The Eagles looked balanced on Sunday against the Rams, the first time in a long time they’ve had success getting the ball to so many targets and moving the ball quickly down field. While some might argue it’s due to the quarterback taking snaps, head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday that he and OC Mike Groh worked to simplify things even before they knew Carson Wentz was a no-go.
Groh spoke to reporters on Tuesday about their decision to change things up, and how they can build on the success they had against the Rams defense. The OC and his offense will be challenged against Houston in Week 16, but he thinks his guys are up for it.
Here’s what Groh had to say:
On the offense with Nick Foles
Pederson had announced on Monday that Nick Foles would be the quarterback for the Eagles against the Texans, which gives the coaching staff plenty of time to game plan.
Groh echoed Pederson in that they were going to change up the game plan even before Foles was the known starter, but did say that each quarterback has their own set of plays they gravitate toward, and they’ll try to incorporate more of them. So ultimately, it was a little tweaking, but the foundation is the same.
He did want to clarify that they didn’t get way off track in terms of scheme, but rather decided to emphasize others instead and get back to some core things they do.
Pederson made another point on Monday that they limited pre-snap motions on Sunday, but again that they did that regardless of who was in at quarterback. Groh explained that they did that from a tempo/play-calling standpoint.
Groh was also asked about Foles being able to get the ball out quickly and that being a new point of attention for the coaching staff, and the OC talked about how that will be an emphasis even when Carson Wentz does get back on the field. He went on to say that you don’t want your quarterback hanging on to the ball too long, and that you want to get the ball out quickly into your playmakers hand which also helps the OL not have to hold their protection for as long.
When asked about it appearing like Foles took more shots down field than Wentz does, particularly with targeting Alshon Jeffery, Groh said that they didn’t necessarily take more shots they just connected on more. He said they always try to be aggressive, but the connecting on a few of those long passes to Jeffery was the difference.
On the offense against the Rams
It was mentioned that Dallas Goedert has lined up for 60% of snaps the past two games, and whether that was matchup based or because he’s earned that extra playing time. Groh said that it was a little bit of both, and that he’s done an excellent job and made “tremendous progress week in and week out” and from a game-planning perspective they thought they could take advantage of some opportunities with 12 personnel.
Groh also said that it was a little surprising to see the Rams so committed to the nickel defense through the entire game, but they were committed to the run regardless.
He went on to talk about how Goedert’s improvement in run blocking, and noted that he wasn’t really asked to do a lot of that in college, so to pick it up so well and quickly is commendable. Groh went on to credit the TE coach, and said that Goedert has a lot of strength at the point of contact, and that, like Zach Ertz, being a complete player in those regards is important.
Related, he was asked about Nelson Agholor lining up for a majority of snaps, but only being targeted twice. Groh talked about how Agholor is a bit of an unsung hero for the offense and that he’s unselfish and plays with a lot of toughness. He noted that he helps get guys lined up with his familiarity with the offense, and he’s also willing to block, so he does a lot of things for the team when he doesn’t have the ball.
On the offensive line and run game
Groh noted that the offensive line played really well against the Rams, and that they gave Foles a lot of time, especially knowing what kind of pass rush the defense had. He emphasized that all of them across the board deserve credit for their effort on Sunday, and “did a heck of a job at protecting the quarterback” and creating some running lanes as well.
That led the offensive coordinator to note that all three rushers — Josh Adams, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood — were effective in that game. Groh went on to say that they got a complete game out of the offensive line and that’s the kind of performance they’ll need against Houston this week.
Groh expanded later about Wendell Smallwood and called the rusher a true pro and that he’s a guy who is always ready to go when his number is called, and that he’s been that way throughout the season. He also not only knows what to do, but he’s been incredibly effective. The OC also said Smallwood showed really good patience and vision against the Rams, was able to break some tackles, and has some speed too.
He also talked about how nice it is to have Darren Sproles back, and that he made an immediate impact in his return. Groh said it’s nice to see him back multiple weeks in a row and finally feeling like himself, and noted that they’ll continue to integrate him into the offense and utilize him.
On Carson Wentz
Groh was asked if he thinks Carson Wentz having a stress fracture in his back affected his play this season, and the OC said he’d have to ask the quarterback.
On Doug Pederson
Groh talked a bit about how the head coach gets the players to buy in, and he said that he has a positive outlook and personality, and the guys respect him and want to play for him. He continued to say that it’s just his overall energy when he’s in the building, and while he’s not shy to point out areas that need improved, it’s how he presents that message that the guys respond to and get things fixed.