The Eagles are getting ready to hop on a plane and make their way overseas for their first game in London — with Jacksonville making their sixth international business trip. After an ugly loss last weekend against the Panthers, the Eagles have one more game to play before they head into the bye week, and are now just six days away from the trade deadline.
Head coach Doug Pederson talked to the media on Wednesday about preparing for their very-far away game, and how the offense is looking to spread the ball around. He also gave an update on Derek Barnett who will miss the rest of the season and undergo shoulder surgery.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On Derek Barnett’s injury
He was asked right off the bat about Derek Barnett’s injury, to which Pederson confirmed it was a shoulder injury and Barnett had already undergone surgery. He also confirm the defender is out for the season, and it was a continuation of the injury he was sidelined with a few weeks ago.
Asked what the plan without Barnett, he said the team is still okay and they’ve got some options. He noted that Josh Sweat will fill that role, and Pederson said he’s been doing well and running the practice team. The head coach said Sweat can be explosive and is long, and this will be a good opportunity for him.
Pederson was then asked about Barnett now having his second consecutive season cut short due to injury, and the head coach reflected on his time as a player and being put on IR. He noted it’s no fun to sit on the sideline when you want to be out there helping your team, but Pederson notes Barnett is a good player and believes he will come back stronger.
On spreading out the offense
It was noted that the team’s offense has been more successful the more they move the ball around to different targets, and whether the recent games have been too focused on targets to Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz — a question also asked to Mike Groh on Tuesday.
Pederson noted that those two had been getting the majority of targets, and some of that is by design, and some is by circumstance. But he did point out that Dallas Goedert is in the mix and Nelson Agholor is in the mix — with the head coach saying Agholor has been used more in the run-game, RPO stuff. He went on to say sometimes it’s just dependent on the defense they are playing or the looks that quarterback Carson Wentz is getting.
He was later asked about the change in scheme for Agholor this season, and Pederson acknowledged it was the product of two things. One, is the plays being called, and whether it’s a run or RPO, and the other is the head coach calling Agholor-specific plays and getting him targeted.
Pederson went on to say that those decisions have nothing to do with Agholor’s ability or skill, and then confirmed that they are still very confident in the wideout. He also noted that Agholor is one of the guys they design plays for each week, and it’s up to Pederson to make those calls.
The head coach was also asked about Jake Elliott and his missed field goals over the past few weeks, but Pederson said he doesn’t give it much thought because they still have confidence in him. He went on to defend Elliott, and noted last week was very windy.
On defenses better prepared for RPOs
Pederson was asked about team’s being better at stopping RPO plays than they were last year, and the head coach agreed, citing the Pittsburgh game in the preseason as a bit of a wake up call.
He went on to say that teams play a little more zone, especially teams (like last week) that have very aggressive and fast linebackers. Pederson then noted that’s a similar problem they could have against the Jaguars, and when you are going against fast guys like that, whether you run or pass, there’s usually someone there right away to make the tackle.
Pederson noted that’s some of the reason for the dip in yards after the catch that they’ve experienced so far this season.
He was also asked if perhaps the problem was with how Carson Wentz was reading those plays and whether he wasn’t making the same good decisions as last year. Pederson disagreed and said that Wentz is still doing well in that regard, and noted that those decisions are made in a split-second, so he’s making that decision based on how the defense is lined up.
On preparing for the Jaguars
He was asked what he expects to see from Jalen Ramsey on Sunday, and whether he’ll be shadowing Alshon Jeffery for most of the day. Pederson noted that Ramsey will match the top receiver — versus staying on one side of the field — and lauded the Jacksonville defender, calling him “a tremendous player, a tremendous talent”.
He continued to talk about how the challenge with Ramsey is that he’s big and physical, so “he can play bump and run” — and emphasized that Ramsey can run — he’s great at the top, he’s smart and very instinctive. Pederson admitted it’s going to be a challenge for Jeffery throughout the matchup.
Pederson was also asked about his book “Fearless” and his mentioning that Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone not being aggressive in the playoffs is what motivated him to go for it when he needed to. Pederson said seeing Marrone after that admission wouldn’t be awkward, and that was all last year — he continued to say Marrone has a good team this year and the Eagles’ head coach is only focused on what’s going on this week.
The travel to London obviously took some additional preparation and planning than the Eagles normally have to put in, but Pederson said they’ve been planning since the schedule came out, and really tried to get out ahead of things. He also noted that they were sure to communicate with the players and give them as many details up front so they could make their own preparations and just focus on the game during the week.