Eagles news and links for 9/24
This voice of reason stuff can wear you out. Always bringing an umbrella if there is a distant cloud in the sky. Sticking your hand in the post office mail slot to make sure the envelope fell through. Stepping carefully over the crack in the sidewalk.
Just for today and perhaps not again for a very long time, let's not worry about the rain, let's figure the letter will get there just the same, and let's stomp on the crack and hope mother's back can take care of itself.
All right, fine. What if the Eagles are really good?
Not just good in the well-this-looks-promising-for-the-future kind of way we have padded the corners of recent optimism, but really good. Not just good enough to beat the winless Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears, but good enough to stand up to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in Lincoln Financial Field and win that game, too.
If they can do that, what is reasonably beyond their grasp? Not much, to be honest. Beat the Steelers and there isn't necessarily a tougher game on their schedule. Sam Bradford and the Vikings? Maybe. The Giants or Seahawks on the road? The Packers at home? All good tests, but not any more difficult than what faces them Sunday afternoon when rookie Carson Wentz tries to find the seams in a true zone defense and the Eagles attempt to stop a Hall of Fame quarterback on the other side of the line.
Player I'll be watching
BLG: Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox.
I’m going to cheat here and pick two players: one from each side of the ball.
First up is the elephant in the room. It’s no secret that Kelce has really struggled so far this season. For what it’s worth, he’s the worst graded starting center by Pro Football Focus through two games.
As Josh pointed out, the tape isn’t pretty. Kelce has routinely failed to get sufficient push as a run blocker and he’s struggled in pass protection as well. Kelce has always seemed to struggle with bigger defensive linemen, so dealing with Danny Shelton (6-2, 335) and Eddie Goldman (6-4, 320) wasn’t easy for him. Steelers rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave (6-2, 305) doesn’t have the same kind of size as those guys. Rotational backup Daniel McCullers (6-7, 352) is a different story, however.
As Frank Reich pointed out, the Eagles need to do a better job of running the ball in order to not face so many third-and-long situations. In order to do that, the run game needs to be better. An improved Kelce could make for an improved Eagles offense.
Cox is the pick on defense because the Steelers have a very good offense that’s going to be hard for the Eagles to stop. It’s not like Cox has played poorly to this point; Josh pointed out how he’s been better than his numbers indicate. Still, the Eagles need their $100 million man to step up and have a dominant game.
When the Eagles traded for WR Dorial Green-Beckham, the intent was to let him learn the offense slowly, before being implemented fully into the offense. After being with the team for about five weeks, Green-Beckham is likely going to see more targets come his way, according to Doug Pederson.
"He's coming along really well," said Pederson. "We're giving him a little bit more each week. He's understanding things a little bit better and processing the information better. Again, this is something as we go forward we'd love to obviously get him a little more involved from a standpoint of getting more targets thrown in his direction."
Through the first two games, Green-Beckham has had just six passes thrown his way, four of which have been completed for 32 yards. However, according to Pederson, Green-Beckham was the primary target on several plays Week 2 against the Chicago Bears, but the defense dictated that the play go elsewhere.
"We actually had DGB targeted a couple of times from a play call standpoint in the red zone, it's just that the play design went to the other side of the field; I think Carson went the other way," Pederson explained. "We just continue to keep working with him. We've increased his workload the last week and we want to continue to do that and move him around the more comfortable he gets with our system."
"I got a lot of respect for Chip, and I know how he is with his players," Jenkins said. "I appreciate him obviously having Kaepernick's back and then actually speaking on the fact that Kaepernick's message is legitimate and that [the injustice] needs to stop," Jenkins said. "Hopefully, coming from somebody like him, when you're a head coach in the National Football League and you're also a white man, to say that means volumes. So hopefully more people who actually feel that way who will speak up."
Along those lines, Jenkins was asked about Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett's comments about the importance of a white player eventually joining in the demonstrations.
"I totally agree," Jenkins said. "I've kind of talked about that in the locker room. It's one thing for me to do it, but you're trying to draw empathy out of people and feel it. It's easy to write off somebody and say, 'OK, it's another black person that's complaining about the system,' and all of this, but all of a sudden you have a white person standing next to them and that can express that, 'This might not be something that I'm going through, but this is my teammate that I could easily see him in this situation. I see the Tulsa events -- that can be anybody in this locker room, that can be anybody's family in this locker room.' And so to have that I think speaks more than anything."
Asked if he gets the sense that any white Eagles players might join in the protests, Jenkins replied: "I don't know. I mean, it's been a conversation, but I don't know."
Doug Pederson has adopted his share from the Andy Reid school of head coaching, but he has also diverged from the template, most notably in regard to how offensive plays are communicated and the speed at which they are delivered.
The new Eagles coach has altered about half of the West Coast terminology to one-word calls, he has streamlined the play-calling process, and he has allowed quarterback Carson Wentz to wear a wristband with the plays printed it.
All three changes were implemented in the interest of saving time. The 2-0 Eagles, it should be noted, have yet to waste a timeout because a play took too long to reach the huddle or because Wentz had a difficult time spitting out verbose calls.
"I love it, personally," Pederson said of the wristband. "It speeds up play calls because I can just throw him a number and then he reads it right off the wristband."
Reid has never had a quarterback wear the wristband, but Pederson said that it wasn't because his mentor forbade it. Nevertheless, there is the stigma that a wristband is a crutch. And Reid, at least during his time with the Eagles, never pushed for Donovan McNabb or others to consider it.
"They had talked about it as an option before I was even the guy," Wentz said. "And then I kind of pushed for it for a little more comfort."