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It’s been a strong week by Malcolm Jenkins, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz

Both on and off the field

Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Each weekend we’ll take a look back, and forward, to the Eagles.

Malcolm Jenkins has said that he and others are planning on a protest during the anthem on Monday. A hot button issue comes front and center to the Eagles, and I say great.

We need to be having the conversations these protests create. With our families, with our friends, with ourselves. The issues that black athletes are speaking out against are real and telling players to shut up and get on with football isn’t going to solve anything. There is institutional racism everywhere. Some of it isn’t intentional. Down the road from me, Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood neighborhood is being gentrified as white millennials think they’re making some kind of difference in a historic neighborhood by turning it into a place to bar hop. They aren’t. Some of it is intentional. There is a racist with a campaign of hate running for President, fueled in part by the bigotry that causes institutional racism. Somehow it’s considered taboo to point out his history.

We’re not going to address these issues by asking players to speak out when it’s convenient for us. This was a country founded on protest. It’s a fundamental right as an American to speak out.

This isn’t something that Jenkins just suddenly decided to do. From July:

"There's an obvious need for reconciliation when you talk about those two communities. As someone who's in the community, as somebody who has a platform, I wanted to see if there's a way that we can break that ice and just start the conversation . . . and use the resources of the guys that's in this room to help facilitate that."

Last week, he reached out to Maxwell Brown, the former community partnership liaison in the city's office of community services, who helped arrange the sitdown with [Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard] Ross to at least begin a conversation.

I asked Brown what he would say to naysayers who might consider all the well-paid pro athletes gathered in that room and poo poo what they're trying to do. "The other option is giving up and accepting things as they are," said Brown, a personal turn-around-expert. "That would be an injustice to our ancestors and what they fought for."

Jordan Matthews, Najee Goode and Jason Kelce were also there.

With his play on the field, Malcolm Jenkins quickly became one of my favorite Eagles. With his actions off of it, he’s completely won me over. And kudos to Doug Pederson for having the emotional intelligence to support it.

But after the protest, there is a football game to be played. It’s the reason we’re tuning in. So far the football has been pretty good.

Four Downs

1 It’s getting really hard to not get hyped about Carson Wentz

It was just one game, but man what a game it was. It’s been years since we’ve seen an Eagles QB make throws like Wentz’s touchdown passes. And everyone around the league has taken notice. There’s always a few wet blankets because that’s what some people like to do, but as those who know what they’re talking about dive into the All 22 and see even more to like, it’s hard not to get pumped.

Pour cold water on me.

2 Wentz’s supporting cast looked competent—and that’s a compliment

The Eagles offensive talent is pretty lacking. On Sunday, they looked better than we thought. There were mistakes and plenty of room for improvement, but with Wentz at QB the offense looked better than expected. Jordan Matthews looked solid on the outside, Zach Ertz looked a lot like the Zach Ertz we’ve been waiting for, and Nelson Agholor and Kenjon Barner looked like they belong in the NFL. Some of that is the Browns being bad, some of it is the coaching staff, but some of that is also that competent QB play can mask a lot of problems.

3 The Eagles are absolutely NFC East contenders

Last week I said the Eagles were contenders in the dreadful NFC East and that was considered a mildly hot take (a red pepper?). If one game is any indication, and looking at last year when the Eagles imploded off the bat, the Redskins lost to the Dolphins in ugly fashion and the Cowboys-Giants game was best remembered for a clock management blunder, one game can be, the NFC East should be awful again this year. The Redskins looked hapless against the Steelers, and the Cowboys-Giants game will best be remembered for a clock management blunder. It won’t take much to win this division. The Eagles might have enough.

4 Doug Pederson’s strong debut looks even better in retrospect

I don’t want to dive too much into this because we’re going to have a regular feature on his game management and James Keane had an excellent piece earlier this week, but Doug Pederson’s debut looked even better through the lens of other coaches this week. The 4th and 4 call from the Browns 40 was awesome, and is really highlighted by rival coaches botching it.

After gashing the Cowboys on the ground all day, the Giants were facing a 4th and 1 on the Cowboys 37, up 20-19. There was 1:12 left on the clock and the Cowboys were out of time outs. Ben McAdoo decided to punt, and the Giants gained only 17 yards, then watched his defense almost blow it anyway. Gaining a yard instead of punting would have sealed the game.

On Monday night, Jay Gruden punted on 4th and 1 from the Steelers 40. Later in the game on 4th and 6 from the Steelers 38, Gruden went for it and the Redskins gained 5 yards. Should have used that play earlier coach.

There’s a lot more we need to see from Doug Pederson, but his week on and off the field was highly encouraging.

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