Eagles news and notes for 10/8
In the early minutes of the Eagles' Thursday practice, Jason Peters made a young man fly. Peters and the other starting offensive linemen were carrying out a drill, firing out of three-point stances and drive-blocking would-be defenders, who held thick leather cushions against their chests to soften the impacts. The young man - backup guard Dillon Gordon, a 23-year-old undrafted rookie - stood in front of Peters, bracing himself.
When the coach's whistle sounded to start the drill, Peters surged forward, thrust his hands forward into the cushion, pumped his legs, and lifted Gordon off the ground as if Gordon were a giant barbell and Peters were trying to clean-and-jerk him. Peters is 6-foot-4 and 328 pounds, but Gordon is hardly a runt. He's 6-4 and 322 pounds, and his legs kicked like a swimmer's for the half-second Peters held him in the air.
"He does that every day," Gordon said. "The way he practices is the way he plays."
It was true when the Eagles traded for Peters in April 2009, and it has been true for most of his career with them, and in one of the more reassuring aspects of their 3-0 start, it has been true again this season. The Eagles have needed several uncertain things to become certain, in the best of ways, for them to play as they have so far. They needed Carson Wentz to develop quickly and their cornerbacks to hold their own and Doug Pederson to be a competent-to-excellent head coach, and they needed Peters - 34 years old, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, an eventual inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame - to be the left tackle he has always been, or close to it. He has. There has been nary a worry.
PLAYER I’LL BE WATCHING
Josh: Darren Sproles.
After Theo Riddick gave Mychal Kendricks and the Eagles linebackers trouble out of the backfield last year, I expect Sproles to return the favor this year. According to Football Outsiders, the Lions rank in the bottom-third of the NFL in defending running backs in passing situations, which makes sense as injuries have depleted Detroit’s group of linebackers. Detroit is playing their sixth or seventh linebacker right now as a starter, per Lions beat writer Dave Birkett.
After a slow first two games, Sproles exploded for 128 receiving yards against the Steelers. His ability to extend plays after the catch is unparalleled among players on the Eagles’ roster, so it’s fair to expect Doug Pederson and his staff will draw up plays to get Sproles one-on-one against Lions linebackers.
“Right away when (Pederson) and I sit down and the whole staff and we start talking about the game plan: ‘How are we going to get Darren the ball this week?'” Frank Reich said. “That’s always very early in the discussion. When you’ve got a guy like that, that’s what we want to do. He’s that kind of player, so we’re going to design plays that are going to go to him, and then we figure he’s going to get three or four in his normal rotation as well. But you want to look for opportunities. He’s a playmaker, and yeah, we’re thinking about that every week.
Daniel's shaky preseason performances didn't do much to lower the eyebrows of skeptics who wondered why the Eagles paid him the way they did. If the Eagles paid Daniel essentially like the best backup quarterback in the league because they though he was the best backup quarterback, skill-wise, that was a mistake. However, the intangibles that Daniel brings to the table may make him worth the investment, solely for his influence on rookie Carson Wentz.
"It’s been very valuable to Carson (having Daniel), obviously," said Doug Pederson. "Chase has been through this now with Alex Smith for three years. He was with Drew Brees obviously in New Orleans. The one thing that Chase really prides himself on is understanding our opponent, and he does it through film study. This is what I’ve seen these first few weeks with Carson.
"It’s valuable to have a backup quarterback who, obviously I know the role very well, to be prepared like a starter, but yet at the same time you’re there to assist the starter and be another set of eyes for him on the field is beneficial. That’s what Chase has done, besides teaching him how to study and what to study and what to look for."
Asked if he views Daniel as something of an additional assistant coach, Pederson agreed that he did.
"I think they really handled it well this week. Energy has been great all week long at practice, been very spirited, which you love to see coming off the bye," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. "We actually had that workout on Monday and it was good to see them come back and be focused. I think they understand that it's still a long, long season. They're excited, obviously, for where we are, but by no means are they satisfied with just being 3-0. The goal obviously is to win the next game, and we just take it one game at a time, but it's been a good week."
But we also know as Eagles fans how the past has sometimes not been so kind in "perfect" situations. The Eagles have fallen into the dreaded "trap" game before and they've come out scarred and beaten. Remember 2013 when the Eagles were rolling going into Minnesota and they got whupped 48-30 in large part because Chip Kelly refused to kick off deep and the Vikings had great field position all game?
The loss in 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field, again to Minnesota, when the Vikings blitzed Michael Vick off the edge and Joe Webb played quarterback and, oh, that was the beginning of the end for the Vick dominance one game after the latest Miracle of the Meadowlands? Think back to 2002 and the terrible loss to Indianapolis, 35-13, at Veterans Stadium when Colts running back James Mungro had the game of his life. The Eagles were "supposed" to win that game going away.