at guard, that’s OK. The Eagles really love versatility on the OL and Pryor has the potential to back up four of the five spots along the line. 

7-233: Jordan Mailata 
For much of the spring, Mailata was a turnstile, but no one said this was going to be easy. The big rugby dude is off to a rough start, but that’s to be expected for someone who wasn’t a football player a year ago. 

On his very first snap of his first day on the job at rookie minicamp, Mailata didn’t hear the snap during an offensive line drill and just stood there. It looked like that scene from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — Do less, but you have to do more than that. 

We actually saw real improvement from Mailata over the last few weeks. I know, I know, there was only one direction to go, but the Australian showed off the power and athleticism that attracted the Eagles in the first place. He was always going to be a project. 

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Roob’s 10 observations: Agholor, underrated Super Bowler, Shady’s career

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Roob’s 10 observations: Agholor, underrated Super Bowler, Shady’s career

More improvement from Nelson Agholor, an underrated Super Bowl performer, two agonizing yards from a milestone and an incredible accomplishment that LeSean McCoy is closing in on.

It’s all right here in this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. Doug Pederson has found the perfect balance these past few months of allowing his players to really enjoy being Super Bowl champions while still keeping an eye on 2018, and that’s not an easy thing to do. The Eagles have celebrated when it’s time to celebrate and they’ve worked when it’s time to work, and honestly, I feel like most of the guys on this team would rather be at an OTA practice under the hot June sun than at some banquet re-living Super Bowl LII. Which is the beauty of this team. Zach Ertz put it beautifully when he said this: “There’s always going to be one-hit wonders in this league. Teams that won one Super Bowl or players that made one Pro Bowl and then you didn’t hear from them again. But it’s the great players and the great teams that are able to have that sustained success.” And that right there is the mantra for this football team. Last year was incredible. But it’s in the past. It’s time to move on. It’s time to go to work.

2. Five quarterbacks in NFL history have had a passer rating of 101.9 or higher in their second NFL season [minimum of 200 attempts]. Three of them are Hall of Famers – Otto Graham, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino. The other two are … Carson Wentz and Nick Foles.

3. This is insanity, but there’s no doubt in my mind T.O. can still help a football team. I know, I know. He’s 44. The oldest player in NFL history to catch a pass is Jerry Rice, Owens’ former teammate, who was 42 years, 67 days, when he caught his last three career passes – 3 for 25 yards from Matt Hasselbeck for the Seahawks against the Jets on Dec. 19, 2004. The only other player to catch a pass in his 40s is Brett Favre, who caught a batted pass that he threw (for minus-two yards) against the Rams at 40 years, 1 day, for the Vikings in 2009. I know T.O. hasn’t played since 2010, when he caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine TDs playing for the Bengals. But T.O. is different than other human beings. He’s a freak of nature. He could play till he’s 50. But considering his history, no team is ever going to take a chance on him. It’s a shame, but that’s the reality.

4. It still blows my mind that the Eagles won the Super Bowl just two years after Chip Kelly was fired. Think about that. Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman and Pederson overhauled the entire franchise from late 2015 train wreck to 2017 NFL champs in 769 days. 

5. During that span, the Browns have won one game.

6. Kind of lost in all the Super Bowl insanity – Philly Special, Nick Foles’ performance, Brandon Graham’s strip-sack, the 4th-down conversion to Zach Ertz – was LeGarrette Blount’s remarkable performance. Blount’s 6.4 rushing average that day (14 for 90) is highest in NFL postseason history by a back 31 or older. The previous record was Tiki Barber’s 5.3 for the Giants in the 2006 wild-card game that the Eagles won at the Linc. Blount destroyed that record. And it came after a stretch in which Blount had averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in his previous eight games. Blount wasn’t here long but what a tremendous impact he made both as an unfailingly unselfish leader and as a battering-ram running back.

7. Hard to believe DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the only Eagles draft picks with a 1,000-yard receiving season since Fred Barnett, who was drafted 28 years ago. I expect Nelson Agholor to do it this season.

8. I’m still sad Brent Celek is sitting there with 4,998 career receiving yards. 

9. Wondering what the heck the Redskins are thinking is a way of life around the NFL, but it still blows my mind that they believe they have a better chance of winning with a 34-year-old Alex Smith and than with a 29-year-old Kirk Cousins. 

10. LeSean McCoy has averaged 101 yards from scrimmage per game in his brilliant nine-year NFL career, and he now has 13,470 net yards from scrimmage – eighth-most in NFL history by a player before his 30th birthday (behind seven Hall of Famers). Every back in NFL history who’s gained 16,000 yards from scrimmage — and there are 10 of them — is in the Hall of Fame. At his current pace, Shady would get to 16,000 in Week 9 of the 2020 season. I’m sure as heck not betting against him. 

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