The Philadelphia Eagles will NOT be resting their starters in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Doug Pederson said as much during his final press conference prior to Sunday’s matchup.
Q: IS THERE A SENSE OF WHICH STARTERS, IF ANY, YOU MIGHT HOLD BACK THIS WEEKEND?
Pederson: No. I want all the starters to play.
Q: IS THIS ALMOST LIKE PRESEASON WHERE YOU’LL PLAY THEM A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIME UNTIL YOU SEE ENOUGH?
Pederson: Yeah, I’m not using the term preseason with our guys. It’s still a regular season football game. Dallas Cowboys. But I’ve got to be smart with it, obviously. And I’m not putting anybody on a pitch count, or a number of players, I just want to see execution by our guys going into the post-season.
Q: WHAT WENT INTO THE DECISION TO PLAY THE STARTERS AND IS THE PLAN TO GET THEM OUT AT A CERTAIN POINT IN THE GAME?
Pederson: Well, the idea is just to keep the starters going. I don’t want to not play them and then it’s three weeks later that they’re playing a game. I think that’s foolish on my part. So I want to make sure that they stay into the moment. But at the same time I’ll be smart about how they play, how long they play, and go from there.
Q: DO YOU HAVE A BLUEPRINT FOR PLAYING TIME OR IS IT A FEEL THING?
Pederson: I think it’s more of a feel [thing]. Again, gotta be smart. Gotta have a reasonable sort of plan with those guys, obviously. And really, quite honestly, you know both teams are in the same situation. They want to see some young guys play. We’re no different.
It’d hard to imagine Pederson will play the starters for all four quarters against Dallas. Pederson talked about needing to “be smart” with the players. He’s also mentioned several times now that he wants to see backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld get some real game experience.
Although Pederson says he’s not treating Week 17 like a preseason game, the feeling here is that is what it could end up being like. Maybe Pederson plays the starters for a quarter or so and sees where they’re at. If Nick Foles and the offense march down for a few touchdowns right away, no reason to keep them in the game. Alternatively, if Foles is taking a ton of hits, that should be a sign to get him out of there.
Pederson’s decision risks injury in a meaningless game, but he clearly feels it’s a necessary one to take in order for the team to maintain an edge. He feels the Eagles will have their opportunity to rest during their first-round bye next week.
In related news, Pederson commented on the status of three individual players regarding this week’s game.
Earlier this week, Pederson didn’t rule out activating Jones to the 53-man roster in order for him to play against Dallas. He maintained that message on Friday.
“We’re going to wait and see. Get through today, obviously. As you know, he hasn’t … the physicality of banging, you know, of hitting and stuff is a little bit of a concern, but health wise he’s doing well. We’ll get through today and see. […] It’s not ruled out, it’s not ruled out. There’s still a chance. Still a possibility. Just got to get through today and tomorrow.”
It’d be really cool to see Jones play for the first time this weekend.
Pederson said Eagles starting defensive end Brandon Graham is likely out for this week’s game. Graham hasn’t practiced since suffering an ankle injury on Monday night against the Raiders. The expectation is that he’ll be back for the Eagles’ first playoff game.
It was previously thought we wouldn’t see Wis until the playoffs. He missed two games due to an ankle injury. But Pederson said we’ll see the Eagles’ starting left guard on Sunday.
“Wis needs to play. He’s had a couple weeks now, I think it’s important that he gets out there and gets back in the flow of the game.”