Doug Pederson held his day-after press conference on Monday following the Eagles’ Sunday night loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Philadelphia’s head coach didn’t offer much in the way of injury updates, unfortunately, but he did touch on a number of topics worth addressing here.
Crossing out plays
Pederson was asked about how much losing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert early in the game changed the offensive game plan. You might be able to guess the answer!
If affects it. It affects it a lot. If you were to look at my call sheet this morning, you would see a lot of scratch-outs on plays and different things.
One thing that I said after the game, too, is with [Eagles offensive coordinator] Mike Groh, [Eagles offensive line/run game coordinator] Jeff Stoutland, and the offensive staff making the adjustments we needed to make and coaching those young guys up, Mack Hollins, J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside]. And what’s interesting, if you watch the game as we did this morning, I mean, Zach [Ertz] is telling guys where to go. Nelly [Nelson Agholor] is telling -- we’re moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we’re putting guys in positions that didn’t practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance.
My hat’s off to those guys for hanging in there.
I don’t know about you but I still can’t get over how ridiculous it is that the Eagles essentially lost Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert — a trio that combined for 15 receptions, 221 yards, and four touchdowns in Week 1 — in PREGAME WARMUPS. None of these guys were on the injury report leading up to Sunday night. And it’s not even like they got hurt over the course of the game, which is to be expected from such a dangerous sport. Three key offensive starters getting hurt while jogging around on the field before the game is an entirely new level of bad luck.
I’m told DeSean Jackson & Alshon Jeffery did not feel comfortable pregame. Dallas Goedert had calf issue pregame, didnt play at all. You dont want calf to pop— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 16, 2019
Alshon Jeffery played 6 snaps with calf. DeSean Jackson 11 snaps with groin
I’m told DeSean is hoping to play Sunday pic.twitter.com/ZAGfuix4Ig
A key feature of the Eagles’ offense heading into 2019 was their ability to use two different personnel packages: 11 (three wide receivers) and 12 (two tight ends). They have the talent to be an effective offense from either deployment, which isn’t something every team can claim.
Losing Goedert immediately took 12 personnel off the board on Sunday night. Now, the Eagles deserve some blame for not being better prepared to handle an injury at tight end since Goedert and Zach Ertz are the only two players at their position on the 53-man roster. The team did have Alex Ellis as a third tight end for Week 1 but they waived him in order to promote cornerback Craig James from the practice squad. Pederson explained that decision:
We had confidence in our two tight ends. We went in with a game plan of executing with a lot of the play-action pass game with two tight ends, the run game with two tight ends. It just felt comfortable with both guys.
And then in our 11-personnel, having Zach and Dallas working there. And then just having the extra DB just available on special teams and then if needed in the secondary, just keeping that extra guy out.
It’s also difficult to blame injuries and injuries alone for the team’s slow start considering they had the worst first quarter scoring offense in the NFL last year and had zero first quarter points in Week 1 this season.
Still, Pederson has a valid gripe. It’s not like the Eagles had much time to game plan knowing they weren’t going to have Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert. The coaching staff had to make major adjustments on the fly. And despite this, they were still in good position to win the game if not for Nelson Agholor’s egregiously dropping a go-ahead touchdown pass.
Injuries happen in the NFL. It’s the nature of the game. What happened in Atlanta, though? That’s just not normal. How do you possibly prepare for losing three key starters in warmups?
Kudos to Pederson for taking the blame for the Eagles’ slow starts.
Q. Slow starts were prevalent last year, when you self-scouted last off-season, what did you find was the No. 1 reason for not scoring points in the first quarter, and how have you tried to address that this year?
DOUG PEDERSON: I just have to find the magical plays.
Q. Do you think it’s plays or is it more execution?
DOUG PEDERSON: It’s always the plays. That’s on me. I have to do a better job.
The plays aren’t the only issue. Execution could afford to better. But Pederson made the right call to put it on himself and not on his players. He even threw the “better job” Andy Reid-ism in there.
Now actually go fix it, Doug. It’s overdue.
Not sticking with the run game
It was disappointing to see the Eagles struggle to run the ball effectively against an Atlanta defense that ranked 32nd in opponent yards per carry in 2018 and struggled again in Week 1 this year. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for just 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 average). Their longest runs on the night? Five yards each.
Pederson discussed how the absence of 12 personnel hurt the Eagles’ running game:
Q. What was the biggest reason why you went away from the run? Was it Dallas Goedert’s absence, the way the game was playing out, a combination of both?
DOUG PEDERSON: A little bit of both. We struggled to run the ball, something we kind of pride ourselves on. Last week, I might have mentioned that we were going to face a much better Atlanta Falcon defense than we saw in week one. That’s just -- this is the NFL and a lot of pride on that side and they are well-coached.
So we knew that going into this football game. We were going to try to run and try to establish it and we struggled a little bit there. We have to make those corrections.
That’s a big part, too, with a lot of the personnel changes, with tight ends and things like that, that got us a little bit away from it. I’m not going to make an excuse, but it does affect it just a little bit.
Praise for Carson Wentz
A big theme following Sunday’s loss was Eagles players having respect for Wentz nearly willing the team to victory despite less than ideal circumstances. Pederson similarly praised the team’s starting quarterback:
Q. Do you think that QB Carson Wentz getting hit so much early affected his play and how do you think he played overall, and do you factor the punishment into that?
DOUG PEDERSON: Obviously, this is a physical, violent game. Quarterbacks are going to get hit. We saw two quarterbacks in the league yesterday get hit, or one get hit and one on a throw. So it’s part of the game. It’s one thing you love about Carson is his toughness. You’d love to see him, maybe throw the ball a bit sooner here and there. But the fact that he performed well yesterday and really kept us in this football game -- the throw to Mack [Hollins] in the fourth quarter was unbelievable. For him to escape the pocket like he did a couple times was unbelievable. And those are things you can’t really coach. You don’t really teach those things. That’s just natural, God-given instinct. It’s hard to take that away from a player and yet, at the same time, you still want him to protect himself the best he can, but he’s making plays for you and I’m not going to take that from him.